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

Countee Cullen, "To a Brown Boy" (1923)

That brown girl's swagger gives a twitch
   To beauty like a queen;
Lad, never dam your body's itch
   When loveliness is seen.

For there is ample room for bliss
   In pride in clean, brown limbs,
And lips know better how to kiss
   Than how to raise white hymns.

And when your body's death gives birth
   To soil for spring to crown,
Men will not ask if that rare earth
   Was white flesh once, or brown.


Published in The Bookman, November 1923
Excerpted in The Crisis, January 1924
Also published in Color, 1925

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