I Know My Soul, by Claude McKay
I plucked my soul out of its secret place,
And held it to the mirror of my eye,
To see it like a star against the sky,
A twitching body quivering in space,
A spark of passion shining on my face.
And I explored it to determine why
This awful key to my infinity
Conspires to rob me of sweet joy and grace.
And if the sign may not be fully read,
If I can comprehend but not control,
I need not gloom my days with futile dread,
Because I see a part and not the whole.
Contemplating the strange, I’m comforted
By this narcotic thought: I know my soul.
McKay was vital to the development of the Harlem Renaissance, well known and well loved by younger artists such as Langston Hughes. Though this may not be his most pivotal, most beautiful poem, “I Know My Soul” strikes a certain chord with me. The cadence is lovely, but the subject matter? I do love the visual the poet creates, the possibility of grabbing hold of something intangible and making study of it. I also admire the use of this narcotic thought. Thoughts can be so much more potent than pharmaceuticals, can they not?
this narcotic thought!