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Adult Night at Skate World

Dan Wickett finds a very nice poem by Christina Kallery, and even though he reprints it there, it’s worth quoting in full:

Adult Night at Skate World

You’d think it was an eighth grade dance,
the way we stand shyly eying each other
when the first slow notes sound for couples’ skate.

A fifty-ish man in a striped headband
and custom skates fit with blinking lights
asks would I mind? So we roll from the worn

carpet onto the glossy floor. One hand on my waist,
he gazes at a far wall and sings in high, quivering
tones to Endless Love. We pass a dozen

other couples: office managers in sport shirts,
single mothers squeezed into new jeans
and a few lone ones gliding through the tide of clasped hands.

Take the handsome Indian man with dark hair swept
like a raven’s wings from its stern middle part,
the moustache trimmed to a neat em-dash.

He moves like a figure skater, one long leg aloft
behind his jump-suited frame. No woman here tonight
can match his prowess as he weaves easy figure eights,

turns and sails backwards without a glance;
though I imagine his likely office job, manning
some cubicle in a gray and taupe-y sea

and the gaping dark that crouches nightly at his door.
Now the rink’s Robert Plant commands the floor
beneath a silver disco orb and twirls once, twice,

a third time, pretending not to watch us
watching him. In his prime in ’85, that bleached
mass of frizzed-out curls would have bobbed radiant

under hot stage lights during the guitar solo,
his attention rapt to the art at hand, yet aware
as a preening animal of the lip-glossed girls

in the front row whose eyes simmered
with envy and desire. But the gigs
have fizzled into soundlessness,

the Dodge van scrapped, the red guitar lies
long untuned in its velvet chamber
and each Sunday at 8 he pulls the black skates

from their nook and somehow finds a rhythm
not unlike rock and roll in this dim-lit dome
with its carnival colors and claw machine and women

fluffing their hair in restroom mirrors.
Just overhead hover the sour divorces,
languished careers, botched plans, those hours when life

took a sharp turn toward the inscrutable
and left us older and daunted in its wake.
But when the DJ calls the night’s last song, we—

the lonesome and afraid, the jaded
and lost—peer through strobe lights
for somebody, if not lovable, then not a lunatic

and sing to a tune we first heard the summer
someone else left and we wept against a cool steering wheel
and felt the world spin, fierce and marvelous beneath our feet.

Makes you die a little inside aching that for those who must relive junior high, doesn’t it? I mean, it was bad enough the first time through, but to have to do it twice, three times is profound. The only false note is the Robert Plant rock god, who is a cliche, symbol of nostalgia. He’s the kind of character who’s supposed to be at skate world, not one who is actually there. I can forgive it, though, because he is lovable in the same way that the advertisement for “Monster Ballads” makes my heart briefly flutter every time I hear “Can you take me high enough?”

 

Comments

I’ve had two dreams in the last few weeks where I had to relive early adolescent situations/institutions, except as an adult. In both cases it was due to some bureaucratic snafu. In one dream my school records showed that I never completed the eight grade properly, so I had to go back and do it again.

I agree, it was a hard period of life. Good poem though.