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James Weldon Johnson, ed. (1871–1938). The Book of American Negro Poetry. 1922.

At the Carnival

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!