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Poem-a-Day is the original and only daily digital poetry series featuring over 200 new, previously unpublished poems by today's talented poets each year. On weekdays, poems are accompanied by exclusive commentary by the poets. The series highlights classic poems on weekends. Launched in 2006, Poem-a-Day is now distributed via email, web, and social media to 350,000+ readers free of charge and is available for syndication by King Features.

The Mystery

About this Poem 

“The Mystery” was published in Dunbar’s book Lyrics of Lowly Life (Dodd, Mead, 1896).

The Mystery

Paul Laurence Dunbar, 1872 - 1906

I was not; now I am—a few days hence
I shall not be; I fain would look before
And after, but can neither do; some Power
Or lack of power says “no” to all I would.
I stand upon a wide and sunless plain,
Nor chart nor steel to guide my steps aright.
Whene’er, o’ercoming fear, I dare to move,
I grope without direction and by chance.
Some feign to hear a voice and feel a hand
That draws them ever upward thro’ the gloom.
But I—I hear no voice and touch no hand,
Tho’ oft thro’ silence infinite I list,
And strain my hearing to supernal sounds;
Tho’ oft thro’ fateful darkness do I reach,
And stretch my hand to find that other hand.
I question of th’ eternal bending skies
That seem to neighbor with the novice earth;
But they roll on, and daily shut their eyes
On me, as I one day shall do on them,
And tell me not the secret that I ask.

This poem is in the public domain.

This poem is in the public domain.

previous poems

datesort ascending title author
January 04, 2016 My Doubt Jane Hirshfield
January 03, 2016 The Answer Carl Sandburg
January 02, 2016 January William Carlos Williams
January 01, 2016 The Leash Ada Limón
December 31, 2015 Work Sally Bliumis-Dunn
December 30, 2015 Alternate Self-Portrait Dean Rader
December 29, 2015 Gentle Collisions Tara Betts
December 28, 2015 Like a Curtain Jan Freeman
December 27, 2015 Winter Leafage Edith Matilda Thomas
December 26, 2015 The Desplaines Forest Edgar Lee Masters