What kind of thoughts now, do you carry
   In your travels day by day
Are they bright and lofty visions, 
   Or neglected, gone astray?

Matters not how great in fancy, 
    Or what deeds of skill you’ve wrought; 
Man, though high may be his station, 
    Is no better than his thoughts. 

Catch your thoughts and hold them tightly, 
   Let each one an honor be; 
Purge them, scourge them, burnish brightly, 
   Then in love set each one free. 

Related Poems

Know how to forget

                after Baltasar Gracián

To let your sorrows wear you
             like a hair shirt       shake
off       each foulard around your

neck       unwind and fling
            as from a moving car.
Be no Isadora strangled by her

flare. Be bare-necked and do not
             forget to forget.
Though every silver lining has

a cloud       live within the glint of white 
            fire       the swing set in the sunset
the dimple in each smile        embraces

by the silver lake      ocean
            hush of oh so much
so lush.

[Sometimes I don't know if I'm having a feeling]

Sometimes I don’t know if I’m having a feeling
so I check my phone or squint at the window
with a serious look, like someone in a movie
or a mother thinking about how time passes.
Sometimes I’m not sure how to feel so I think
about a lot of things until I get an allergy attack.
I take my antihistamine with beer, thank you very much,
sleep like a cut under a band aid, wake up
on the stairs having missed the entire party.
It was a real blast, I can tell, for all the vases
are broken, the flowers twisted into crowns
for the young, drunk, and beautiful. I put one on
and salute the moon, the lone face over me
shining through the grates on the front door window.
You have seen me like this before, such a strange
version of the person you thought you knew.
Guess what, I’m strange to us both. It’s like
I’m not even me sometimes. Who am I? A question
for the Lord only to decide as She looks over
my résumé. Everything is different sometimes.
Sometimes there is no hand on my shoulder
but my room, my apartment, my body are containers
and I am thusly contained. How easy to forget
the obvious. The walls, blankets, sunlight, your love.

Toomer

(Jean Toomer)
 
I did not wish to “rise above”
or “move beyond” my race. I wished
 
to contemplate who I was beyond
my body, this container of flesh.
 
I made up a language in which to exist. 
I wondered what God breathed into me. 
 
I wondered who I was beyond
this complicated, milk-skinned, genital-ed body. 
 
I exercised it, watched it change and grow. 
I spun like a dervish to see what would happen. Oh, 
 
to be a Negro is—is?—
to be a Negro, is. To be.