Dancing Uptown

In the Grill Room of the Hotel Taft
Vincent Lopez and his band play
“Shake the Maracas” and tea dances
so girls in pearls and peter pan collars

can approximate down and dirty
without loosing their hips, throwing off
their skirts, as it’s done
farther uptown to a samba beat.

We, leave school early, saddle shoes,
scarves trailing, arms full of notebooks,
take the subway to Spanish Harlem –
Nestor’s mother at work, sisters scattered –

crowd in the third floor, walk-up –
bedroom, living, dining all in one.
Dance to slow, hip grinding music,
pressed against boys our mothers

would fear, until we are red-faced
and sweaty, funk filling the air,
only pull ourselves away with dusk
when streets no longer safe,

cause us to spill into the subway
where tunnel breezes cool our heat.
At home, Mother says for my birthday
she’d like to take me and my friends to the Taft.

Linda J. Himot
published in The MacGuffin, Fall, 2012