by: Anne Spencer (1882-1975)

      AY little Girl-of-the-Diving-Tank,
      I desire a name for you,
      Nice, as a right glove fits;
      For you--who amid the malodorous
      Mechanics of this unlovely thing,
      Are darling of spirit and form.
      I know you--a glance, and what you are
      Sits-by-the-fire in my heart.
      My Limousine-Lady knows you, or
      Why does the slant-envy of her eye mark
      Your straight air and radiant inclusive smile?
      Guilt pins a fig-leaf; Innocence is its own adorning.
      The bull-necked man knows you--this first time
      His itching flesh sees form divine and vibrant health
      And thinks not of his avocation.
      I came incuriously--
      Set on no diversion save that my mind
      Might safely nurse its brood of misdeeds
      In the presence of a blind crowd.
      The color of life was gray.
      Everywhere the setting seemed right
      For my mood. Here the sausage and garlic booth
      Sent unholy incense skyward;
      There a quivering female-thing
      Gestured assignations, and lied
      To call it dancing;
      There, too, were games of chance
      With chances for none;
      But oh! Girl-of-the-Tank, at last!
      Gleaming Girl, how intimately pure and free
      The gaze you send the crowd,
      As though you know the dearth of beauty
      In its sordid life.
      We need you--my Limousine-Lady,
      The bull-necked man and I.
      Seeing you here brave and water-clean,
      Leaven for the heavy ones of earth,
      I am swift to feel that what makes
      The plodder glad is good; and
      Whatever is good is God.
      The wonder is that you are here;
      I have seen the queer in queer places,
      But never before a heaven-fed
      Naiad of the Carnival-Tank!
      Little Diver, Destiny for you,
      Like as for me, is shod in silence;
      Years may seep into your soul
      The bacilli of the usual and the expedient;
      I implore Neptune to claim his child to-day!

"At the Carnival" is reprinted from The Book of American Negro Poetry. Ed. James Weldon Johnson. New York: Harcourt, Brace & Co., 1922.




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