Suppose that the music gathers dust in a forgotten warehouse somewhere,

Just sitting atop a stack of abandoned memories. 

Suppose there was only the Cotton Club, welcoming black luminaries onto the stage, 

But shutting the doors and putting away the tables for ordinary colored people.

Suppose there was no space for catharsis for Blacks in Upper Manhattan, 

Living near-tragic and near-comic deriving from a particular city and consciousness.  

Sure, the space to dance is not limited to just nightclubs, 

But dames and dolls loved the communal environment,

Disarming menfolk with an eyelash or hip thrust, strutting with girlfriends,

And being in the presence of Mr. Bojangles himself;

Men wouldn’t say much and would just follow the women wherever they went,

Harboring them in heavy coats on the sidewalk 

And within their shoulders on the dancefloor. 

But if there were no Prohibition cocktails to slug and swing down at that particular club,

And women weren’t tossing their bashful shoes all around the dancehall, 

It certainly would not sound like paradise to me.


Matthew’s poetry has appeared in Maudlin HouseFront Porch Review, and elsewhere. A three-time Best of the Net Nominee, he recently published his second poetry collection, Far from New York State (NYQ Press), and is the author of Shadow Folks and Soul Songs (Kelsay Books). Follow him: @Matt_Johnson_D