Lyceum of Dreams

This poem by Nikky Finney is displayed in The Lyric's lobby and pays tribute to the historic theatre's past, present and future.




On the East End, we shine our
own shoes, dress our own legs,
smooth down willful hair, let all
new trouble float. Done-up.
We promenade and pass, 
Do As You Please & 3rd, where
Winkfield & Murphy once flew. 

Under the blazing marquee 
we hand our shiny quarter over, 
glide toward, then across,
our eight-point star, rose-tile 
light of regeneration. 

In the dark theater, the salt-cold 
sweat of work is left behind, now,
names hurled our way set aside, 
now paychecks that never match 
our labor folded away     now.

House lights dim: 
Paul Robeson is Othello. 
Miss Ella strikes & swings.
The Duke & Count jazz-juice 
the night, royalty speaks to royalty. 
The Ink Spots, Sarah Vaughan, 
Miss Mahalia orchestrates moans 
& moonbeams, Candy Johnson 
& his Peppermint Sticks fill every 
inch of stage. Marian Anderson
holds her hands quiet, in position.
Woody Strode, our Black cowboy,
wild-rides the open oat fields & range.
Our dusty eyes drink in Beah Richards,
Dorothy Dandridge, Lena Horne.

We come to the Lyric to see our many
selves lifted up to light, fastened to the
edge of the wind, center-stage.
Intermission at the Lyric:
Freda Jones tries on a new hat,
no one is arrested. Bernard Lewis 
licks his ice cream cone on every 
melting side, no one is booked for
loitering. The picture-taking man 
takes our picture too. At the Lyric,
 we pose, bright futures we portray. 

At the Lyric we fall in love with our 
lips. In row 17:  Lucinda kisses Big 
Tank clear through the opening act. 
We cry at the Lyric, laugh out loud 
at the Lyric. Whisper! Quiet! 
Here comes the principal cast! Miss Lucy 
Harth Smith primly takes her seat. 
At the Lyric, William Wells Brown 
pulls out his indelible pen and writes 
us down, Isaac Scott Hathaway shapes 
our regal faces in his amber clay. 

We come to the Lyric to rise, 
rejuvenate, see ourselves win, 
watch ourselves hit the home run, 
be champion of the world! 

We file out of the Lyric, live & alive, 
stroll back across the waves of the eight-
point star, rays of return, back into the
East End with every new thing we have
become in the sparkling rose-tile dark.

Sweet Lyric, lyceum of dreams, once
we came to you, rising into who Mama, 
not magazines, promised us we were.
Sweet Lyric, we return, half-a-century 
gone by. A well-lit history escorts us
to your open door.