On Broadway

Claude McKay - 1889-1948

About me young and careless feet
Linger along the garish street;
   Above, a hundred shouting signs
Shed down their bright fantastic glow
   Upon the merry crowd and lines
Of moving carriages below.
Oh wonderful is Broadway—only
My heart, my heart is lonely.

Desire naked, linked with Passion,
Goes strutting by in brazen fashion;
   From playhouse, cabaret and inn
The rainbow lights of Broadway blaze
   All gay without, all glad within;
As in a dream I stand and gaze
At Broadway, shining Broadway—only
My heart, my heart is lonely.
 

More by Claude McKay

The White House

Your door is shut against my tightened face,
And I am sharp as steel with discontent;
But I possess the courage and the grace
To bear my anger proudly and unbent.
The pavement slabs burn loose beneath my feet,
And passion rends my vitals as I pass,
A chafing savage, down the decent street;
Where boldly shines your shuttered door of glass.
Oh, I must search for wisdom every hour,
Deep in my wrathful bosom sore and raw,
And find in it the superhuman power
To hold me to the letter of your law!
Oh, I must keep my heart inviolate
Against the potent poison of your hate.

The Tropics of New York

Bananas ripe and green, and ginger root
     Cocoa in pods and alligator pears,
And tangerines and mangoes and grape fruit,
     Fit for the highest prize at parish fairs,

Sat in the window, bringing memories
     of fruit-trees laden by low-singing rills,
And dewy dawns, and mystical skies
     In benediction over nun-like hills.

My eyes grow dim, and I could no more gaze;
     A wave of longing through my body swept,
And, hungry for the old, familiar ways
     I turned aside and bowed my head and wept.

America

Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,
And sinks into my throat her tiger's tooth,
Stealing my breath of life, I will confess
I love this cultured hell that tests my youth!
Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,
Giving me strength erect against her hate.
Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.
Yet as a rebel fronts a king in state,
I stand within her walls with not a shred
Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.
Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,
And see her might and granite wonders there,
Beneath the touch of Time's unerring hand,
Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand. 

Related Poems

The Unexplorer

There was a road ran past our house
Too lovely to explore.
I asked my mother once—she said
That if you followed where it led
It brought you to the milk-man’s door.
(That’s why I have not traveled more.)