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Short poem

Claude McKay (1889-1948)

Harlem Shadows

              1I hear the halting footsteps of a lass
              2    In Negro Harlem when the night lets fall
              3Its veil. I see the shapes of girls who pass
              4    To bend and barter at desire's call.
              5Ah, little dark girls who in slippered feet
              6Go prowling through the night from street to street!

              7Through the long night until the silver break
              8    Of day the little gray feet know no rest;
              9Through the lone night until the last snow-flake
            10    Has dropped from heaven upon the earth's white breast,
            11The dusky, half-clad girls of tired feet
            12Are trudging, thinly shod, from street to street.

            13Ah, stern harsh world, that in the wretched way
            14    Of poverty, dishonor and disgrace,
            15Has pushed the timid little feet of clay,
            16    The sacred brown feet of my fallen race!
            17Ah, heart of me, the weary, weary feet
            18In Harlem wandering from street to street.

Online text copyright © 2003, Ian Lancashire for the Department of English, University of Toronto.
Published by the Web Development Group, Information Technology Services, University of Toronto Libraries.

Original text: Harlem Shadows: The Poems of Claude McKay, with an introduction by Max Eastman (New York: Harcourt, Brace and Co., 1922): 22. PS 3525 A24785 H3 Robarts Library.
First publication date: 1922
RPO poem editor: Ian Lancashire
RP edition: RPO 1998.
Recent editing: 2:2002/4/4

Rhyme: ababcc

Other poems by Claude McKay