Going to the Sock Hop by Herself

 

She dances alone,

the black child

in the yellow dress.

 

Alone amongst

the black and white oxfords,

the ivory Buster Browns,

the brown penny loafers

with smiling Abe Lincoln’s

looking up to her

from the confines

of their penny keepers.

 

Her white socks touch

the polished mahogany

hopping silently to

the beats of Chuck Berry

and Johnny B. Goode

 

She imagines hearing

her name in the lyrics:

Go go go

Go Joanie go go go

Go Joanie go go go

Go Joanie go go go

Go Joanie go go go

Joanie B. Goode.

 

She is loose but precise,

careful not to leave a mark,

correcting every footfall

with the more perfect

ballerina form

she saw once in

a Moira Shearer feature,

the one where the dancer

dies in the final act.

 

In the background she hears

the white throng under the

blue and white stripe panels

of the Republic Theater

dance to their own rules

a mess of governance that

obeys its own inane logic.

 

But then not one of them

had to sneak in through

the backstage door

when her brother, Marcus

chickened out at the first

“nigger” spited his way,

denying Joanie

even the indignity

of a colored only entrance. 

 

At the still point

between the lyrics Joan

finds the real dance,

the one intent on hiding

a choreography of grief,

a sadness, a defiance

she shares only

with her shadow.

 

She imagines herself

a joyous, living, wondrous

thing at play,

a girl reborn into a woman,

a dancer over America.