tickled my chin as it dripped down on the current edition
of “The Crisis”. I was a long way from home and along way
from my time as I sat at a small table off to the side
in a little Blues Café on 135th Street in Negro Harlem.
I thought it was all just a dream but the breeze of Jazzy notes
making love to my ears brought me very alive. I couldn’t believe my eyes
as on the walls were fancy paintings of the richest kind
of African art and surrounding me was the laughter
of faces just like mine. Some darker, some lighter,
some beautiful and smooth and some rugged but defined.
A young gentleman around my age tapped me on the shoulder
offering me a cigar. I politely declined
because I had a different kind of smoke on my mind;
the kind of smoke I was inhaling was a migration of some of the finest
artistic expressionists in history from the south to this place
that I woke up a part of.
A sultry voice danced its way from a small stage;
A woman of heavenly eyes and a graceful tune
massaged the atmosphere with the soft fingertips
of her vocal chords. Bessie Smith was a woman
my grandmother idolized, and there I sat
in this escape into the nostalgia of a movement.
The man behind me was soon joined
by a group of gentlemen in fancy suits
with smiles tap dancing through the dimmed lights
as the shadows of day turned to night. They were poets
because their words were lyrical and the admiration they had
towards each other rhymed in a delightful flow.
I turned around to see the pages of their faces;
Arna Botemps, Claude McCay, Countee Cullen,
James Weldon Johnson and a little known poet
named Langston Hughes. They jived about the news,
about the War about the depression and about the way
the female poets were establishing their own expression.
I lost myself in the moment while realizing I was there with them
inside the fascination of a time defined.
It was a time where the negro became beautifully Black;
A time where the ghosts of slavery became the freedom
of self value; a time “Black” face became no longer a mask,
but a distinguished pride in the souls of these artists. It was a time
that highlighted creativity–
and I was there.
I woke up in 2011. A smooth morning sunlight
drooling warmly against my face. I wasn’t in Harlem anymore
but their faces were still written in my thoughts. Their words
inspired and influenced the soul of my muse.
I was still there,
because what happened in Harlem
has brought out the beauty of my mind.
Tarringo T. Vaughan