KAKALAK 2016 Contributors’ Notes
Anthony S. Abbott (Davidson, NC), the winner of the 2015 North Carolina Award in Literature, is the author of seven books of poetry and two novels. He is Professor Emeritus of English at Davidson College.
Malaika King Albrecht (Ayden, NC), a therapeutic riding instructor and author of three poetry books, is the founding editor of Redheaded Stepchild, an online magazine that only accepts poems that have been rejected elsewhere.
Heather Alfano (Elon, NC) recently graduated from Greensboro College, where she received her B.A. in English.
Gilbert Allen (Travelers Rest, SC) is the author of The Final Days of Great American Shopping (USC Press, 2016) and Catma (Measure Press, 2014).
Catherine Anderson (Charlotte, NC), author of The Creative Photographer (Lark Books, 2011) leads workshops and retreats on creativity, photography, the labyrinth and SoulCollage® internationally and in the USA (www.creativepilgrimage.com).
Pam Baggett (Cedar Grove, NC) has recent or forthcoming work in Atlanta Review, Greensboro Review, Nimrod, and Tar River Poetry. San Pedro River Review nominated one of her poems for a Pushcart Prize.
Dorothy Baird (Chapel Hill, NC), is a former editor and teacher of English. Her work appeared most recently in Iodine Poetry Journal.
Michael Beadle (Raleigh, NC) is a poet, emcee, A+ Schools fellow, and touring writer-in-residence, and the student contest manager for the North Carolina Poetry Society.
Staci Lynn Bell (Hayesville, NC), has been published in Wild Goose Poetry, Wolf Warriors, Old Mountain Press Anthology 2016, and 234 Journal. She earned two medals in the Cherokee County, North Carolina Silver Arts 2016 competition.
Libby Bernardin (Georgetown, SC) has two chapbooks, Layers of Song (Finishing Line Press 2010), and The Book of Myth (Stepping Stones Press, 2009). She has published in several journals.
Patrick Bizzaro (Kill Devil Hill, NC), Professor Emeritus of English at East Carolina University, is the author of ten books and chapbooks of poetry as well as two books with LSU Press on the poetry and fiction of Fred Chappell.
Kimberlyn Blum-Hyclak (Lancaster, SC) writes from South Carolina and the Midwest – places she calls home. She is the author of In the Garden of Life and Death (Main Street Rag Publishing Company, 2015).
Cheryl Boyer (Waxhaw, NC), contributor to Iodine Poetry Journal and The Main Street Rag, often subjects her family to her pen or lens. You can find her at www.myferriswheel.com.
Peg Bresnahan (Cedar Mountain, NC) is the author of Chasing Light. Garrison Keillor read the title poem from her more recent book, In A Country None of Us Called Home (Press 53, 2014) on Writer’s Almanac.
Jeannette Brossart (Durham, NC) has been a professional mosaic artist since 2003. She facilitates group projects and creates mosaic murals, public art, and sculptural, garden, gallery, and personal mosaics. www.mothernaturemosaics.com
Joyce Compton Brown (Troutman, NC), author of Bequest (Finishing Line Press, 2015), taught English at Gardner-Webb University.
Barbara Campbell (Charlotte, NC) has been published in Pinesong, Journey Without, and The Southern Poetry Anthology, VII: North Carolina.
Catherine Carter (Cullowhee, NC), author of The Memory of Gills (LSU, 2006), The Swamp Monster at Home (LSU, 2012), and Marks of the Witch (Jacar Press, 2014), teaches English at Western Carolina University.
Kenneth Chamlee (Mills River, NC) teaches English at Brevard College and is director of the Looking Glass Rock Writers’ Conference. He has two books, Absolute Faith and Logic of the Lost. His poems have appeared in Asheville Poetry Review, Greensboro Review, and Ekphrasis.
Joy Colter (Rock Hill, SC) has been writing poetry her whole life. Her other interests include playing piano, singing in church choirs, cooking, reading, and line dancing.
