La Revue Nègre


The curtain’s up? Hey now! Away I go.
La vie en rose (ah hem), Bonjour et O,
Au Cabaret! (Look out!) Puccini’s O
Mio bambino caro….I’ll know
The other words then, too; sing Nina’s woe
In her sultry old blue mood indigo;
With Johnny Cash, go make an Alamo
In Reno: we’ll up and kill a man; I’ll sow
Jimmy’s cracked corn; and, then, Pinocchio
It: wish upon a star; I’ll row row row
A boat; and, fit the battle of Jericho—

But, then, (Bravo!) I’ll give it up and throw
It to my sidekick with the fine trousseau:
Ms. Josephine Baker—two woman show,
Expatriates, banana dances, “whoa,”
Revue Negre, Nature’s Black Pearls, “Moi ‘lo,’”
“Don’t Touch Our Four Tomatoes.” We would tow
The audience to our private chateau
Brimming with leopards, liquor, curio-
Toucans, and every latest Romeo.

I’ve got to get a dog first, though, and grow
Pin-curled sideburns and learn to pose, tableau
Of taut breasts and the navel apropos
Of Paris nightlife, drop it hot, slow, low
As bass, tell Daddy Rice to tell Jim Crow
To take his minstrel smile and o-
pen up real wide to suck our titties. Lo,

How a rose e’er bloomed when you sang out, Sweet Jo.
You are our voice. Sing louder. Oui. Hello
And Enchanté. The bistro’s spotlight glow
Will turn into a dusked seraglio
And crown us sultans. Yes, Madame Tussaud
Could wax us. Yes, we’ll get some more Merlot,
Black Gypsy Rose. Don’t stop your do-si-do.
Please flaunt your gold-chained hips. Work that bon mot
Banter. I’ll make a keepsake video;
And, if you stop singing, I’ll lip-synch, blow
A kiss to our United States below
The smoke that hovered with the mistletoe.

Erica Dawson is the author of two books of poetry: The Small Blades Hurt (Measure Press, 2014) and Big-Eyed Afraid (Waywiser, 2007). Her poems have appeared in Best American Poetry, Barrow Street, Harvard Review, Virginia Quarterly Review, and other journals and anthologies. She lives in FL, where she's an Assistant Professor of English and Writing at The University of Tampa, and teaches in both the undergraduate and low-residency MFA programs.

The other words then, too; sing Nina’s woe
In her sultry old blue mood indigo;