A Pocket of Resistance: dancing


before junior high (now an archaic term),
i envied the high school boys
with pompadours and ducktails,
swinging their hips,
lithely, rhythmically moving across the floor
with all the girls i loved
i stodgily stomped the steps of bop,
holding one hand with my partner

then Mrs. Brown, according to Mother,
recruiting for her dance class
after Mother told her we couldn’t afford it,
gave me a free pass, telling Mother
if i went to the classes, the other boys would come along;
all of the girls had signed up,
but no boys yet;
so once a week on Saturday morning,
we would repair to the second floor
of the vacant building on the prep school campus fringe;
Mrs. Brown would put a record on the Victrola
for us to learn the foxtrot, waltz, cha-cha, mambo, lindy hop, samba, bossa nova,
but not tango; no, not tango.
then somebody, i think it was Mrs. Brown,
got us eighth graders invited to
“The Five O’Clock Hop,”
on the big television channel in Nashville
trying to emulate American Bandstand:
i felt like a big-time boy
in my white sport coat but no pink carnation,
with as much of a duck-tail as i was allowed;
so i became a tolerable, passable dancer, i thought,
learning the bop, strut, twist, monkey, jerk, mashed potato,
shaking my money-maker
when most of it was to get to the slow dance
to hold a girl close

i felt mechanical, structured,
having the idea, feeling the rhythm,
just not nailing it;
then i saw my cousins, brother and sister,
dance together at a high school hop in a land far away,
with grace, and rhythm, all the things a dance should be;
then i went to college, finding out
i was one hell of a dancer with a little booze poured in;
moving on, i learned western swing: the two-step, cotton eyed joe.

finally, there was this woman who danced with me
drawing raves from friends,
we were older then:
i didn’t like to sweat so much anymore,
which i did:
we sort of stopped.

now, i watch my grandson do moves at eight,
which i never could do,
i laugh with joy,
my dancing done.

yet, one afternoon when my wife was at a movie,
i was working on honey-do’s in the garage
with my old phonograph playing a lp of Major Lance;
inexplicably, i began dancing
next to the workbench, a screwdriver in my hand,
hoping to god,
no one discovered me
until “monkey time” played out.



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