Back to Issue Twenty-One.

movement memory

BY PERRY JANES

 

I'm thinking about glow sticks
                       underwater, a girl I loved swimming
           in the pool, her body like a dark lamp

over neon coral. I'm dancing
                       and thinking at the same time
           which results in weird wavelike gestures,

freeze-frame contortions. The DJ thinks
                       I'm hopeless, but who cares?
           Memories are like cravings

that can't be filled, and because
                       all memories beg
           to be replayed—I really get into it.

I cut through the air faster and faster
                       in pursuit of a dark room
           where I coolly untie our swimsuits

to lick chlorine from her neck-
                       line, working up to the light switch
           I can't seem to find because

she didn't undress and that’s why
                       the room is dark. She never left the pool.
           There's nothing to remember.

Shame is the movie of my life
                       where nothing happens. There are no
           swiped wine coolers

in the Coney Island's well-worn lot. No dogs
                       chained in backyard grottos, boys
           on skateboards threatening chase.

And when, years later, the mother of a friend
                       I haven't spoken to since boyhood
           calls to say that he had finally—

that's how she put it, finally—stepped over
                       the threshold of his own life
           with a pocketful of rocks

or a tumbler of bullets—the truth is
                       I can't remember which—
           I don't call her back.

I don't tell her
                       the lime tree outside
           my apartment is, in fact, a lemon tree

that only recently decided to flower.
                       That, for months, its fruit remained
           stubbornly green, pinched,

and I juiced more than one
                       leathered pouch into an off-kilter
           batch of guacamole.

On the call I never place
                       between California and Michigan        
           I don't say that, once, at a party,

I scaled a condo stairwell to hang
                       my adolescent torso across a rooftop's ledge
           and considered letting go

until a girl offered to pull me
                       from the alcohol buzz of my sadness
           to splash across a pool's neon floor, and lie

in the lawn, and wake still wet and well
                       past curfew, and even in the face of this
           small kindness, I—being young and frightened—refused.

I don't, I don't.  
                       What a moving picture
           my life could have cut together.

Instead: I stroll along a street. I stand
                       against a wall. My friends in the audience
           ask: When does this thing start?

In the dance hall, the DJ's record
                       skips, each spun note swung
           square at my breastbone.

There are spotlights in the rafters, 
                       watery coronas
           I can't escape.

There's a disco ball
                       coming straight at me.
           All I can do is dance.

 

 

detroit doo-wop

BY PERRY JANES

 

after Lynda Hull

 

            i.

How to say this? A pearl-
handled cleaver pulled

from its block, a stone-whetted
blade laid on the throat. I remember

this was what we woke to: his father
shouting good got-damn and crazy bitch,

his mother crooning hat in hand and get on out.
Barely double digits, we drowned

their blazing howls with poorly dubbed
kung-fu. Its audio—all vowels:

Aah!                 Eeh!                  Ooh!
When we took to streets, we grooved

beneath the flattop net's webbed mesh
to boom-bap beats of Spalding

bounced on cracked concrete. We cradled
stereo to cheek. Why not? We lived

inside that noise: bass-shook, carpet
trembling. What were we, but boys?

            ii.

His father left. His mother shrunk. We grew
into anoraks and boots. With keys in hand,

we took to streets in slick cars finning fast.
This was Detroit. Here we crooned

our Motown tracks with trembling
vibrato. How we loved the bass's

howl, leather seats that whispered
Ooh.                 Ooh.                 Ooh.

When his mother hit him, we sang. Good
got-damn!
We didn't know the lyrics

for snow and blood in hair.
It was always winter. I wasn't

always there. His mother laughed
like a blade. She was well practiced

and steady. She knew how to cut
kielbasa and grits. This was Detroit.

She knew her men. Said get on out.
And so we drove. The windows down,

we'd bounce and groove
and shout.

            iii.

Bom-bom-bom            shang-a-lang
                                   pop

We can't stop don't stop won't stop
                                   pop

Bom-bom-bom            shang-a-lang
                                   pop

We can't stop don't stop won't stop
                                   pop

Doo-doo-doo              shush-shush
                                   shush

            iv.

Of all this, nothing's left. Gone: apartment
doorsills steamed with rain, spaghetti-scorched

lasagna pans, laughter breaking on the pane.
This is Detroit. Sing it. Good got-damn

and here the tune begins to change.
Only half this song is true.

Each boy needs his boogaloo. Wait.
I'm trying to speak in some manner of fact.

When all that's left is a sweat-stained key palmed
in my pocket, a cleaver gleaming in its sheath,

I won't forget. Brother. How
to say this? It's all vowels, now.

I                       I                       I          
J____. I never meant to leave you

in that place. The slick cars
finning past, the concrete

trembling with bass.

 

 

Janes 21

Perry Janes is a Pushcart Prize–winning writer and filmmaker from Metro Detroit, Michigan. His poems have appeared in Prairie Schooner, the Normal SchoolVinyl Poetry, the Collagist, and others. In 2013 his short film "Zug" toured international film festivals before winning a Student Academy Award from the AMPAS. He currently lives and works in Los Angeles, California, and is an MFA candidate at Warren Wilson College.

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