L.R. Cooper (Asheville, NC), also known as Laura R. Cooper, writes poetry and fiction. In a previous life, she worked as a broadcast journalist and international media and communications consultant.
Beth Copeland (Gibson, North Carolina), author of Transcendental Telemarketer (BlazeVox, 2012) and Traveling through Glass (Bright Hill Press, 2000), teaches English at Methodist University.
Jenna Cornely (Charlotte, NC) has recent work in Pinesong. A former teacher and mother of four, she is working towards her MFA in Creative Writing at Queens University of Charlotte.
Kathy Craig (Durham, NC) is a retired English teacher. Her poems have appeared in Wellspring, Iris, The Urban Hiker, and Duke Medical Center’s Write Us a Poem.
Susan Craig (Columbia, SC) is a designer and writer. Her poetry has appeared in Poetry on the Comet and the chapbook The Collective I. She received first prize in the Green River Writers’ “novel: first chapter” competition in 2015.
Robert Cumming (Davidson, NC) is recipient of a South Carolina Artist Fellowship in poetry and co-translator of A Premier Book of Contemporary Thai Verse.
Jan Donaldson (Fayetteville, NC) has poetry published in the minnesota review. She earned an MFA from UNC-Wilmington and taught creative writing at Fayetteville Technical Community College.
Deborah H. Doolittle (Jacksonville, NC) teaches at Coastal Carolina Community College. She has recent or forthcoming work in Atlanta Review, Bear Creek Haiku, Edge, Oberon, Pinyon, Seems and TAB: The Journal of Poetry and Poetics.
M. Scott Douglass (Charlotte, NC), founder and managing editor of The Main Street Rag and Main Street Rag Publishing Company designed, produced, and published this edition. At the 2016 AWP Conference, Mid-American Review awarded Main Street Rag Publishing Company “The Golden Wheatstalk” as Best Small Press.
Ralph Earle (Apex, NC) teaches poetry and works as a technical communicator. His collection The Way the Rain Works won the 2015 Sable Press Chapbook competition.
Terri Kirby Erickson (Lewisville, NC), author of four collections, has won many awards, including a Joy Harjo Poetry Prize and Nautilus Book Award.
Blynn Field (Charlotte, NC), charmed by poetry from childhood, became a serious writer only after retirement from teaching high school French. Her chapbook Whale Watch Cottage was published by Main Street Rag Publishing Company in 2011.
Beverly C. Finney (Hickory, NC), retired from careers in education and business, had her first published poem appear in Kakalak 2015 and is pleased to appear in the 2016 edition.
Gustavo Pérez Firmat (Chapel Hill, NC) is the author of several books of poetry, among them Bilingual Blues and The Last Exile. He teaches at Columbia University, where he is the David Feinson Professor of Humanities.
Michael Wayne Friedman (Chapel Hill, NC) has poems published or forthcoming at Tule Review, Wherewithal, Yellow Chair Review, Camel Saloon, Plum Tree Tavern, East Jasmine Review, and others.
Janice Moore Fuller (Salisbury, NC), Catawba College’s Writer-in-Residence and Weaver Endowed Chair of Humanities, has published four poetry collections. Séance won the Oscar Arnold Young Award for best poetry book by a North Carolinian.
Michael Gaspeny (Greensboro, NC) wrote Vocation, an Author’s Choice Chapbook from Main Street Rag. He has won the Randall Jarrell Poetry Prize and the O. Henry Festival Short Story Competition.
Mark Gordon (Wilson, NC), Associate Professor at Barton College, recently returned from a semester’s sabbatical in the Dominican Republic. A return to old haunts, the island sojourn was invigorating, exciting, and emocionante.
Brenda Graham (Cornelius, NC), author of How Sound Carries Over Water (Main Street Rag Publishing Company, 2008), retired from the corporate jungle and is working on a second poetry manuscript.
