I’ve put down my beautiful cape: a poem

I’ve put down my beautiful cape
the bulls can chase me through the streets
carry me back home in gold and pink
red cloth fogged what they saw
a bearded man to flaunt
I’ve put down my beautiful cape

I’ve put down my beautiful cape
the bulls can chase me through the streets
I was so afraid what they’d say
the not-gods, I obeyed
them and the sadness
I’ve put down my beautiful cape

Countee Cullen Reading Heritage

Countee Cullen’s poetry haunts me. Cullen’s poem, “For A Poet,” is one of my favorites. The poem published in the book “Color” (1925) is used a symbol in my book, The Taste of Scars.

For A Poet

I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth,
And laid them away in a box of gold;
Where long will cling the lips of the moth,
I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth;
I hide no hate, I am not even wroth
Who found earth’s breath so keen and cold;
I have wrapped my dreams in a silken cloth,
And laid them away in a box of gold.

— Countee Cullen

Countee Cullen, photographed by Carl Van Vecht...

Image via Wikipedia

This poem inspired me to write “I’ve put down my beautiful cape.” Their are different theories why Cullen wrote “For A Poet.”

“Married to W. E. B. DuBois‘s daughter Yolande in 1928 (they divorced in 1930) and Ida Roberson only six years before his death (in 1946), Cullen had a steady string of male lovers in the United States and France,” according to Alden Reimonenq, Professor of English and Chief of Staff to the President at California State University, Northridge. “Cullen was a premier member of a thriving gay coterie in Harlem. Cullen and most gays of the period were, understandably, closeted publicly. The influence of gayness on Cullen’s literary imagination can be seen through the coded references to homosexuality in much of his poetry.”

“The poems “Tableau,” “The Shroud of Color,” “Fruit of the Flower,” “For a Poet,” and “Spring Reminiscence” can be classified as gay poems in which the speaker decries the oppression of those who are different.”

One theory is that “For a Poet” was “written at a time when Cullen was embroiled in unrequited love for Langston Hughes.” Langston Hughes is a black gay icon known for writing some of the most widely read poetry to come out of the Harlem Renaissance. Other important gay and bisexual writers from that period include: “Alain Locke, Claude McKay, Wallace Thurman, and Richard Bruce Nugent” says Reimonenq.

To read more of Countee Cullen’s poems go to Poem Hunter.

Countee Cullens Poem Yet Do I Marvel Read by Todd Helens


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1 Comment

Filed under poetry

One response to “I’ve put down my beautiful cape: a poem

  1. I dig this post … I really do. When you have the time please do check out a poem I wrote about gay violence. called No One Saw a Thing … on my blog.

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