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She does not know
her beauty,
she thinks her brown body
has no glory.

If she could dance
naked
under palm trees
and see her image in the river,
she would know.

But there are no palm trees
on the street,
and dish water gives back
no images.


William Waring Cuney, “No images” from Storefront Church, published in 1973 by Paul Breman Limited. After exhaustive efforts have been made to identify and contact a rights holder, this material is believed to be in the public domain. If you have information about rights to this work, please email us at mail@poetryfoundation.org.
Source: Storefront Church (1973)
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  • William Waring Cuney was born in Washington, DC, in 1906. He attended Howard University and graduated from Lincoln University in Pennsylvania before deciding to pursue a career in singing; he attended the New England Conservatory of Music in Boston and from there went to Rome. Cuney never performed professionally and eventually switched his focus to writing. When he was eighteen, his poem “No Images” won a prize in the Opportunity poetry contest. “No Images” remains a significant representation of the basic philosophy of the Harlem Renaissance and has been widely anthologized and translated; it is Cuney’s most famous poem.

    Cuney’s poems of the middle and late 1930s were recorded by Josh White as “Southern Exposure,” and others were set to music by Al Haig and Nina Simone.  During World War II, Cuney served in the South Pacific as a technical sergeant in the army, where he earned three bronze battle...

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