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Harlem Dancer

Claude McKay

Harlem dancer


Applauding youths laughed with young prostitutes

And watched her perfect, half-clothed body sway;

Her voice was like the sound of blended flutes

Blown by black players upon a picnic day.

She sang and danced on gracefully and calm,

The light gauze hanging loose about her form;

To me she seemed a proudly-swaying palm

Grown lovelier for passing through a storm.

Upon her swarthy neck black, shiny curls

Profusely fell; and, tossing coins in praise,

The wine-flushed, bold-eyed boys, and even the girls,

Devoured her with their eager, passionate gaze;

But, looking at her falsely-smiling face

I knew her self was not in that strange place.


—Claude McKay (Selected poems)