ADULT NIGHT AT SKATE WORLD
You’d think it was an eighth grade dance,
the way we stand shyly eying each other
when the first slow notes sound for couples’ skate.
A fifty-ish man in a striped headband
and custom skates fit with blinking lights
asks would I mind? So we roll from the worn
carpet onto the glossy floor. One hand on my waist,
he gazes at a far wall and sings in high, quivering
tones to Endless Love. We pass a dozen
other couples: office managers in sport shirts,
single mothers squeezed into new jeans
and a few lone ones gliding through the tide of clasped hands.
Take the handsome Indian man with dark hair swept
like a raven’s wings from its stern middle part,
the moustache trimmed to a neat em-dash.
He moves like a figure skater, one long leg aloft
behind his jump-suited frame. No woman here tonight
can match his prowess as he weaves easy figure eights,
turns and sails backwards without a glance;
though I imagine his likely office job, manning
some cubicle in a gray and taupe-y sea
and the gaping dark that crouches nightly at his door.
Now the rink’s Robert Plant commands the floor
beneath a silver disco orb and twirls once, twice,
a third time, pretending not to watch us
watching him. In his prime in ’85, that bleached
mass of frizzed-out curls would have bobbed radiant
under hot stage lights during the guitar solo,
his attention rapt to the art at hand, yet aware
as a preening animal of the lip-glossed girls
in the front row whose eyes simmered
with envy and desire. But the gigs
have fizzled into soundlessness,
the Dodge van scrapped, the red guitar lies
long untuned in its velvet chamber
and each Sunday at eight he pulls the black skates
from their nook and somehow finds a rhythm
not unlike rock and roll in this dim-lit dome
with its carnival colors and claw machine and women
fluffing their hair in restroom mirrors.
Just overhead hover the sour divorces,
languished careers, botched plans, those hours when life
took a sharp turn toward the inscrutable
and left us older and daunted in its wake.
But when the DJ calls the night’s last song, we—
the lonesome and afraid, the jaded
and lost—peer through strobe lights
for somebody, if not lovable, then not a lunatic
and sing to a tune we first heard the summer
someone else left and we wept against a cool steering wheel
and felt the world spin, fierce and marvelous beneath our feet.
—from Rattle #24, Winter 2005