What did Lorca mean by ‘crocodiles’ in his poem ‘The King of Harlem’?
The poet Federico García Lorca, when he was studying at Colombia University visited Harlem with a friend of his, Nella Larsen, a black novelist. It made a tremendous impression upon him and its influence is visible in some of the poems he wrote about New York. He could not understand the overt prejudice displayed by New Yorkers. One of the poems he wrote there is, ‘The King of Harlem’. In the English translation in *The Selected Poems of Federico García Lorca*, the first stanza goes: >With a spoon He scooped out the eyes of crocodiles and spanked the monkeys on their bottoms With a spoon And a later stanza goes: >That night the King of Harlem with a very hard spoon scooped out the eyes of crocodiles And spanked the monkeys on their bottoms. With a spoon. The negroes cried abased among umbrellas and golden suns, the mulattoes were stretching gum, anxious to reach the white torso, and the wind blurred mirrors and burst open the veins of the dancers. What does Lorca mean by the image of ‘crocodiles’ here?