Three Poems by Countee Cullen

For One Who Gayly Sowed His Oats
By Countee Cullen – 1903-1946

My days were a thing for me to live,
For others to deplore;
I took of life all it could give:
Rind, inner fruit, and core.

Spring Reminiscence
By Countee Cullen – 1903-1946

“My sweet,” you sang, and, “Sweet,” I sang,
And sweet we sang together,
Glad to be young as the world was young,
Two colts too strong for a tether.

Shall ever a spring be like that spring,
Or apple blossoms as white;
Or ever clover smell like the clover
We lay upon that night?

Shall ever your hand lie in my hand,
Pulsing to it, I wonder;
Or have the gods, being jealous gods,
Envied us our thunder?

If You Should Go
By Countee Cullen – 1903-1946

Love, leave me like the light,
The gently passing day;
We would not know, but for the night,
When it has slipped away.

So many hopes have fled,
Have left me but the name
Of what they were. When love is dead,
Go thou, beloved, the same.

Go quietly; a dream
When done, should leave no trace
That it has lived, except a gleam
Across the dreamer’s face.

About Countee Cullen
Born on May 30, 1903, in New York City, Countee Cullen was one of the most important voices of the Harlem Renaissance.

American writer Alain Locke helped Cullen come to terms with his sexuality. Locke wanted to introduce a new generation of African-American writers, such as Countee Cullen, to the reading public. Locke also sought to present the authentic natures of sex and sexuality through writing, creating a kind of relationship with those who felt the same. Locke introduced Cullen to gay-affirming material, such as the work of Edward Carpenter, at a time when most gays were in the closet. In March 1923, Cullen wrote to Locke about Carpenter’s work: “It opened up for me soul windows which had been closed; it threw a noble and evident light on what I had begun to believe, because of what the world believes, ignoble and unnatural.”

Critics and historians have not reached consensus as to Cullen’s sexuality, partly because Cullen was unsure of this himself. Cullen’s first marriage, to Yolande Du Bois, experienced difficulties before ending in divorce. He subsequently had relationships with many different men, although each ended poorly. Each relationship had a sense of shame or secrecy, such as his relationship with Edward Atkinson. Cullen later married Ida Robertson while potentially in a relationship with Atkinson. Letters between Cullen and Atkinson suggest a romantic interest, although there is no concrete evidence that they were in a sexual relationship.

About Joe

I began my life in the South and for five years lived as a closeted teacher, but am now making a new life for myself as an oral historian in New England. I think my life will work out the way it was always meant to be. That doesn't mean there won't be ups and downs; that's all part of life. It means I just have to be patient. I feel like October 7, 2015 is my new birthday. It's a beginning filled with great hope. It's a second chance to live my life…not anyone else's. My profile picture is "David and Me," 2001 painting by artist Steve Walker. It happens to be one of my favorite modern gay art pieces. View all posts by Joe

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