by Dorianne Laux
At the highschool football game, the boys
stroke their new muscles, the girls sweeten their lips
with gloss that smells of bubblegum, candy cane,
or cinnamon. In pleated cheerleader skirts
they walk home with each other, practicing yells,
their long bare legs forming in the dark.
Under the arched field lights a girl
in a velvet prom dress stands near the chainlink,
a cone of roses held between her breasts.
Her lank father, in a corduroy suit, leans
against the fence. While they talk, she slips a foot
in ad out of a new white pump, fingers the weave
of her French braid, the glittering earrings.
The could be a couple on a first date, she,
a little shy, he, trying to impress her
with his casual stance. This is the moment
when she learns what she will love: a warm night,
the feel of nylon between her thighs, the fine hairs
on her arms lifting when a breeze
sifts in through the bleachers, cars
igniting their engines, a man bending over her,
smelling the flowers pressed against her neck.
From What We Carry, 1994
Good poetry is a sort of time machine. When you can read a poem and travel back to some pivotal moment in time...smell the air, feel the skin you used to live in...then you'll know you've read something meaningful.
Poetry written from memory and observation, from personal experience, serves a snapshot of sorts. At least that's what this poem reads for me. In relaying an observation, the author allows me to relive my own similar experiences.
I love writing about my history...it helps me to understand myself. I also love reading something that provokes me to remember the essence of precious moments past. This poem allows me to recapture a piece of my younger self, and for that I am grateful.