you’re a little boy, watching lightning spill onto a stage,
in a tv studio a thousand miles away. penny loafers shimmy over socks you couldn’t know were pink, in the fuzzy gray of your brand new black and white tv. they balance, rise on tip-toe (go-go-go) slide, blur and wind, too fast for the camera to follow, and as you lean into the white-hot glow,
knees squeezed tight by your elbows, laughs, gasps, choked-back screams echo while linen-draped arms fly like wings, like airplanes with each full-throated refrain, slicing, splicing, diving right through the screen, finding you, in the gloom of your saxony-carpeted living room, squeezed tight on the red wagon-wheel sofa bed between your mother, your older sister, nodding their heads,
fingers tapping their legs in time with the thrill in their eyes shining in the hazy flash of slim limbs
thrashing behind the confines of a microphone stand gripped by drumming silver-ringed hands.
a voice, ragged and young, crying from bee-stung lips barely old enough to drink: that high-classed-rabbit-catcher ain’t as high-classed as you think. and when the music gusts up up up, a crescendo of pent up lust, it suddenly, thunderously drops, stops like a shut-up music box. and the breath stills in your throat, while each note begins again, slow, smooth, one by one, a spidery crawling groove that feels like a crime, like sin, like hit-and-runs and bathtub gin, those penny loafers stuttering into a drunken pantomime of new-age ragtime, shuddering a shoe-shine black slick of curls over hooded-eyes. and then, then–your heart hops, your heart flops, your heart drops and stops and nearly pops as the deep dark eyes you couldn’t know were blue fix straight at the screen, fix straight on through, like a waking dream. those blue blue eyes fix straight at you.
it feels like a hand opening up, like a shout in a crowded room: no, no, not anybody, not everybody, just you, come on up. it’s tugging on your sleeve, the hem of your shirt and suddenly, thunderously, you’re up with a jerk, in your too tight saddle-shoes, pants cuffed, stiff starched collar, crew cut,
but your body, your body from the top of your head to the tip of your toes can’t do anything but strut, strut, strut, chin jutted out, arms wide, as your mother, hand over her mouth, gasps and laughs and sighs in one single sound. your sister claps, shaking her head from the red wagon-wheel sofa bed, fingers tapping her leg in time with the thrill in her eyes, shining in the hazy flash of slim limbs thrashing behind the confines of a little boy grin. your voice, ragged and young, dull from disuse, escapes from your lungs, lets loose like a prisoner newly sprung, as your reflection in the brand new black and white tv dances and swings with the most beautiful boy any of you have ever seen, whirling your hips, knocking your knees, your mother, your sister’s delighted laughs mixing with girls’ screams from a tv studio a thousand miles away, as lightning spills onto a stage, sizzles and pops, god’s way of showing off. and the boy, the boy is still pointing at you, you could almost touch his hand with yours, and in that moment, suddenly, thunderously, you never want to die,
you want to live forever, in this body, in this time, in this brightening gloom, with this song tumbling the air around you. each swing, each sway, each slide and blur and wind dancing all the feelings you could never say, an escape, a middle of the night wop-bop-a-loo-bop-a-lop-bam-boom-prison break. everything, everything just a little while, a little smile, a little knock-kneed beale street style away. everything, anything, just a fingertip away
Kate LaDew is a graduate from the University of North Carolina at Greensboro with a BA in Studio Art. She lives in Graham, NC with her cats, James Cagney and Janis Joplin.
A Song for Kate