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Basic Instructions Before Leaving Earth: Claude McKay

20 Aug

Below is a 1926 poem by Jamaican-American poet Claude McKay, called “My Home.” It contains, I believe, some of the elements from both afrofuturism and afrosurrealism:

Claude McKay

“My House” by Claude McKay

For this peculiar tint that paints my house

Peculiar in an alien atmosphere

Where other houses were a kindred hue,

I have a stirring always very rare

And romance-making in my ardent blood,

That channels through my body like a flood.

I know the dark delight of being strange,

The penalty of difference in the crowd,

The loneliness of wisdom among fools,

Yet never have I felt but very proud,

Though I have suffered the agonies of hell,

Of living in my own peculiar cell.

There is an exaltation of man’s life,

His hidden life, that he alone can feel.

The blended fires that heat his veins within,

Shaping his metals into finest steel,

Are elements from his own native earth,

That the wise gods bestowed on him at birth.

Oh each man’s mind contains an unknown realm

Walled in from other men however near,

And unimagined in their highest flights

Of comprehension or of vision clear;

A realm where he withdraws to contemplate

Infinity and his finite state.

Thence he may sometimes catch a god-like glimpse

Of mysteries that seem beyond life’s bar;

Thence he may hurl his little shaft at heaven

And bring down accidentally a star,

And drink its foamy dust like sparkling wine

And echo accents of the laughing divine.

Then he my fall into a drunken sleep

And wake up in his same house painted blue

Or white or green or red or brown or black –

His house, his own, whatever be the hue.

But things for him will not be what they seem

To average men since he has dreamt his dream!

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