Beautiful New York

A Celebration of the City

Top 10 Greatest Poems About NYC — #10

New York is a city of words and of rhythms. The poetry of our city is found in “the rumble of the subway trains, the rattle of the taxis.” Some of the greatest writers in American history have come from (or to) our city and used it for inspiration. Traditionally, our Top 10 lists have featured paragraphs explaining each choice. But poetry should speak for itself. Therefore, we simply offer the text of each piece. As always, we offer one per day, beginning with number 10.

My City by James Weldon Johnson

10 My CityWhen I come down to sleep death’s endless night,
The threshold of the unknown dark to cross,
What to me then will be the keenest loss,
When this bright world blurs on my fading sight?
Will it be that no more I shall see the trees
Or smell the flowers or hear the singing birds
Or watch the flashing streams or patient herds?
No, I am sure it will be none of these.

But, ah! Manhattan’s sights and sounds, her smells,
Her crowds, her throbbing force, the thrill that comes
From being of her a part, her subtle spells,
Her shining towers, her avenues, her slums—
O God! the stark, unutterable pity,
To be dead, and never again behold my city!

 

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