The Eyes of My Regret

Always at dusk, the same tearless experience,
The same dragging of feet up the same well-worn path
To the same well-worn rock;
The same crimson or gold dropping away of the sun
The same tints—rose, saffron, violet, lavender, grey
Meeting, mingling, mixing mistily;
Before me the same blue black cedar rising jaggedly to a point;
Over it, the same slow unlidding of twin stars,
Two eyes, unfathomable, soul-searing,
Watching, watching—watching me;
The same two eyes that draw me forth, against my will dusk after dusk;
The same two eyes that keep me sitting late into the night, chin on knees
Keep me there lonely, rigid, tearless, numbly miserable,
       —The eyes of my Regret.


This poem is in the public domain. Published in Poem-a-Day on February 18, 2023, by the Academy of American Poets.

About this Poem

“The Eyes of My Regret” appeared in Countee Cullen’s anthology Caroling Dusk (Harper & Brothers, 1927). In “‘All the loving words I never dared to speak’: Angelina Weld Grimké’s Sapphic Modernism,’ published in A Companion to the Harlem Renaissance (Wiley, 2015), Maureen Honey, former professor of English and director of women’s studies at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln, writes that “[t]he transfixing gaze of [Leonardo] Da Vinci’s Mona Lisa is transposed in this unrhymed sonnet to the speaker’s projected landscape of guilt indelibly imprinted on the blackened sky and holding her captive far into the night as she contemplates a crushing sense of failure and wasted opportunities. The blue-black cedar ‘rising jaggedly to a point’ becomes a bony finger of accusation directing the speaker’s gaze toward stars that once made her heart sing but that now keep a deathly grip on her imagination in ‘unfathomable, soul-searing’ reproach.” Honey concludes that “[t]hese verses echo what Anna Clark calls ‘twilight moments’ in the era before modern sexual identities. [. . .] While not a conscious code for lesbianism, Grimké’s frequent use of twilight shapes similar liminal spaces as her speakers ruminate on lost love.”