Eating Poetry (XXXV) – Gay Chaps At The Bar


The earlier meaning of the word, and so poignant here. From her first collection of poetry, A Street in Bronzeville, 1945 – originally published in Poetry, November 1944 –  and its closing sequence of twelve off-rhyme sonnets.

Gay Chaps At The Bar

by Gwendolyn 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.
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