BLACK LIGHT

Spring 2006: Issue 79

A. Van Jordan

Our bodies cast a shadow of one

Body under a black-bulb pulse

In your mother’s basement. Light, even

 

When it’s black, moves faster than

Youth or old age; it’s the constant in

Our lives. But I remember when

 

I thought your house—always ready for

A party, even during the week—

Was the fastest element in my life.

 

Toenails, lint, teeth,

Eyes—everything was holy

Under the glow. I suspect

 

Even my bones were ultraviolet

When we danced, which was always more

Of a grind than a dance.

 

Whether the song sung came

From Rick James or Barry White,

We called what we did in the coatroom

 

Dancing, too: My hands, infrared

Under your dress, but innocent: We

Were only kids, after all,

 

I was 16 and you were a woman of 18.

Already, we knew how to answer each other

Without asking questions, how to satisfy by seeing

 

What nearly satisfied looked like

In each other’s faces. This all before

I ran out to sneak back into my mother’s

 

House in the middle of the night.

But, now, it’s eight years later,

You’re walking, it seems, so I offer

 

You a ride. And you look in and smile.

And when I see you I wonder

What would have happened

 

If we had stayed in touch. I have to get back

To work the next morning in DC,

A five-hour drive; it’s near dark

 

And I want to get on the road before night

Falls completely, but I stop anyway.

It’s been too many years.

 

And I mistake your gesture.

And then I realize you

Don’t really recognize me,

 

Until you back away and turn

On your heels.

Then a man with a Jheri curl

 

And a suit that looks like it’s woven

From fluorescent thread

Walks up and looks at me

 

Like I wasn’t born in this town,

And for the first time in my life,

I question it myself. He walks up as slow

 

And sure as any old player should on Sunday night.

While walking away, you two exchange

Words. You don’t look back. But

 

We see each other in our heads—aglow,

Half-naked—under our black-bulb pulse

In your mother’s basement. Given a diadem

 

By the lucid night and the streetlamp’s

Torch, the man wearing the fluorescent

Suit casts a broad shadow

 

Like a spotlight into which you step.

Maybe he’s the reason we’re here tonight

Beneath these dim stars, casting

 

A light true enough . . . finally,

For us, after all these years, to see each other.