Reading time: Approximately 3 minutes
"Swing," by Angel C. Dye, is a work that I find moving in both color and imagery. The line breaks and broken stanza construction work with the content of jazz and dance to place the reader in the experience of the poem. It's a joyous recognition of what music can provide on a personal and a cultural level. For me, "Jazz" offers a glimpse of a shared humanity felt in our love of expression, of music, of body, and of voice.
by Angel C. Dye
tastes like hot grits on a holiday called Sunday,
thick with the promise of glory, butter-smooth as the Baby Savior,
and pleasing to the soul.
feels like scrap iron hooch scatting through veins,
shabadoowee byowww making art of a staggered two-step,
forgotten feet & a snatch of belief in flying.
smells like musk oil & honeysuckle
dabbed behind an ear tuned for flat-sharp chords
and inside a wrist cocked to anchor staccato snaps.
looks like rose red bulbs vining from the ceiling,
grooved floorboards from gut-foot stomping,
jagged auburn brick & polished brass.
sounds like roaring sighs & purring moans,
locomotives on grease-slick rails,
a cock crowing to anoint the dawn.
is a savory concoction seasoned with skin swatches & spare ribs,
grinding treble high-fiving bottom floor bass;
pant of the heaviest hound,
stubble shadow on a chiseled chin,
tilt of a wide wool hat,
sootiest hour before daybreaks —
Reprinted with the permission of the poet
The poet had this to say about the poem:
“Swing” is a celebration of the music, dance, and eclecticism of African American people. It is one of the earliest poems written for my forthcoming collection of poetry set in the vibrant rent party scenes and streets of the Harlem Renaissance. I lean into the sounds of joy that black Harlemites harvested even while facing the racial, economic, and environmental oppressions that the necessity of rent parties stemmed from.
Angel C. Dye is a poet and scholar of 20th and 21st century African American Literature from Milwaukee, Wisconsin/Dallas-Ft. Worth, Texas, writing, thinking, and working every day to carry on the legacies of her ancestors and to shout her joy at being a black woman.