Songs of Jamaica (1912)

To E. M. E.

You see me smile: but what is it?
A sweetened pain — a laughing fit —
A little honeyed dart,
That, passing, stabs my heart,
Yet mek me glad a bit.

You see me dance: ’twas but my feet,
You should have heard my heart a beat!
For non o’ it was real:
It be’n a priceless sale
Of bitter for a sweet.

Dis laughin’ face! — ’tis full o’ joy
Because it is a baby’s toy;
But when de child is gone
An’ the darkness comes on,
‘Twill be anudder boy.

You hear me sing: what is de tune?
De song of one that’s dyin’ soon,
A whirlin’, tossin’ life
Flung on de wul’ of strife;
I call it ‘debil’s boon.’

De many pleasures?
Wha’s de gain?
I’ll tell you of a grindin’ pain
Dat companies de birt’,
An’ runs wid vengeance mirt’
De life, till it is slain.

Why do I sleep?
My eyes know why,
Same how a life knows why it die:
Dey sleep on in distress,
Knowin’ not why dey res’,
But feelin’ why dey cry.

I’m hungry now, so eat once mo’,
E’en though I’ll soon be like befo’;
For, as in udder t’ings,
De seemin’ pleasure clings,
De cravin’ has no cure.

It always seem so strange to me,
Dat you can satisfy to be
A life whose daily food
Is pain: de only good,
Deat’ dat will set it free.


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This work (Poems by Claude McKay by Claude McKay) is free of known copyright restrictions.