by Gwendolyn Elizabeth Brooks
...and guys I knew in the States, young
officers, return from the front crying and
trembling. Gay chaps at the bar in Los
Angeles, Chicago, New York...
--Lt. William Couch
in the South Pacific
We knew how to order. Just the dash
Necessary. The length of gaiety in good taste.
Whether the raillery should be slightly iced
And given green, or served up hot and lush.
And we knew beautifully how to give to women
The summer spread, the tropics of our love.
When to persist, or hold a hunger off.
Knew white speech. How to make a look an omen.
But nothing ever taught us to be islands.
And smart, athletic language for this hour
Was not in the curriculum. No stout
Lesson showed how to chat with death. We brought
No brass fortissimo, among our talents,
To holler down the lions in this air.
Last updated January 14, 2019