Poetry

Licking

He dips, smacks
fist against bag,
growl and clash,
Joe Strummer splits
seams, drop
ceiling shrieks
in protest against
shuddering brace and groaning
beam, crimson everlast
swinging, spine
hunched, gloves up, slits
for eyes, he spits
as bristling
lips clench
jagged like razors
ragged like teeth
wet with stink
slick heat
bell at 3
he scowls, steps
back, steeps
in his own steam, salt
licking his neck
 

Children, Music

Party Clasher

The credits run and he starts to bounce. “Let’s have a dance party, Mommy!” Without a movie to glaze his eyes and glue his backside, he clambers up onto the back of the couch. I groan. Bedtime has outrun us again. We haven’t even brushed teeth.
 
“I don’t know, Buddy. It’s late.”
 
“But –“
 
“But you know I can’t resist a dance party. Just a few minutes though.”
 
My little boy high-steps across the cushions. Crazy witching-hour light spirals in his eyes. I find a Fios station sizzling with Latin hip hop and feel a roundness start to pull at my hips. Bug leaps off the couch and hurls his full mass at me. I step back and bend down to face him. “I don’t want you throwing yourself into me. Please keep your body to yourself.”
 
“Okay okay okay,” he says. He jumps across the room and turns several lurching circles. I wave my arms in the air and he waves his. He’s grinning so big. He starts towards me again.
 
“Let me go under you like when I was swimming,” he says. I make my legs into a bridge. “Okay, go!” I laugh. He squeezes himself small and pushes halfway through. Then, like Pooh and the honey pot, he gets stuck. He grabs at my knees pretending he can’t get out, arching his spine up, trying to lift and topple me.
 
“Baby!” I laugh. “Please don’t grab! Go through. Can you. . . um. . .” I shake myself off and step over him. Anything to keep him interested? Anything competitive? “Can you turn ten circles without falling down?”
 
He ignores me. He has outgrown these diversionary tactics. “Spin me around!” He cries. “Please? Spin me!”
 
“Buddy, can’t you just dance? Watch Mommy.” The beat is right on top, plain and simple. “See? I listen to the ba-ba-ba there, like that. And it makes my feet go –“
 
Please just spin me?” He backs into me and presses his shoulders into my belly.
 
My boy knows rhythm. We have been moving to these beats since he was floating fetal in me. It has never stopped. When he was two, three, four, we draped ourselves in scarves and sequins. The living room was Pagan bonfire. Castle ball. Disco. Catwalk. He knows dance.
 
He chooses clash.
 
“How about this,” I try one last time. “Saturday night fever!” For a moment, he copies me. In one Kumbia half-step, he’s turned the diagonal disco arm into a gun. He shoots. Showers me with bullets. Then he’s after me again, skewering me with the bayonet.
 
“Wow.” I stop and marvel at him surging against any exposed inch of me. “You are so intense.” I grab him and flip him around so he’s facing out. He shrieks in delight. “There’s this thing called DANCING,” I say, jamming my forearms under his armpits and gripping my hands together across his chest. “Dancing is this really nice thing people do sometimes. It doesn’t involve head-on collisions!” I lift him, turning around and around, trying to make sure his feet clear the coffee table. He is breathless with giggles. My muscles shudder with the effort.
 
I put him down suddenly. “Oh my gosh,” I say.
 
“What?” He breathes hard, face bright. He is yanking on my wrists, his body begging for more.
 
“I’m totally wrong. There is a dance made just for you.”
 
“What is it?”
 
“Let me show you.” I fire up YouTube. In seconds, a grainy recording of Bad Brains at some now-defunct DC club pipes sweaty kids into our living room. Artillery fire vocals, distorted guitars, and slamming flesh.
 
“That right there? That’s a mosh pit.” I tell Bug. “I bet that’s exactly where you are going to end up.” He watches for a second then starts to bend and arch. I click onward, finding Fugazi and a shirtless Ian MacKaye cracking his voice against a roomful of ricochet and roar. Bug is thrumming now. A moment later, I land on “London Calling” but it is just a music video. I start to click to find another live recording but Bug tells me to stop. “Leave it on! I like this song,” he says.
 
“You do?”
 
And I don’t have to hear an answer to know. He is in my grasp again, fastening my arms over his shoulders like a harness. He grips my biceps and tightens the hold, rocking from foot to foot to the bass. Then my boy is swinging left, right, a metronome on 184. “More!” he cries. “Faster!”
 
“More what?” I shout.
 
“More this! This! More. . . woah,” He propels the swing further over, velocity from the balls of his feet, our shared force pulling out from my rooted center.
 
“Never shake a baby!” I laugh. Joe Strummer predicts the apocalypse as my kid hollers, “Harder, Mommy! Faster!” My legs quiver. The coil of my spine groans but complies as I launch this charged weight back and forth, catching the full impact and returning with equal power.
 
The Clash spools out and my body buckles as the pendulum runs aground. Bug tries to jump-start the engine by yanking against my shoulders.
 
“Enough,” I say.
 
“Not enough!” he says. “More!”
 
Of course. Too much is never enough. I grab him in a rough hug and wrestle him to the ground. He shrieks and pushes against me. Feral and ferocious, my child is growl. He is drive. He will find his pack and bang out a strange tattoo upon the earth. Lyric, dance, screech, clash. Each is his reject or claim, to rip out the chords and re-assemble to a beat he chooses as his own.