African American Poetry (1870-1928): A Digital Anthology

Claude McKay, "Alfonso, Dressing to Wait at Table" (1922)

Alfonso is a handsome bronze-hued lad
Of subtly-changing and surprising parts;
His moods are storms that frighten and make glad,
His eyes were made to capture women’s hearts.

Down in the glory-hole Alfonso sings
An olden song of wine and clinking glasses
And riotous rakes; magnificently flings
Gay kisses to imaginary lasses.

Alfonso’s voice of mellow music thrills
Our swaying forms and steals our hearts with joy;
And when he soars, his fine falsetto trills
Are rarest notes of gold without alloy.

But, O Alfonso! wherefore do you sing
Dream-songs of carefree men and ancient places?
Soon we shall be beset by clamouring
Of hungry and importunate palefaces.

Published in Harlem Shadows1922

​(Edited and Proofread by Sarah Heidebrink-Bruno)
(See also the interpretive essay by Sarah Heidebrink-Bruno that addresses this poem here)

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