Letters Found Near a Suicide

To all of you
      My little stone
      Sinks quickly
      Into the bosom of this deep, dark pool
      Of oblivion . . .
      I have troubled its breast but little
      Yet those far shores
      That knew me not
      Will feel the fleeting, furtive kiss
      Of my time concentric ripples . . .

To Lewellyn
      You have borne full well
      The burden of my friendship—
      I have drunk deep
      At your crystal pool,
      And in return
      I have polluted its waters
      With the bile of my hatred.
      I have flooded your soul
      With tortuous thoughts,
      I have played Iscariot
      To your Pythias . . .

To Mother
      I came
      In the blinding sweep
      Of ecstatic pain,
      I go
      In the throbbing pulse
      Of aching space—
      In the eons between
      I piled upon you
      Pain on pain
      Ache on ache
      And yet as I go
      I shall know
      That you will grieve
      And want me back . . .

To B——
      You have freed me—
      In opening wide the doors
      Of flesh
      You have freed me
      Of the binding leash.
      I have climbed the heights
      Of white disaster
      My body screaming
      In the silver crash of passion . . .
      Before you gave yourself
      To him
      I had chained myself
      For you.
      But when at last
      You lowered your proud flag
      In surrender complete
      You gave me too, as hostage—
      And I have wept my joy
      At the dawn-tipped shrine
      Of many breasts.

To Jean
      When you poured your love
      Like molten flame
      Into the throbbing mold
      Of her pulsing veins
      Leaving her blood a river of fire
      And her arteries channels of light,
      I hated you . . .
      Hated with the primal hate
      That has its wells
      In the flesh of me
      And the flesh of you
      And the flesh of her
      I hated you—
      Hated with envy
      Your mastery of her being . . .
      With one fleshy gesture
      You pricked the iridescent bubble
      Of my dreams
      And so to make
      Your conquest more sweet
      I tell you now
      That I hated you.

To Catalina
      Love thy piano, Oh girl,
      It will give you back
      Note for note
      The harmonies of your soul.
      It will sing back to you
      The high songs of your heart.
      It will give
      As well as take . . .

To Mariette
      I sought consolation
      In the sorrow of your eyes.
      You sought reguerdon
      In the crying of my heart . . .
      We found that shattered dreamers
      Can be bitter hosts . . .

To ——
      You call it
      Death of the Spirit
      And I call it Life . . .
      The vigor of vibration,
      The muffled knocks,
      the silver sheen of passion's flood,
      The ecstasy of pain . . .
      You call it
      Death of the Spirit
      And I call it Life.

To Telie
      You have made my voice
      A rippling laugh
      But my heart
      A crying thing . . .
      ’Tis better thus:
      A fleeting kiss
      And then,
      The dark . . .

To “Chick”
      Oh Achilles of the moleskins
      And the gridiron
      Do not wonder
      Nor doubt that this is I
      That lies so calmly here—
      This is the same exultant beast
      That so joyously
      Ran the ball with you
      In those far flung days of abandon.
      You remember how recklessly
      We revelled in the heat and the dust
      And the swirl of conflict?
      You remember they called us
      The Terrible Two?
      And you remember
      After we had battered our heads
      And our bodies
      Against the stonewall of their defense,—
      You remember the signal I would call
      And how you would look at me
      In faith and admiration
      And say “Let's go,” . . .
      How the lines would clash
      And strain,
      And how I would slip through
      Fighting and squirming
      Over the line
      To victory.
      You remember, Chick? . . .
      When you gaze at me here
      Let that same light
      Of faith and admiration
      Shine in your eyes
      For I have battered the stark stonewall
      Before me . . .
      I have kept faith with you
      And now
      I have called my signal,
      Found my opening
      And slipped through
      Fighting and squirming
      Over the line
      To victory . . .

To Wanda
      To you, so far away
      So cold and aloof,
      To you, who knew me so well,
      This is my last Grand Gesture
      This is my last Great Effect
      And as I go winging
      Through the black doors of eternity
      Is that thin sound I hear
      Your applause? . . .


From Caroling Dusk (Harper & Brothers, 1927), edited by Countee Cullen. This poem is in the public domain.