The Poetry of Harlem


Things have been turning for me lately,
takin’ on a brighter hue. Today
I am celebrating a new job, a new life,
buying myself a new suit. I know what I want,
yes sir, Hart Schaffner Marx, double-breasted,
beige, no pinstripes, has to be plain beige.
I want quality at an honest price,
an unpretentious garment, comfortable attire
that sports the soft tone of my new outlook.
I intend to wear this suit often — sometimes at work,
sometimes in public, complemented by my
cordovan wingtips, cloth-buffed to a high sheen.

I will stroll Harlem in the new threads —
past Cotton’s Bar and Poolroom, clacking pool balls
competing with street noises, odors of cigar smoke
and stale beer escapin’ through café doors.
I’ll pass Henton’s open-air market, tiers of fresh fruit
and vegetables displayed on sidewalk stands, vivid
colors reaching out in the noonday sun. I will walk
by the bocce ball courts, paisans in fedoras drinkin’
brew from growlers, shouting hit the pallino,
hit the pallino. Yes sir. I’m lookin’ forward
to a fine day passin’ the shops and brownstones,
feelin’ the rhythms of the street, greetin’ people
with a nod and a smile — folks workin’,
some playin’, others lazin’ about.

I’ll amble like I am only another face
in the crowd, indrawn, little to set me apart.
The beige suit will express detachment,
reflect my manner of being among but not of.

Later I will saunter over to Minton’s for
Celebrity Night. Dizzy is sittin’ in with Eldridge.
It’s gonna be a jazz free-for-all. I’ll go early, grab a table,
order a man’s sippin’ drink, unbend, take in
dueling trumpets decoratin’ the club with genius.

I will walk home easy, sweet Harlem feedin’ my soul.
I’ll draw in the night air, savor the poetry of my day, yes sir —
a contented man in a beige suit, in time it might
become my favorite — who knows, it could be
the suit I’m sportin’ when I take my last stroll.

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This Poems Story

A happy man strolling in Harlem.