In the late 1950’s we lived in a Southern California suburb. Families like mine were moving into areas that had been part of the Spanish empire about one hundred years before, so towns and areas had Spanish names. Different ethnicities, cultures, traditions and even religions were suddenly having to deal with each other. The kids handled the situation better than the parents, partly because romantic attraction often has no borders.
1) In the gym Mrs. Plotz played our parents’ music,
taught us to tango the Latin rhythms stirring up
tangled feet tangled feelings so we sweated
hard and laughed and avoided each other’s eyes.
2) When Mouse Morales snuck some Playboys to school
guys during passing periods saw women on glossy paper
but suspected by lunchtime they were lies they were
not like any women they had seen.
3) To dance, the guy had to leave the pack
of guys, stroll across the gym to the girls
(whisking skirts and whispering) and
ask one who might say “yes.”
4) Rosie Cardonas liked my light blue eyes,
would hold my hand in hers for sweetness. One day
she fought Gloria Garrobo between classes,
tore at her clothes her eyes scratching for blood.
5) When I asked Rachel for a slow dance we swayed
side to side and no parts touching but our hands and then
I turned my head, saw her grimace to friends,
assessing the quality of my dancing my future.
6) Couples were mostly white and white or brown
and brown and some were white and brown,
but for those of us unpaired (impaired)
the borders looked bigger than color.