On Behalf of the Brotherhood of Odd Fellows The Sepia Players Present: The Blackbirds

by Amaud Jamaul Johnson

but first…

“if Gandhi were a New Yorker
he would never fast. ZUCCA’s
tempting dishes would lure
him to the Gardens daily. You
too will find ZUCCA’s dishes

and remember there are chocolates
for sale in the lobby

Cue Master Nicholas, Harold at fourteen,
a jig-saw of legs, oblong elbows akimbo—
a bedlam, quick as an oil slick of Kongolene.

The Inter-State Tattler will tell you:
Ring shout, wheel about, strut, then stare,
how could a boy so young adulterate the air?

My coloratura dreamland, and all this business
of jubilee. Midnight rooftop bacchanals
and the Dance of Salome. O, the showgirls

and ponies, something for everyone to see,
the Darktown Follies of San Juan Hill or
“At the Howard” in D.C. Who can do The Buzzard

Loop, The Snakehips was serpentine, Stand
& Shimmy, or Ballin’ the Jack, even The Fish Tale
was mean. Butterbeans and Susie, Fisk’s

“Ezekiel Saw the Wheel,” the deaths
of Florence Mills and Mary Cahill.
“Cupid was an Indian Pickaninny,”

“The Wedding of the Chinee and the Coon,”
“Who Dat Say Chicken in Dis Crowd,”
and “The Maid of Timbuctoo.”

At The Gaiety in London, they’re gathering
right now. Grandmas, tots, and poodles
will pepper the crowd. TOBY: tough

on black actors, tough on black asses,
and tired of being abused, while the porters
and the bootblacks are whistling Handy’s Blues.

Read The Defender, The Indianapolis Freemen
you’ll see what I mean, Edison’s removable wax
cylinders and that Victor Talking Machine.

Published on February 8, 2012