Fifty years & other poems
James Weldon Johnson
DOWN BY THE CARIB SEA
Sunrise in the Tropics
Sol, Sol, mighty lord of the tropic zone,
Here I wait with the trembling stars
To see thee once more take thy throne.
There the patient palm tree watching
Waits to say, "Good morn" to thee,
And a throb of expectation
Pulses through the earth and me.
Now, o'er nature falls a hush,
Look! the East is all a-blush;
And a growing crimson crest
Dims the late stars in the west;
Now, a flood of golden light
Sweeps acress the silver night,
Swift the pale moon fades away
Before the light-girt King of Day,
See! the miracle is done!
Once more behold! The Sun!
This is the land of the dark-eyed gente,
Of the dolce far niente,
Where we dream away
Both the night and day,
At night-time in sleep our dreams we invoke,
Our dreams come by day through the redolent smoke,
As it lazily curls,
And slowly unfurls
From our lips,
And the tips
Of our fragrant cigarillos.
For life in the tropics is only a joke,
So we pass it in dreams, and we pass it in smoke,
Smoke — smoke — smoke.
Call for occasional revolutions;
But after that's through,
Why there's nothing to do
But smoke — smoke;
When it starts in your throat and constantly grows,
Till you feel that it reaches down to your toes,
When your mouth tastes like fur
And your tongue turns to dust,
There's but one thing to do,
And do it you must,
Teestay, a drink with a history,
A delicious, delectable mystery,
"Cinco centavos el vaso, señor,"
If you take one, you will surely want more.
The national drink on a feast day;
How it coolingly tickles,
As downward it trickles,
The Lottery Girl
Take a chance at the lottery?
Take a ticket,
Or, better, take two;
Who knows what the future
May hold for you?
Take a chance at the lottery?"
Oh, limpid-eyed girl,
I would take every chance,
If only the prize
Were a love-flashing glance
From your fathomless eyes.
Try your luck at the lottery?
Consider the size
Of the capital prize,
And take tickets
For the lottery.
Tickets, señor? Tickets, señor?
Take a chance at the lottery?"
The Dancing Girl
Do you know what it is to dance?
Perhaps, you do know, in a fashion;
But by dancing I mean,
Not what's generally seen,
But dancing of fire and passion,
Of fire and delirious passion.
With a dusky-haired señorita,
Her dark, misty eyes near your own,
And her scarlet-red mouth,
Like a rose of the south,
The reddest that ever was grown,
So close that you catch
Her quick-panting breath
As across your own face it is blown,
With a sigh, and a moan.Page 35
Ah! that is dancing,
As here by the Carib it's known.
Now, whirling and twirling
Like furies we go;
Now, soft and caressing
And sinuously slow;
With an undulating motion,
Like waves on a breeze-kissed ocean:—
And the scarlet-red mouth
Is nearer your own,
And the dark, misty eyes
Still softer have grown.
Sunset in the Tropics
A silver flash from the sinking sun,
Then a shot of crimson across the sky
That, bursting, lets a thousand colors fly
And riot among the clouds; they run,
Deepening in purple, flaming in gold,
Changing, and opening fold after fold,
Then fading through all of the tints of the rose into gray,
Till, taking quick fright at the coming night,
They rush out down the west,
In hurried quest
Of the fleeing day.