Harlem by Jean F. Brierre

I have seen you suffer in the midst of winters,

and your shadow erect amidst the street lamps

has told me often of its hunger at the doors

of the eating houses.

I have seen you bleed at times on the sidewalks,

and I have not heard your agony make complaint.

I have seen you adorned in the springtime,

bedecked in laughter and joy,

dressed in sunshine and silk,

singing and dancing, singing strange songs,

the heavy songs of sirens,

of voyaging,

of calls and of silence on forgotten seas,

of bitter songs, ending with outbursts of laughter

like mighty cymbals.

I have seen you dancing in whirlwinds

like the frenzied,

celebrating some god hidden in the depths of you.

Where, O Harlem, do you sleep?

Perhaps you pluck the leaves of the last star

in your fragile cup

and find again at the portals of the dawn

the trouble,

the toil,

the weariness,

the poverty,

the hour which sounds like a knell

and your heart, weary and alone

on the road, hostile and black.

Jean F. Brierre, “Harlem,” The Poetry of the Negro, 1746-1949, Langston Hughes and Arna Bontemps, Eds (1951)

Image: Bernie Robynson, “In the Heart of Harlem,” Cartoon map (1953) [Inscription reads “For Carlo – from Langston, Harlem Oct. 8, 1953.” Source: Yale Collection of American Literature, Bieneke Rare Book and Manuscript Library.

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  1. Posted October 30, 2012 at 2:21 pm | Permalink

    Harlem by Jean F. Brierre: http://t.co/WUf7agK5 #haiti #harlem

  2. Posted October 30, 2012 at 10:15 pm | Permalink

    …the hour which sounds like a knell and your heart, weary and alone RT @public_archive: Jean F. Brierre’s “Harlem”: http://t.co/DWz9adht

  3. Posted October 31, 2012 at 5:46 pm | Permalink

    Harlem by Jean F. Brierre http://t.co/Ojm68vZx #Haiti #Poetry via @public_archive

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