Melanie Graham (Holly Springs, NC), recently completed a PhD in poetry from the University of Lancaster, UK and, in backward fashion, is finishing her MFA at Sierra Nevada College where she’s working with Brian Turner and Patricia Smith, her mentor.
Bill Griffin (Elkin, NC) is a small town family doc. 2016 marks his sixth appearance in Kakalak and his twenty-second consecutive year as a trained observer for the US Geological Survey Breeding Bird Survey. Fifteen Cedar Waxwings on this year’s count, along with 52 other species.
Tim Harkins (Ridgeville, SC), author of Chasing the Ineffable (Stepping Stone Press, 2008), is a technical writer by trade and a poet at heart.
Jan Harrington (Chapel Hill, NC) has published poems, fiction and articles in literary journals and anthologies in Europe and the USA. She earned an MA in English from North Carolina State University.
Evie Chang Henderson (Oriental, NC), artist/photographer and retired visual arts educator, has work in several journals including Carteret Writers’ Shoal. She was born and raised in Jamaica, West Indies.
Ann Herlong-Bodman (Mt. Pleasant, SC), has a chapbook, Pulled out of Sleep, and poems in numerous journals including The South Carolina Review, The Courtland Review, South 85 and The Main Street Rag. Her work was nominated for Best of the Net 2015.
Culley Holderfield (Durham, NC), writes poetry and fiction. His work has appeared in a variety of publications, including Wildfire, Literally Stories, Earth & Soul: An Anthology of NC Poetry and Damfino Press.
Irene Blair Honeycutt (Indian Trail, NC) is the author of four books, including three full-length poetry books. She recently completed the manuscript for her new poetry book, Beneath the Bamboo Sky.
Earl Carlton Huband (Durham, NC), a retired educator, recently completed a book of poems based on his experiences many years ago as a Peace Corps Volunteer in the Middle East.
Jenny Hubbard (Salisbury, NC) finds inspiration in one dog named Oliver. Her novel And We Stay, named a Printz Honor Winner by the American Library Association, imagines a modern-day Emily Dickinson.
Justin Hunt (Charlotte, NC) is an International Publication Prize Winner in Atlanta Review’s 2015 and 2016 poetry competitions. His work appears in numerous anthologies and journals, most recently Dogwood.
Karen Luke Jackson (Hendersonville, NC) is a spiritual director and Courage & Renewal Facilitator. In her work and writing, she’s grateful for poems that bear witness, disturb, confound and delight.
Arnie Johanson (Durham, NC) is Professor Emeritus of Philosophy at Minnesota State University, Moorhead. His chapbook, A Trunkload of Ephemera, was published in 2015 by Finishing Line Press.
Jeanne Julian (New Bern, NC), author of the poetry chapbook Blossom and Loss (Longleaf Press, 2015), is a member of the Coastal Photo Club.www.jeannejulian.com
Caroline Kane Kenna (Huntersville, NC), has poetry in Above the Fold Anthology (Main Street Rag Publishing 2014), and an essay in Reflections on the New River (McFarland & Company 2015). She is a member of Charlotte Writers’ Club.
Peter Krones (Waxhaw, NC) is a retired psychologist, gardener, dog-loving fool, and always aspiring human being, who strives to write understandable poems that matter.
Chris Laskowski (Durham, NC), passionate photographer and waterfall enthusiast, is a Data Center Engineer by trade.
Steve Lautermilch (Kill Devil Hills, NC) has explored the landscapes of the far west for many years. His new poems have won the Daniel Varoujan Prize from the New England Poetry Club and the Muriel Craft Bailey Award from The Comstock Review.
Susan M. Lefler (Brevard, NC), author of Rendering the Bones (Wind Publications, 2011) completed her MFA in poetry at Queens University of Charlotte in January, 2016.
Kelly Lenox (Durham, NC) has her first book, The Brightest Rock, forthcoming in May 2017 from Word Tech Editions. She earned an MFA from Vermont College of Fine Arts.
