Gay 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!
Anne Spencer - 1882-1975
Before the Feast of Shushan
Garden of Shushan! After Eden, all terrace, pool, and flower recollect thee: Ye weavers in saffron and haze and Tyrian purple, Tell yet what range in color wakes the eye; Sorcerer, release the dreams born here when Drowsy, shifting palm-shade enspells the brain; And sound! ye with harp and flute ne'er essay Before these star-noted birds escaped from paradise awhile to Stir all dark, and dear, and passionate desire, till mine Arms go out to be mocked by the softly kissing body of the wind— Slave, send Vashti to her King! The fiery wattles of the sun startle into flame The marbled towers of Shushan: So at each day's wane, two peers—the one in Heaven, the other on earth—welcome with their Splendor the peerless beauty of the Queen. Cushioned at the Queen's feet and upon her knee Finding glory for mine head,—still, nearly shamed Am I, the King, to bend and kiss with sharp Breath the olive-pink of sandaled toes between; Or lift me high to the magnet of a gaze, dusky, Like the pool when but the moon-ray strikes to its depth; Or closer press to crush a grape 'gainst lips redder Than the grape, a rose in the night of her hair; Then—Sharon's Rose in my arms. And I am hard to force the petals wide; And you are fast to suffer and be sad. Is any prophet come to teach a new thing Now in a more apt time? Have him 'maze how you say love is sacrament; How says Vashti, love is both bread and wine; How to the altar may not come to break and drink, Hulky flesh nor fleshly spirit! I, thy lord, like not manna for meat as a Judahn; I, thy master, drink, and red wine, plenty, and when I thirst. Eat meat, and full, when I hunger. I, thy King, teach you and leave you, when I list. No woman in all Persia sets out strange action To confuse Persia's lord— Love is but desire and thy purpose fulfillment; I, thy King, so say!