March 24, 1926

Oh breezes blowing on the red hill-top
By tall fox-tails,
Where through dry twigs and leaves and grasses hop
The dull-brown quails!

Is there no magic floating in the air
To bring to me
A breath of you, when I am homesick here
Across the sea?

Oh black boys holding on the cricket ground
A penny race!
What other black boy frisking round and round,
Plays in my place?

When picnic days come with their yearly thrills
In warm December,
The boy in me romps with you in the hills—

Paris, 1925

This article is part of The Nation’s 150th Anniversary Special Issue. Download a free PDF of the issue, with articles by James Baldwin, Barbara Ehrenreich, Toni Morrison, Howard Zinn and many more, here.

Claude McKay (1889–1948), author of the novels Home to Harlem (1928) and Banjo (1929), only published this one poem in The Nation, but he also wrote three essays in the mid-1930s on race relations in New York City—including a firsthand report on the 1935 Harlem riot—and one travel dispatch from North Africa.