Kit Loney (Charleston, SC) teaches middle school art, gardens at the edge of a tidal marsh, and creates miniature books. She received the 2012 Carrie McCray Nickens Poetry Fellowship.
Helen Losse (Winston-Salem, NC), Associate Editor for Kentucky Review, is the author of seven poetry collections, including Every Tender Reed (Main Street Rag Publishing Company, 2016).
Michael Hugh Lythgoe (Aiken, SC), author of Holy Week and BRASS (Kinloch River Contest winner, 2006) is a retired USAF officer with an MFA from Bennington College. He teaches in the Lifelong Learning program at USC in Aiken.
David Treadway Manning (Cary, NC) has two full-length poetry collections and nine chapbooks. His most recent book is Soledad (Main Street Rag Publishing Company, 2014).
Mary E. Martin (Rock Hill, SC) is the author of The Luminous Disarray and has been published in Kansas Quarterly and Southern Poetry Review, among others. She teaches at Winthrop University.
Preston Martin (Chapel Hill, NC) is a retired public school teacher who continues to study and teach. Widely published, his poems have won awards or recognition from both North and South Carolina Poetry Societies and the Nazim Hikmet Poetry Festival.
Terri McCord (Greenville, SC), author of In the Company of Animals (Stepping Stones Press) and The Art and the Wait (Finishing Line Press), has facilitated workshops and taught online classes.
Douglas Anne McHargue (Catawba County, NC) was a 2014 finalist for the North Carolina Poetry Society’s Poet Laureate award. A regular reader at Poetry Hickory, she recently completed her first poetry collection.
Cheri D. Molter (Fayetteville, NC), a senior at Methodist University, has been published in, and served as the editor of, the literary annual Tapestry and the research journal Monarch Review.
Susan Laughter Meyers (Givhans, SC) is the author of My Dear, Dear Stagger Grass (Cider Press Review, 2013) and Keep and Give Away (University of South Carolina Press, 2006).
Carolyn F. Noell (Davidson, NC), author of Weathered Pine (Main Street Rag Publishing Company, 2008) and The Medicine Man’s Daughter (non-fiction) (The Bridge, 2014), is a retired teacher/counselor who serves on the board for Charlotte Writers’ Club North.
Terry L. Norton (Rock Hill, SC), author of Cherokee Myths and Legends: Thirty Tales Retold (McFarland, 2014) is professor emeritus of literacy education at Winthrop University.
Mary Elizabeth Parker (Greensboro, NC) is the author of The Sex Girl (Urthona Press) and five chapbooks including This Loving Body, forthcoming. She chairs the Dana Awards program which recognizes outstanding work in the categories of novel, short fiction, and poetry.
Gail Peck (Charlotte, NC) is the author of eight books of poetry. Her most recent collection is The Braided Light which won the Lena Shull Contest. Her poems and essays have appeared in countless journals.
Diana Pinckney (Charlotte, N.C.) has five books of poetry, including Green Daughters (Lorimer Press, 2011) and The Beast and The Innocent (FutureCycle Press, 2015).
David Radavich (Charlotte, NC) current president of the North Carolina Poetry Society, has authored several poetry collections, most recently The Countries We Live In (2014).
James C. Raff (Greenville, SC) has poetry in Emrys Journal and Revenant Culture. He works in the mental health field in Spartanburg, SC, plays fiddle in the Celtic band Laurel and the Lads, and sings in the choir at All Saints’ Anglican.
Jeanette Reid (Black Mountain, NC) retired to Western North Carolina and discovered the joy of writing poetry. “Hand Print” resulted from Tina Barr’s assignment to write an autographical poem by focusing on a body part.
Jonathan K. Rice (Charlotte, NC) is editor and publisher of Iodine Poetry Journal, and is now co-editor of Kakalak. The most recent of his three books is Killing Time (Main Street Rag Publishing Company, 2015).
