Amaud Jamaul Johnson
Picture her, the Black Patti—
A black soprano, a wunderkind,
Lovers like medallions, bossy.
In burgundy, studded maybe,
After the dog acts and acrobats,
Maybe in white gloves, she
Walks out, begins Faust or Martha.
Did they notice her back, the arrow
Of her voice, those hands, ringing?
Mama's little songbird until
Miss Lady began to lionize
Those notes, their brocade, her lungs,
Her breath, ornate and lingering
long after the wash. Then The Grand,
The Orpheum, men chewing their
Fat cigars. Someone will say The air
Was baroque. Their eyes, a gaudy
Mosaic, and her voice, a hurdle.
Even Garvey, general of no nation,
Starts tittering where he sits.
Nigger Heaven, and the applause,
Limp as some broken idiom.