Flame-Heart by Claude McKay; his tropical memories. Black History.

Flame-Heart by Claude McKay; his tropical memories.

SO much have I forgotten in ten years,
So much in ten brief years! I have forgot
What time the purple apples come to juice,
And what month brings the shy forget-me-not.
I have forgot the special, startling season
Of the pimento’s flowering and fruiting;
What time of year the ground doves brown the fields
And fill the noonday with their curious fluting.
I have forgotten much, but still remember
The poinsettia’s red, blood-red in warm December.

I still recall the honey-fever grass,
But cannot recollect the high days when
We rooted them out of the ping-wing path
To stop the mad bees in the rabbit pen.
I often try to think in what sweet month
The languid painted ladies used to dapple
The yellow by-road mazing from the main,
Sweet with the golden threads of the rose-apple.
I have forgotten–strange–but quite remember
The poinsettia’s red, blood-red in warm December.

What weeks, what months, what time of the mild year
We cheated school to have our fling at tops?
What days our wine-thrilled bodies pulsed with joy
Feasting upon blackberries in the copse?
Oh some I know! I have embalmed the days
Even the sacred moments when we played,
All innocent of passion, uncorrupt,
At noon and evening in the flame-heart’s shade.
We were so happy, happy, I remember,
Beneath the poinsettia’s red in warm December.

Walt Whitman- queer white man on Bumble Bees. Can you even imagine swarms of thousands of them bumbles?!

Walt Whitman was against slavery but held “the widespread opinion that even free African-Americans should not vote.” He believed all religions to be equally important. He was a supporter of temperance, the movement to set limits to drinking alcohol. White, lower middle class, I think.

Walt Whitman, diary entry on Bumble-Bees.

MAY-MONTH… I am out just after sunrise, and down towards the creek.

The lights, perfumes, melodies—the blue birds, grass birds and robins, in every direction—
For undertones, a neighboring wood-pecker tapping his tree, and the distant clarion of chanticleer.
Then the fresh earth smells—the colors, the delicate drabs and thin blues of the perspective. The bright green of the grass has receiv’d an added tinge from the last two days’ mildness and moisture.

Later.— But for the last two days it has been the great wild bee, the humble-bee, or “bumble,” as the children call him. As I walk, or hobble, from the farm-house down to the creek, I traverse the before-mention’d lane, fenced by old rails, with many splits, splinters, breaks, holes, &c., … Up and down and by and between these rails, they swarm and dart and fly in countless myriads.

As I wend slowly along, I am often accompanied with a moving cloud of them. They play a leading part in my morning, midday or sunset rambles, and often dominate the landscape in a way I never before thought of—fill the long lane, not by scores or hundreds only, but by thousands.
Large and vivacious and swift, with wonderful momentum and a loud swelling perpetual hum, varied now and then by something almost like a shriek, they dart to and fro, in rapid flashes, chasing each other, …

As I write, I am seated under a big wild-cherry tree—the warm day temper’d by partial clouds and a fresh breeze, neither too heavy nor light—and here I sit long and long, envelop’d in the deep musical drone of these bees, flitting, balancing, darting to and fro about me by hundreds—big fellows with light yellow jackets, great glistening swelling bodies, stumpy heads and gauzy wings—humming their perpetual rich mellow boom.

How it all nourishes, lulls me, in the way most needed; the open air, the rye-fields, the apple orchards…

…my spirit at peace. (Yet the anniversary of the saddest loss and sorrow of my life is close at hand.)

Almost every bird I notice has a special time in the year—sometimes limited to a few days—when it sings its best; and now is the period of these russet-backs.