Thursday, July 23, 2009

At the Teenage Corner

White socked boys

in rolled up jeans

slick their hair and

sway and preen

while teasing,

petticoated girls

swing their skirts

and twirl their curls

in time

with the music

at the Teenage Corner.

We belly crawl

the littered path

clap hands on mouths,

try not to laugh,

beneath the porch

we quietly crouch

to watch them court,

making time

with the music

at the Teenage Corner.

Danger circles up above

flipping dimes and

keeping time,

brushing multicolored skirts

against bare legs

that tease and flirt

as they roll

with the beat

of the music

at the Teenage Corner.

We hold our breaths,

and cover our faces,

fearing and longing

for the days when

we will own

the summer nights

and the magic jukebox lights

and the dreams

of Memphis kings

and the mystery

and the music

of the Teenage Corner.


  1. Ah, the good old days! I love this, especially the jukebox part. I remember the old country store down the road from the farm where I grew up had an old jukebox and on Friday and Saturday nights we'd sneak down there and watch the black people dancing to 'Green Onions' by Booker T. & The MG's. Sometimes we'd join in and boogie down all sugared up from our RC colas and moonpies...

    Great post! Blessings!

  2. Wicked good energy in this one Karen!
    This was my parents decade, but I wasn't far behind ;)

    Loved days at my school when we got to dress up in skirts and bobby socks, Elvis and oh, my fave 'saddle shoes'...wore them all the time!
    but really, I'm a child of the sixties! :)

    such a fun post~

  3. Three cheers again! Beautiful, Karen! The first thing that strikes me about this poem is the wonderful descriptive voice. Your details are excellent. I love it all, but the second stanza is my favorite. "Clap hands on mouths" is perfect! I can even HEAR that scene as I read it. My mouth is dry and dusty from excitement and crawling on the path. I smell a kid's sweaty hand over my mouth. I hear the music and the beat, the flipping coins, the voices. I love it when a poem wakes up all of my senses.

    The story you tell transcends time. I didn't live the era or the styles, but I know the situation (crawling down the path or crouching under the porch to watch and dream about that fascinating world of teenagers). I used to tag along after my brothers and cousins whenever they would let me, but I wasn't allowed in their night time world. Lol! We also had a "forbidden" corner where we hung out. But even if I hadn't done that, I would still be able to relate to your poem, because you transport me there with all those wonderful details.

    The rhythm and the music of your lines are awesome. This one also makes me think of a song with its lovely rhyme and snapping rhythm. That works so well with the piece. I love visiting your site any time, but I especially love finding this poem today. It makes my weekend begin on a good note, and it inspires me. Yay, Karen! Have a great weekend, sis.

  4. Makes me wish I had been there! I know someone who must read this!


  5. This poem is so evocative of the times, and wonderfully attuned to the rhythm of the songs, but what I really love is the underground vantage point. The sense of something awesome, and scarily out of control, being just within the children's reach. But with a sliver of space still preventing (or preserving them from) contact with this strangely foreign world. Focusing on the teens' legs was just ingenuous, Karen. I saw this poem better than any film.

    Also, I just wanted to comment on the stretching of the last stanza. It felt to me like a reaching toward the future. Perfect.

    Amazing poem, Karen. Again. :)

  6. Hi Karen. You've been busy since you got back, and while I was away. I thought of you while I was standing in front of your previous profile picture at the Waterhouse show in London.
    Your evocation of teen life in another era is great. I have a teenager and I don't think they have nearly so much fun now. Sad really.

  7. Karen, well here we go SMILES! big time! BIG TIME! Yes, dear friend this was, and within my heart to this day, my era! I donned the attire described, collected the dimes, danced, flirted and lived the music! WELL DONE! So well presented, so deliciously described. My skirt and petticoats in reverie, newly alive, "At the Teenage Center."

  8. Reminds me of those 'not so long ago' days. :)

    Also, the song Teenage Wasteland keeps coming back to me. Loved the visuals it had. :D

  9. I love it. I can't help but think of Crocodile Rock, that old Elton John tune. Teenage corner was a fun place to be, but I don't think I appreciated those days at the time, as much as I love them now in retrospect. I"m drawn to the mystery you've created in this poem as well, a kind of culture clash it sounds like. The POV of the Indian youth watching the white folk was deftly brought about, and makes the poem feel like the opening scene to a very interesting plot line.

