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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 14: August 2022
Poem: 292 words
By Laura Ann Reed

Heat

 
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. 

 

Laura Ann Reed
Issue 14, August 2022

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.

 
 
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