A girl in my biology class told me
what the senior boys at El Cerrito High
called me behind my back—
those boys with their puppy-dog faces
and boasts of who they’d laid.
When she blurted out the word they used, intense,
suddenly I was exposed.
I’d spoken to no one
about that stack of black vinyl records
I played every night. No one knew
I worshipped in the temple of flamenco,
that I was a candle on its altar,
ready to be lit.
At the annual Senior All Night Party
those boys voted me Best Kisser, unaware
that while my parted lips pressed
theirs, my tongue was searching
the mouths of Montoya, Sabicas,
and Paco Peña—not boys
but men—who played the guitar without mercy,
their darkest notes arrows
that pierced my soul.
I told no one at my school how I saved
my baby-sitting money to attend
a performance by a troupe from Andalusia
at the Berkeley Auditorium.
I confided to no one how I felt in the first row—
mere feet away from the feral wail
of the singer and guitarist,
from the dancers who writhed
like riptides—spines arched, limbs
sinuous—the women in long, red dresses,
the wiry men in tight black pants that clung
like paint to their agile frames.
I confessed to no one I knew my life would end
unless I followed them back to Spain
and became one of them.
I never spoke of how, during the music,
the candle wick ignited
and for a long moment burned.
Or how, after the applause and Bravos died down,
I made my way out of the auditorium
into a starless autumn night and re-entered
that sterile pavilion of American life.
received a dual BA in French/Comparative Literature from the University of California, Berkeley, and subsequently completed Master’s Degree Programs in the Performing Arts, and Psychology. She was a dancer in the San Francisco Bay Area prior to assuming the role of Leadership Development Trainer at the San Francisco headquarters of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. She and her husband now reside in western Washington. Her work has been anthologized in How To Love the World: Poems of Gratitude and Hope, and has appeared in Loch Raven, The Ekphrastic Review, MacQueen’s Quinterly, and Willawaw, among other journals.