Compelling passages, notable quotables, bon mots, disjecta, ephemera, and miscellany.
(After reading John W. Vandercook’s chronicle of sable glory)
These men were kings, albeit they were black,
Christophe and Dessalines and L’Overture;
Their majesty has made me turn my back
Upon a pliant I once shaped to endure.
These men were black, I say, but they were crowned
And purple-clad, however brief their time.
Stifle your agony; let grief be drowned;
We know joy had a day once and a clime.
Dark gutter-snipe, black sprawler-in-the-mud,
A thing men did a man may do again.
What answer filters through your sluggish blood
To these dark ghosts who knew so bright a reign?
“Lo, I am dark, but comely,” Sheba sings.
“And we were black,” three shades reply, “but kings.”
From Countee Cullen: Collected Poems, Edited by Major Jackson
American Poets Project: The Library of America (2013)