  10. Marion - I can picture the scene you describe so well; it sounds familiar enough that I might have been there with you. I'm glad this poem made you remember those sultry Southern nights!

    Calli - Playing at "grownup" was such fun for us kids and for those teenagers who thought they'd arrived, too. I remember thinking there was something sinful about teenagers. In the poem I describe it as "danger" - which is probably a more apt view of what I thought they represented. Hmmm...was I right? ;-)

    Julie - Thank you for your comments on the details and for sharing the memories of your own. Our discussion after I read your Big Barbie inspired me to write this one, so thanks for that!

    Your feedback is important to me and helpful. I hesitated to post this because I'm not satisfied with the ending of each stanza, so I'm sure I'll rework it still. I'm glad, though, that you get the feeling of the children who watch this. That's what I was really going for. Thanks, my friend!

    Kat - Thank you!

    Sarah - Thank you for your comments, which are always so helpful to me in knowing whether I've come close to accomplishing what I set out to do. You are, of course, too generous, but I appreciate your words. "Scarily out of control" is it exactly!

    Mairi - Welcome back! I missed the Tate Britain - out of time, I suppose, but it was one place I had hoped to go. Big sigh. Maybe next time.

    As for teenagers, I think you may be right, sadly enough. I wonder if they would agree? Maybe it's just a matter of perspective...

    Rose Marie - Now I'm smiling!! Thank you.

    Aniket - It actually occurred to me that I might need to explain "Indian crawl". (not politically correct terminology, but it's what we called it). Think dusty, dirty kids, crawling on their bellies, sneaking to the corner...

    Teenage Wastland I'll have to look up. See Ghost Dansing's contribution below!

    Cat - Crocodile Rock -- exactly!

    Ghost - I love it! Look at that baby guitarist!

  11. We all have politically incorrect terminologies floating around. That's how humanity works. So no offense taken. :D :D

  12. Ani - "Native American" crawl? Think I'll change it to "belly crawl" - that way, it won't confuse; won't offend -- and will say what I mean! :-)

  13. This was so powerful. Much more so because we were watching, not part of the nervous dance above.

  14. Hi Karen,
    Oh, how this "teenage corner" is a wonderful phrase and poem. My sense are enlivened from your words.I could paint this scene beside my feet are a tapping to the music I'm hearing from that jukebox. I didn't grow up in juke box times, but I was meant to have been born during "Happy Days" instead of later. GEM and I love jitterbugging and all sorts of dancing. (I realize I've been on a break. This is Lynne aka Gel.)

  15. Oh, Karen, this is wonderful! You've captured everything perfectly, the rhythm, the excitement, the anticipation. Excellent!

  16. Jason - Just a few years, the child's perspective on the teenager -- really an older child -- can be a gulf of difference. Thanks.

    lw - :-D

    GEL - Lynne, so nice to see you back here! Glad you liked this one -- happy day!

    Vesper - Thank you for that!

  17. Karen, You are so deeply appreciated. A post awaits in response to your visit, along with a dime held in hand for the next song...

  18. This has a lot going for it - everything, in fact. It just carried me along.

  19. Rose Marie - Thank you so!

    Dave - Glad you liked it. Your generation, I think, up above. (?)

    All - I just edited the poem to change "Indian crawl" in the second stanza to "bell crawl." I did this not because of political correctness (as Ani and I were discussing) but for the sake of clarity. I guess those younger than me didn't play Cowboys and Indians to know that an Indian crawl is to life flat on the ground and use your elbows and knees to pull-push you along. That was our version, probably inspired by TV Westerns, of stealth crawling. So...I've changed it for the sake of clarity.

  20. sorry i'm late - but had to say how amazing this one is - don't have a lot to add, but i kinda feel like a burger and malt now. with a side of invincibility.

  21. joaquin - You are welcome anytime! I always look forward to your comments. The invincibility thing is right on.

  22. What fun! Great work. Thanks for sharing.

  23. Welcome to KS, Glynis. I'll hop on over to your sites and see you there. (I've been singing "At the Hop" since I wrote this. LOL)