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

George Franklin Proctor, "A Poster" (1925)

It is Saturday night.
The place is crowded
And such a crowd!
It is neither black nor white,
Brown nor yellow There are all colors,
There are all manners of peopleI
Here and there, you may catch
Blue-tinted by the smoke
A glimpse of an oriental face
The lights of the place are as manv-hued
As the faces of the people
Wine and Whiskey are poured like oil
Into the fire of Youth,
Causing leaping, ambitious flames
Giving added brightness to maiden eves
Which seem to say, "There is fire within, Beware!" -
Old men and women are here, too
Their glimmering coals are fanned to heat anew
Soul endangering,
Which consume their dry old carcasses.
There comes a whirl of noise
Like the breaking of a storm.
There is a hint of harmony--
A bit of melody.
Five men, black, brown and yellow
Contortionists of notes, instruments
And bodies, make music.
At once, there is wild motion!
Motion that defies description
Each couple improvising movements.
Those most inflamed by wine, music
Or close embraces,
Surpass their fellows.
My eyes follow couple after couple.
There is a brown girl, a wild thing,
Graceful as rippling silk,
With eyes that laugh over the shoulders of a
Bold boy
Whose ancestors might have been Vikings,
So big and strong is he.
They whirl on and I lose them in the crowd,
Only to be attracted by a Chinese lad
Dancing gaily with a maiden of the Occident.
He holds her closely-- His face expressionless.
The girl is smiling
No, she is Iaughing!
He whispers something with a swift side-wise glance.
She tosses back her pretty head
And laughs and laughs and laughs!
A little brown haired girl
With a Lothario long withered
Who would cheat Time with such a play-mate
Flirts boldly with a brown youngster.
Who has the look of neither toiling
Nor spinning,
He is good-looking, I think
Yet, too smooth-looking, too finished in
His knife-creased clothes.
He hints of marked cards--bounty paving women--
Yet-Satyrs grown gross pouched and bald
Are damn poor jazzing mates!
A bell clangs! One o'clock!
I join the struggle for the door
And reach the open air
And a pert cabman!

Published in The Messenger, October-November 1925

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