Monday, February 25, 2013

Poet’s Corner- Langston Hughes- Juke Box Love Song

He, Jimmy Sands, new in town, new in New Jack Cityalthough, not new to city life havinglived in Baltimore, Detroit, Chi Town, Frisco and Seattle along the way decided to hit the uptown hot spots one night. Not the “hot’ hot spots like the Kit Kat Club which was strictly for the Mayfair swells, or the Banjo Club, the same, but the lesser clubs, the what did he mock call them, yah, “the plebeian clubs,” which translated to him as the place where hot chicks, mostly white, Irish usually, from the old country, all red-headed, all slim and slinky, all, all, pray, pray, ready to give up that goddam novena bookthey carried around since birth, maybe before, and live, read give in to his siren song of love, and ditto some sassy light-skinned (high yella his father, his father who never got beyond Kentucky-born nigra to designate the black kindred, called them) black girls, steamy Latinas with those luscious lips and far-way brown eyes, and foxy (foxy if he could ever understand them, or rather their wants) Asian girls, a whole mix, a mix joined together by one thing, no, two things, one youth, young, young and hungry, young and ready, young and, well, you know, young and horny, and two, a love of dancing, rock and roll dancing (and in a pinch, maybe that last dance pinch, in order to seal the evening’s deal, a slow one.

So one James Sands, taxi-driven, indicating that for once in his tender young life that he was flush with dough (having just done a seaman’s three month tour of every odd-ball oil tanker port of call in the eastern world it seemed, he was not sure that he would ever get that oil tank smell out of his nostrils, all he knew was that he would have to be shanghaied or something to get him back on one of those dirty buggers) and ready to spend it on high- shelf liquor (already having scored some precious high end jimson, you know, weed, reefer in case he got lucky), some multi-colored women (choices listed see above), and some music, alighted (nice) in front of Jim Sweeney’s Hi Hat Club up around 100thStreet just around where things began to mix and match in the city. The only problem, when he inquired, inquired of that beautiful ganga connection, was that while Jim Sweeney’s had plenty of high- priced, high-shelf liquor and plenty of that mix and match bevy of women that the place had no live band for dancing just a jukebox. But a jukebox that had every kind of song, rock and blues song, you could ask for and the speakers were to die for. So here he was.
As Jimmy entered (nice, no cover) he remembered back to the old neighborhood, the old high school after school scene, in dockside Baltimore, at Ginny’s Pizza Parlor where every cool guy and gal went to have their chilling out pizza and soda, maybe a couple of cigarettes and to play about ten songs on Ginny’s jukebox. He remembered too that afternoon when Shana, long, tall, high yella (sorry) Shana, from the cheerleaders squad showed up there alone, and Shana, if you had seen her would under no circumstances ever need to be alone in any spot in this good green earth much less at Ginny’s. Seems she and her boyfriend had had a falling out and she was on the prowl. Taking his chances Jimmy, old smooth Jimmy, asked her to dance when somebody put Chuck Berry’s Roll Over Beethoven on, and she said, yes, did you hear that, yes. And that dance got him a couple more, and then a couple more after that, until Shana said she had to leave to go home for some supper and then somebody put on Ballad of Easy Rider, a slow one by The Byrds, and that was their last chance dance. They saw each other a few times after that, had shared some stuff, but, hell, there was no way in that damn Baltimore city that a whitebread (term of art used in the neighborhood so take no offense) and a high yella (take offense) could breathe the air there together, although he was ready to jump the hoops to do the thing. Maybe tonight, maybe in the crazy mix and match night if he didn’t get distracted by some red-headed Irish girl ready to burn that damn novena book for some whiskey and smoke, he might find his Shana, make something of it, and make the East River smile.

Juke Box Love Song
I could take the Harlem night
and wrap around you,
Take the neon lights and make a crown,
Take the Lenox Avenue busses,
Taxis, subways,
And for your love song tone their rumble down.
Take Harlem's heartbeat,
Make a drumbeat,
Put it on a record, let it whirl,
And while we listen to it play,
Dance with you till day--
Dance with you, my sweet brown Harlem girl.
Langston Hughes

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