International Day of the Tropics

By Sayan Puangkham

Our planet’s lush tropics cover 40% of the land, and account for approximately 80% of Earth’s biodiversity, yet it is under constant threat from human activity and climate change. Today is International Day of the Tropics, which was created as a reminder to appreciate and respect our rich, tropical lands.

Here is a poem by Claude McKay, born in Sunny Ville, Jamaica, on September 15, 1889. He was a prominent figure in the Harlem Renaissance movement of the 1920’s, writing about everything from social justice to romance, and he frequently referenced his Jamaican home in his poetry. This is his poem, “The Tropics in New York.”

The Tropics in New York

Bananas ripe and green, and ginger-root,
      Cocoa in pods and alligator pears,
And tangerines and mangoes and grape fruit,
      Fit for the highest prize at parish fairs,

Set in the window, bringing memories
      Of fruit-trees laden by low-singing rills,
And dewy dawns, and mystical blue skies
      In benediction over nun-like hills.

My eyes grew dim, and I could no more gaze;
      A wave of longing through my body swept,
And, hungry for the old, familiar ways,
      I turned aside and bowed my head and wept.

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