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A Lover's Question

     My country,
'tis of thee I sing.

You, enemy of all tribes,
known, unknown, past,
present, or, perhaps, above all,
to come:
I sing:
my dear,
            my darling,
(Columbia, the gem of
the ocean!)

or, as I, a street nigger,
would put it-:
(Okay. I'm your nigger
baby, till I get bigger!)
You are my heart.

have you allowed yourself
to become so grinly wicked?

do not ask you why
you have spurned,
despised my love
as something beneath you.
We all have our ways and
but my love has been as constant
as the rays
coming from the earth
or the sun,
which you have used to obliterate
and, now, according to your purpose,
all mankind,
from the nigger, to you,
and to your children's children.

I have endured your fire
and your whip,
your rope,
and the panic from your hip,
in many ways, false lover,
yet, my love:
you do not know
how desperately I hoped
that you would grow
not so much to love me
as to know
that what you do to me
you do to you.

No man can have a harlot
for a lover
nor stay in bed forever
with a lie.
He must rise up
and face the morning sky
and himself, in the mirror
of his lover's eye.

You do not love me.
I see that.
You do not see me:
I am your black cat.

You forget
that I remember an Egypt
where I was worshipped
where I was loved.

No one has ever worshipped you,
nor ever can: you think that love
is a territorial matter,
and racial,
oh, yes,
where I was worshipped
and you were hurling stones,
stones which you have hurled at me,
to kill me,
and, now,
you hurl at the earth,
our mother,
the toys which slaughtered
Cain's brother.

What panic makes you
want to die?
How can you fail to look
into your lover's eye?

Your black dancer
holds the answer:
your only hope
beyond the rope.

Of rope you fashioned,
enough hangs from
your hanging tree
to carry you
where you sent me.

And, then, false lover,
you will know
what love has managed
here below.

Written by James Baldwin (1924-1987)


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