David Winter

White Queen’s Blues

Mr. Pat Water’s Very Smart Club My-O-My, known for its “female impersonators,” permitted only white patrons and performers for most of its history.

If I could dance
                                 to your work song, hummed
                                                                                    as sun splits
shadow from silt
                                 each morning, I’d have
                                                                           the whole quarter
                       But a lady mustn’t soil her lace,
                                                                              so I dance
under stage lights
                                 far from Bourbon, and I beg:     
                                                                                    let me
drink color
                       like a peahen, Daddy,
                                                               let me swallow
music from dented
                                 horns. I beg:
                                                               take me
through the darkened city,
                                               Daddy, take me
                                                                              to the city
of seen dawn—
                                Take me, not because
                                                                        the blue note
in your black skin
                                 has sung softly
                                                              in my ear—
                  it has. And not because
                                                              you don’t dream well
beneath roach-
                                flight, though you don’t.
                                                                                Take me,
                  take me—to the city’s
where I know
                                my skin newly
                                                               as the crescent
                     by your hand pressed
                                                               against it.

David Winter wrote the poetry chapbook Safe House (Thrush Press, 2013). His poems have also appeared or are forthcoming in Atlanta Review, Four Way Review, Forklift, Ohio, Harpur Palate, Meridian, Muzzle, and Ninth Letter. He recently received his MFA in Creative Writing from The Ohio State University, where he currently serves as a poetry editor for The Journal. He has also worked extensively with the Literacy Narratives of Black Columbus Project to document the writing and lives of African-American poets.