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

M.V. Cuthbert (Marion Cuthbert, Marion Vera Cuthbert), "Black Flute" (1928)

Black Flute
By M. V. Cuthbert

HE had taken a reed and made him stops
And set it to his mouth,
And was strolling along our careless street
That follows the river south—
A black boy and a reedy flute,
A black child skipped behind—
A white man, following, laughed and said,
“This is a lucky find!
That boy can swing a better pick
Than any man at the Dam,
But who'd a thought o° music and him!
Lawd! any black boy can lam
A tune out o° a cast iron pipe,
Or a wooden railroad tie—
If they couldn’t open up and sing
Every last one ‘d die!”

But I was plashing on the brink
Of a sleepy river wide,
Playing hide and seek in reeds
That covered the shallow side;
I was swinging from a vine
That gripped a mighty tree,
Higher and higher, pulsing, glad,
A rhythm of eternity;
I was dancing in a glade,
The moon and | were mad,
Till cool, dewed grass held quivering limbs
And breath was the pain I had;
I was lost in a night-black wood,
And heard a clear birdsong:
Dropping in weariness, I dreamt
That walking I found the dawn—

The reedy flute was under the hill,
Each went back to his task.
A black god caught us unaware,
We dropped each needful mask
Hiding the child-face that must light
When a flute player passes by—
“If they coula's open up and sing
Every last one ’d die!”

Published in Opportunity, May 1928

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