Pat Riviere-Seel (Asheville, NC) is Western NC’s Distinguished Poet for the Gilbert-Chappell Distinguished Poet Series. She co-edits Kakalak and has two prize-winning poetry collections, Nothing Below but Air (2014) and The Serial Killer’s Daughter (2009), both from Main Street Rag Publishing Company.
Peg Robarchek (Charlotte, NC) has poems in Rust+Moth, Iodine Poetry Journal, Naugatuck Review and other journals. Her first volume of poetry, Inventing Sex was published in 2015 by Main Street Rag Publishing Company.
Lucia Walton Robinson (Wilmington, NC) is a free-lance editor, writer, and English professor emerita whose poems have appeared in The Penwood Review, The Road Not Taken, and other publications.
Carrah Lee Royal (Stedman, NC) spends her time writing poetry, creative non-fiction, and short fiction. Currently, she is composing poems for her first book.
T. Parker Sanborn (Huntersville, NC), an emerging writer and photographer, focuses on elements of life from a less-than-familiar perspective.
Martin Settle (Charlotte, NC), a poet, assemblage artist, and retired college professor, is the author of The Teleology of Dunes (Main Street Rag Publishing Company, 2015). His second book, Coming to Attention: developing the habit of haiku, is forthcoming.
Sharon A. Sharp (Winston-Salem, NC) writes poetry and creates artist’s books, as represented in 500 Handmade Books (volumes 1–2), 1,000 Artists’ Books, and two National Parks’ resident-artist collections.
Alana Dagenhart Sherrill (Statesville, NC), author of Blood (Finishing Line Press, 2016), teaches literature at Johnson & Wales University in Charlotte.
Jane Shlensky (Bahama, NC) has recent poetry in Writer’s Digest and Southern Poetry Anthology: VII, North Carolina. Co-editor of The Well-Versed Reader, a forthcoming book of narrative poetry for book clubs, her chapbook Barefoot on Gravel is due from Finishing Line Press.
Sherry Siddall (Chapel Hill, NC) has recent work in Tar River Poetry and The Southern Poetry Anthology, VII: North Carolina.
Cathy Larson Sky (Spruce Pine, NC), author of Blue egg, my heart (Finishing Line Press, 2014), has an MA in Folklore from UNC Chapel Hill, plays Irish style fiddle and writes poetry.
Jennifer Swart Smith (Cross Anchor, SC), teaches middle school language arts in Woodruff, SC, and is pursuing a masters in English and creative writing at Southern New Hampshire University.
Larry Sorkin (Taylorsville, NC) teaches, performs and presents workshops exploring poetry and the arts, dance, and music. You can find some of his published work in Kakalak 2014 and 2015.
Doug Stuber (Chapel Hill, NC), artist, bass guitarist/vocalist, and retired Chonnam University (South Korea) assistant professor, has eleven poetry books including Weehiya and Open Secrets, Top Secrets, (Chonnam University Press 2009, 2013).
Ty Stumpf (Sanford, NC) is the Humanities Department Chair at Central Carolina Community College.
Janice Laughter Sullivan (Greensboro, North Carolina) has had poems in International Icarus, Pembroke Magazine, North Carolina Award Winning Poems, Bay Leaves, and other collections.
Elizabeth Swann (Charlotte, NC), author of Port Desire (Finishing Line Press, 2013) teaches at Nation Ford High School. Her work has appeared in numerous publications, including the Atlanta Review and Southern Poetry Review.
Lynne Santy Tanner (Rutherfordton, NC) is the author of three Finishing Line Press chapbooks: Where There Is No Night (2004), Carilee’s House (2006) and The Brown Thrasher (2013). She has served as choreographer for the Rutherford County Arts Council (NC) for forty-five years.
Jo Barbara Taylor (Raleigh, NC) has poems in numerous print and online journals and anthologies. She leads poetry writing workshops through Duke Continuing Education and is active in the North Carolina Poetry Society.
