Stay in My Corner
My religious dad had me tethered
to his southern roots and ribs
tight with Biblical restrictions.
I was only 14, but gathered guts to ask,
Daddy, can I go to the party?
We’ll see he said, not looking
up from the newspaper.
Desire can corrupt one’s hearing.
My mind heard Yes.
All week I practiced smooth dance moves
chose clothes I’d wear, pressed, curled
my hair, was in bed by 9, then up on time for chores.
Bedroom was clean, furniture dusted, dishes done.
I just knew I was going
to the 25-cent-no-food-or-drink-Friday night gig.
Daddy, the party is tonight; can I go?
He put down the LA Times, looked
into my eyes and said Nope.
In disbelief my jaw unhinged,
eyes rolled, bottom lip quivered.
But Daddy, it’s only three doors down.
You said I could go.
When did I say you could go? I said
We’ll see. But I didn’t promise.
Daddy, I never get to do nothing!
Everybody else is going. Why can’t I?
If everybody was jumping off a cliff
would you jump too?
I cried and stomped to my room
hatched a plan to defy my dad.
Fashioned a dummy in bed
perched a wig on top of its head,
and squeezed through my bedroom window
to join friends at the shindig.
My defiance tasted like eating stolen
candy without getting caught or so I thought.
I paid a quarter and floated into a room reeking
of mold, motor oil, and a mean mix of cheap cologne.
Broken bicycles and gasoline cans were stacked in corners.
Naked blue bulbs dangled from a spider-webbed ceiling.
No one sat on the dirty couch with its busted cushions.
Tyrone and Jerome had transformed a shack of junk
into a Black American Bandstand.
I arrived just in time to feel the funky bassline
accented with guitar licks as
James Brown’s synchronized horns
rocked through the Packard Bell Hi Fi.
Rhythm and blues pulsated our rib cages.
We camel walked, hully gullied and jerked
to Say it Loud I’m Black and I’m Proud.
Racial pride wore its own scent that night
decked out in dashikis domed with ten inch afros.
The DJ downshifted and slipped on my favorite song
Stay in My Corner, the 1968 doo-wop-like harmony hit
full of alternating falsetto and baritone riffs.
I was in the clutches of a cute boy
as the soloist crooned
I swooned in the teenager’s arms
not knowing I’d soon be going home
until another teen said
Hey, Angie, yo daddy want you.
I thought the boy was lying,
so I ignored the warning, woozy
from Hai Karate cologne, pheromones
cloaked and shadowed in cobalt light.
Suddenly somebody cut in on us.
Dry calloused fingertips tapped my neck.
I spun around and looked
up at my big tall dad.
Bug-eyed visions of leather or switches
landing on my legs and backside
sucked the residue of freedom
from my feet, blasted me awake
like the sound of my father’s metal snake chewing
grease and garbage in our clogged kitchen drain.
On the way home
I gathered guts again, said to him
Daddy, I know you’re going
to whop me when we get home,
but I just want you to know
I had a very good time.
He never beat me again.
Note: camel walked, hully gullied and jerked were popular dances during the 1960s.