Her sleeping head with its great gelid mass
of serpents torpidly astir
burned into the mirroring shield–
a scathing image dire
as hated truth the mind accepts at last
and festers on.
I struck. The shield flashed bare.
Yet even as I lifted up the head
and started from that place
of gazing silences and terrored stone,
I thirsted to destroy.
None could have passed me then–
no garland-bearing girl, no priest
or staring boy–and lived
Born: 4 August 1913, Michigan, USA
Died: 25 February 1980, Michigan, USA
Hayden was a poet, educator, and essayist. From 1976 to 1978 he was a Consultant un Poetry to the Library of Congress, a role now known as US Poet Laureate. Hayden was first African-American to hold the office