New Year's Eve in the Aloha Room - Sherman Oaks, California 1996

By Shapiro, Alan | TriQuarterly, Fall 1997 | Go to article overview

New Year's Eve in the Aloha Room - Sherman Oaks, California 1996


Shapiro, Alan, TriQuarterly


for Robert Cantwell, adapting a phrase of his

The dance floor is an oval incandescence against the dark, and they are spectral in it, my mother and father, as they glide across. It's taken them half a century to get here. Although his hand shakes, and her back is stooped, he's in his pinstripes, she in her green taffeta. Nearly midnight. The calendar pages flutter backward in the breeze of melody, her eyes half closed, embrace me, she is smiling, moving as if alone, the way a girl does before a mirror, twirling and swaying in and out of an imagined lover's arms, while he looks on, don't be a naughty baby, his face lordly with pleasure, pleasure of mastery - come to papa, come to papa, do, that's so complete it's more anticipation than control, the way his hand, my sweet embraceable you, his fingers hardly need to touch her fingers, guiding her every move. The pages flutter backward in the breeze. It's taken them half a century to get here. Beyond the dance floor, in the shadows there are stockyards at the outskirts of the city; there are mills and foundries, and along the Charles, the abattoir has shut down for the night: there is no work tomorrow, and they can be only their best ideas about themselves, their bodies, embraceable, aristocratic, they are peasants with a little cash to burn, don't be a naughty baby, they are greenhorns, come to papa, in the New World dreaming not of a leveling of rich and poor - the Irish are all lushes, the Negroes lazy - but a carnival reversal, come to papa come to papa do. …

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