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Sally Buckner


Dancing was one of the Devil's sorry tricks
along with liquor, movies, card-playing 
on Sunday afternoons, cussing, kissing

anybody not your lawful spouse--those things
that might feel good at a neglectful moment,
but were designed as kindling
for hell’s most fevered flames.
This, the Gospel according to Grandpa,
thundered across the oak-board dining table,
where Mama and her sisters, steaming
in high-necked, long-sleeved calico,
pondered the price of pleasure.
Forty years later, the ‘65 television,
tuned for a Saturday hour of American Bandstand,
my three children applaud the boogie beat
reverberating through the family room.
Mama, newly widowed, scrapes crumbs
from her blackened cookie sheet,
peers across the serving bar
to the screen where all is twist
and twirl, sashay, and leap and sass.
I pause from scraping the batter bowl
long enough to watch one pony-tailed
girl, her wide skirt swirling,
snap insolent fingers
into her partner’s face. He grabs
her arms, spins her to a whirl,
slides her between his denimed legs.
Two guys, long, dark hair Bryl-Cream sleek,
fingers wide-spread, pelvises
thrust forward, strut toward each other
in brazen power walk.
Close-up: a girl’s face, innocent as April,
rouged only with exertion,
her eyes ecstatic blue stars
as Dick Clark urges her to rock ‘n roll.

Mama wipes her hands across the apron
spanning her broad stomach, steady gaze
on those gyrating bodies. Unable to read
her face, I try to predict her words:
Disgraceful. What are their mothers
and fathers thinking? Instead,
she draws, exhales a heavy breath,
unfolds her hands, stares at the jagged lines
mapping her palms. 
“I think I would have liked 
to dance 
like that.”
© 2010 by Sally Buckner.
Used with the author's permission.


Sally Buckner (1931 - 2018) was a life-long North Carolinian who published fiction, reviews, essays, plays, and two poetry collections, Strawberry Harvest and Collateral Damage. She also edited two anthologies: Our Words, Our Ways: Reading and Writing in North Carolina, and Word and Witness: 100 Years of North Carolina Poetry. Having taught at every level from kindergarten through graduate school, Sally devoted her retirement years to writing, family, and social justice. Her work supporting North Carolina's literary community—sponsoring a high school poetry contest, compiling two anthologies of North Carolina writing, and working on projects devoted to the state's writers and their writing— earned her numerous awards.


Post New Comment:
As expected, delightful! I chuckled aloud at the last stanza.
Posted 08/10/2010 11:32 AM

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