Online Texts for Craig White's Literature Courses

Harlem Dancer


Claude McKay

from Harlem Shadows, 1922

Claude McKay (1889-1948)

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.                     4

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.                   8

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;           12

But, looking at her falsely-smiling face

I knew her self was not in that strange place.