Richard Allen Taylor (Charlotte, NC) co-edits Kakalak. His third book, Armed and Luminous, is forthcoming from Main Street Rag Publishing Company.
Betsy Thorne (Columbia, SC), past recipient of the South Carolina Poetry Initiative top prize, is a member of the Community of Writers, Squaw Valley, CA.
Katelyn Vause (Richlands, NC) is an English major at Lenoir-Rhyne University.
Mark Vogel (Boone, NC) lives in a Blue Ridge holler with his wife, Susan Weinberg. He has published numerous short stories and poems, and teaches at Appalachian State University.
Eric Weil (Elizabeth City, NC) has two chapbooks published by Main Street Rag Publishing Company: Returning from Mars (2009) and Ten Years In (2014). He teaches at Elizabeth City State University.
Jennifer Weiss (Cary, NC), poetry reader for Minerva Rising, was a finalist for the 2015 James Applewhite Poetry competition. Her work appears in North Carolina Literary Review, Minerva Rising and Quatrain Fish.
Cecily Hamlin Wells (Hendersonville, NC) has published poems in Wild Goose Poetry Review, The Great Smokies Review, and The Main Street Rag. She received honorable mention and publication in Writer’s Digest 5th Annual Poetry Competition.
Bob Wickless (Reidsville, NC), has published poems in American Scholar, Antioch Review, Poetry, and Shenandoah among others. Recent work appeared in Iodine Poetry Journal, O.Henry, and Southern Poetry Review.
Dede Wilson (Charlotte, NC) is the author of Glass, Sea of Small Fears, Eliza: The New Orleans Years, One Nightstand and Near Waking. Her sixth book, Under the Music of Blue, is forthcoming from FutureCycle Press.
Nancy Young (Fuquay-Varina, NC), author of The Last Girl Standing chapbook, also pens novels (Seeing Things, Hearing Things, Sensing Things). She and her husband live with two basset hounds and an angry cat.
Laura Younger (Sanford, NC), member of the North Carolina Poetry Society, relies on poetry and writing to keep her sane. She has recent work in Wish You Were Here (Old Mountain Press).
~At a refugee center
His face is poised
as an olive
for dear life.
In a handpicked
suit and tie
he looks sad
yet calm as silk,
have they endured,
what barbed wire
into hate and fear.
a crowded room
Here they cradle
in tight memory,
in living flesh.
This morning his mother wakes to find him puking
in the downstairs toilet. My fault, he says,
the undiscovered empties, the weed,
My fault, as if turbulence is the fault of wind
when cold earth rebels against winter sun.
Who can know what cold might settle into one
heart in twenty years, like frost that settles
out of a clear night sky, invisible until morning.
After first frost the berries ferment and waxwings
gorge – they fly up like dreams at first light,
askew spiral in each weird vapor & juxtaposition,
they struggle to pull some sort of sense from nonsense,
aloft into noon blindness and feathers melting.
And this is what I want to tell you even though I shouldn’t
because you and I don’t open a window on such things,
and yet I will because we must: you are not alone.
You, mother and son, crying at the hard cold fracture
of dreams at dawn, I tell you we are all trying to fly
and all crashing, you, me, my own son, all of us waking
each morning to say My fault, yes fault,
which becomes an invitation to mercy.
For a moment stillness, then a thump at the window:
they rescue a few grams of dazed fluff, beak smeared
cherry wine, crop bulging; they wrap waxwing trembling
in a dish towel, let the warm kitchen revive it, take turns
holding it safe from false flight. They offer the bird
their own heat and while it recovers mother and son
begin to talk. In an hour waxwing flexes, its black eyes full
of stars; son and mother unfold their wings.
Joyce Compton Brown
News from Home in War Time, 1944
For Annie Blair Rash Troutman
[Normandy: June, 1944—Battle of the Bulge: December, 1944]
When boys flew over France’s shore and bombed the land
The cow would not come fresh, the mules were mean
And boys were lying bloody in the sand.
