Stay in My Corner

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

Stay……..Stay… Whoa..Ha..aah

 

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.

 

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