I must not gaze at them although Your eyes are dawning day; I must not watch you as you go Your sun-illumined way; I hear but I must never heed The fascinating note, Which, fluting like a river reed, Comes from your trembing throat; I must not see upon your face Love's softly glowing spark; For there's the barrier of race, You're fair and I am dark.
Claude McKay - 1889-1948
I hear the halting footsteps of a lass In Negro Harlem when the night lets fall Its veil. I see the shapes of girls who pass To bend and barter at desire's call. Ah, little dark girls who in slippered feet Go prowling through the night from street to street! Through the long night until the silver break Of day the little gray feet know no rest; Through the lone night until the last snow-flake Has dropped from heaven upon the earth's white breast, The dusky, half-clad girls of tired feet Are trudging, thinly shod, from street to street. Ah, stern harsh world, that in the wretched way Of poverty, dishonor and disgrace, Has pushed the timid little feet of clay, The sacred brown feet of my fallen race! Ah, heart of me, the weary, weary feet In Harlem wandering from street to street.