The corn was drying up, the cotton wouldn’t grow.
Father plowed the fields and cursed the mules
While boys flew over France and bombed its shore.
The health department told the children, stay at home.
The storm came up and wet the new-dry clothes
While boys were lying bloody on the ground.
Tayse drowned a bunch of newborn pups, the iceman came.
The mules were hard to hold, the wheat was cut
When boys were bombing villages and farms.
The thrashers finally came, and lightning struck the hog.
The quilts were pieced, the jelly set in jars
While sons were lying bloody in the sod.
The chicken was killed and fried, the deer was brined for stew.
The foxes gave good lead, the dogs were tired
When boys were flying low to end the war
And boys were lying bloody in the mire.
Anthony S. Abbott
In The Retirement Home
The carpet on the first floor is blue
the carpet on the second floor is green
the carpet on the third floor is red
the carpet in the lobby on the first floor
is also green, which sometimes confuses me.
The hallways look alike, and the doors too,
except that most of them have little doodads
in front of them, markers I suppose of whoever
lives inside. I know everyone on my hall
but I do not know the others very well.
I live on the blue floor, but sometimes
I walk the red floor for exercise. I read
the names on the doors and examine
the doodads. There are glass porpoises
and vases with flowers. I touch them
to see if they are real. Sometimes I
forget my whole name. Sometimes
I walk and walk and my mind wanders
to the sea, where I lived as a girl.
They want to put me in health care.
They say I am too much trouble,
that I disturb the others with my talk.
The lady at the end of my hall is after me.
On the green floor you can walk outside
and sit in the sun. The nurses tell me
I will catch cold, but I don’t think so.
They watch me. They all watch me.
They are waiting for me to do something
strange so they can put me in health care.
I am nice to everyone. I talk to them
in the halls as I pass by and in the dining
room I spoon my food with care and speak
nicely to the ladies at my table. I smile
and smile. They nod their heads and watch.
Tomorrow, I say, my son will come to visit.
Lucia Walton Robinson
Nostalgia for the Duke
Like many a crinolined ‘50s coed
I led a twinkletoed life,
dancing away most weekends–
my father harnessed my skipping
to Indiana Hop and Charleston
when I was six, counted the waltz
in his drumlike voice: BOOM,
drip, drip, BOOM, drip drip.
At twelve I learned fox trot,
rumba, and tango with white-gloved
peers, and (gloveless) the jitterbug
(chuck-a-luck BACK-step, chuck-
a-luck WALK a-round) and of course
the Hokey Pokey–but that was not
what I was all about. The Charleston
was my first and always love.
In those sparkly nights the Big Bands
played the circuit, and I twirled
it with them in our state. Two
or three dances a year the Duke
would come to Indiana. I’d be
closer to Heaven than any teeny-
bopper who later screamed over
the Beatles, swayin’ to “Mood Indigo,”
jivin’ to “Take the A-Train”–
and then he’d play “The Saints”
and I’d be picking cherries,
toe-and-heeling faster than a dervish
And he’d play, and look around
and smile beneath that suave moustache,
and play, and couples would wilt
off the floor, and the Duke would
play, and grin; my feet would go on
twinkling; and my date would do his
darndest to keep up, and a while
after we had the floor all to our
beboppin’ dewdroppin’ bee-kneed
Charleston-mad selves, he’d wind it up.
And he would rise, and make me a bow
more elegant than any queen ever saw,
and I would sweep him a beautiful
curtsey and drag my date to water.
Years later, I read that when he played
the college towns that lacked hotels
for folks of non-Caucasian persuasion,
the great dapper Duke and his orchestra
slept in a Pullman car in the railroad yards.
That almost spoiled the memories–
but not quite, for genius and courtesy
will always rise above the mean and rude.
“It don’t mean a thing if you ain’t
got that swing.”(doo-wah doo-wah doo-wah