African American Poetry (1870-1926): A Digital Anthology

Langston Hughes, "To a Negro Jazz Band in a Parisian Cabaret" (1925)

Play that thing,
Jazz band!
Play it for the lords and ladies,
For the dukes and counts,
For the whores and gigolos,
For the American millionaires,
And the love-night painted faces 
Of American millionaires,
And the school teachers out for a spree.
Play it!
Jazz band!
You know that tune
That laughs and cries at the same time.
You know it.

   May I?
   Mais oui.
   Mein Gott!
   Parece una rumba.
   ! Que Rumba!

Play it, jazz band!
You've got seven languages to speak in
And then some.
   Can I?
   Sure. 

Published in The Crisis, December 1925

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