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America, by Claude McKay

Although she feeds me bread of bitterness,

And sinks into my throat her tiger’s tooth,

Stealing my breath of life, I will confess

I love this cultured hell that tests my youth.

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Her vigor flows like tides into my blood,

Giving me strength erect against her hate,

Her bigness sweeps my being like a flood.

Yet, as a rebel fronts a king in state,

I stand within her walls with not a shred

Of terror, malice, not a word of jeer.

Darkly I gaze into the days ahead,

And see her might and granite wonders there,

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Beneath the touch of Time’s unerring hand,

Like priceless treasures sinking in the sand.

From “An Introduction to Poetry,” edited by X.J. Kennedy and Dana Gioia (Longman: 652 pp., $29.75)


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