Kathryn de Leon

Misirlou

Dick Dale, 1962

 

We stood on our beds in the dark trying to be big girls,

trampolining ourselves

up to the high bedroom windows

to glimpse next door’s backyard

brightly lit like a stage, loud with guitar music,

not quite grown ups-not quite kids dancing,

 

a night of noise and movement,

too loud for sleep,

too big for us.

 

From behind the safe glass of bedroom windows

my sister and I, padded with blankets and pillows,

the world still mattress soft beneath our feet,

watched and listened as growing up was explained to us 

in words too big for us to understand.

 

We didn't know we were at the beginning,

that what was to follow

was on the other side of the glass.

 

We didn’t notice ourselves slowly turning into

strange dancing creatures like the ones

we bounced on our beds to look at that long-ago night.

 

We didn’t know we had been 

listening to the huge voice of God 

speaking in surfing music

           

telling us about the world we would join soon,

telling us about our future.

*American rock guitarist Dick Dale is considered to be a pioneer of

surfing music. His song "Misirlou" was very popular in the early 1960s.

In Memory of Kathy Weatherly

September 1966

A strange place for a small memorial plaque, 

in kindergarten grass

where children ran, jumped

and flew on swings

like noisy angels all afternoon.

 

We were the older children, 

the big kids, curious.

Who was she? What happened to her?

“She was five years old. She died of overwork.”

 

My ten-year-old magician’s imagination

conjured a little girl in a pink dress,

a large bow tied in back, shoes shiny black,

tiny legs running upstairs, downstairs, panting.

Such cruelty that could make a child die,

I could not understand.

 

Twenty years later, 

I searched for the plaque

in my old school’s playground.

It was gone.

 

Thirty-five more years have passed.

I think of Kathy Weatherly's 

fifty-five-year-old death

and her short life

I carry through my days

like yellowed notes in an inner pocket

almost forgotten

but forever wondering,

 

who remembers Kathy Weatherly

now

besides me?

How to Tap Dance (Or Live Life Fully)

Begin at the earliest age possible

so the legs are agile, still getting acquainted 

with strength, speed, flexibility,

long before the paralysis of self-consciousness sets in,

puts up borders, sets limits on the body.

 

Start simple: shuffles, flaps and ball changes, waltz clogs.

Practise, practise, practise.

Start out slow. Give yourself time. 

You will soon increase your tapping speed.

 

The best tappers make easy steps look difficult,

difficult steps look easy.

 

Listen carefully to the beat. Follow it,

especially when tapping in a group.

Work with those around you, learn from them.

 

Tap alone. Tap with a partner. Share your tapping.

 

Let your entire body join your feet when tapping.

Open yourself, 

move your arms to enhance what your feet are expressing.

Smile, laugh at the absurdity of your legs going wild.

 

Tap is exciting. Tap is loud. Tap shouts. Tap demands to be heard.

Use the big voice tap gives you. Be proud.

Ignore teasing or ridicule you encounter when tapping.

Tap for yourself.

Let your heartbeat follow the heartbeats of tap's rhythms.

 

There will be tappers better than you.

You will forget steps, go off beat.

Your taps will slip on a waxed floor, down you'll go.

Don't be hard on yourself. Don't give up.

 

Growing older, accept fewer jumps and spins,

more soft shoes, slower shuffles.

But keep tapping.

 

Tap with confidence.
Tap like nobody's watching.

Tap for sheer joy.

 

Remember: tap, like living, is hard on the knees, so take care!

 

Kathryn de Leon is a teacher from Los Angeles, California but has been living in England for eleven years. Her poems have appeared in several magazines in the US including Aaduna, Calliope, Neologism Poetry, Trouvaille Review, and Black Fox, and in several in the UK, including London Grip and The High Window where she was the Featured American Poet.