Brent Terry on Brent Terry’s “Sock Hop”
1/ A flux’s been busted
A few of the definitions of ‘flux”:
*the action or process of flowing or flowing in
*the rate of flow of a fluid, radiant energy, or particles across a given area
*an abnormal discharge of blood or other matter from or within the body
Since within the poem the line relates to some hypothetical electrocuted kittens, all three of these definitions are macabrely apropos, but more broadly and metaphorically, the “flux” or flow, of the narrator’s daily life has been busted by their return to the dance of late adolescence; the flow of time has been disrupted. This bit of mini bildungsroman is (I hope) as unsentimental as it is nostalgic, though nostalgia is always sentimental, with that weird squishy feeling in the chest probably being as good a definition of busting a flux as any. And the fear, desire, and ever-elusive happiness the poem talks about are never completely absent in our lives, but in a constant state of flux, busted or otherwise.
2/ HVAC wind
The too-cold wind of air conditioning on young skin hot from dancing mimics and reinforces all the other physical manifestations of awakening lust: gooseflesh, stiffening nipples, the tiny hairs at the nape of the neck standing on end, and of course, the shuddering mentioned in that particular line. I think in many of us, myself certainly, a shudder or two can be summoned up by reminiscing about a time when our nerves seemed much closer to the skin.
3/ Fire loves me
Ah, how terrifying the fire of young passion! And how irresistible those flames are when young, shuddering bodies in a charged field (see what I did there?) of throbbing music and light collectively feel the heat on their skin. We know we are going to burn, maybe irretrievably, but how glorious to cast ourselves on the pyre!
4/ Like cartoon flames
As I was writing the poem I thought of a movie or concert video I had seen recently wherein the young people were dancing wildly, arms heavenward, fingers a-wiggling. A spotlight swept across this sea of hands, setting them alight like little dancing flamelets. These mostly pale flames were cartoonish and absent of actual heat, but they did have the slightly phony glamor of religious ritual, a mimicry of the act of nature (or god) to which they were all so eager to give themselves over. The cartoon flames as obeisance, or even ward against, the consuming fire of young lust. Only later do we realize the fear and desire are something we will crave for the rest of our live. We didn’t know just how happy we were, how totally flux’d were were destined to become.
I came here this evening to think about fate,
but now this new frenzy of pink chiffon,
painted-blue sky, flimsy clouds of crepe paper
writhing to the whispers of unseen machinery
while electric guitars move us like marionettes
from free-throw line to tip-off circle,
convulsive as kittens biting through lamp cords
while the twins are at soccer practice.
A flux’s been busted, so one hesitates to touch
them goodbye. I came here this evening
to think about how life’s just a ladder that leads
to another ladder, a child’s game 3-D printed
and hung to span the firmament.
Or maybe a web, glistening in cosmic foreverlight,
everything lassoed to everything else.
And so we shimmy, shuddering as one
in the HVAC wind, as beautiful as we are complicit,
droplets turning to jewels in the discolight.
Inside the gymnasium the walls are mirrored,
the music a wreath of violets (I mean violins, I mean
violence) throbbing where our synapses
used to be. Everyone here is snazzy and aerobic,
transplanted from flash-bulbed family rooms,
spirited to this operating theater where nobody
quite knows how to perform the procedure.
Our fear is a single bright balloon
plucked from the breeze by filaments sticky
with desire. Someone flips a switch and the mind sings
as it burns. “Fire loves me!” we chant,
pogoing madly, our fingers wiggling at the end
of our arms like cartoon flames. We are radiant
and ephemeral. We are butterflies guttering
in the rubble. We are happy, we just don’t know it yet.
Brent Terry is in lockdown in the forests of southern New England, where he recites poems and performs interpretive dances for tiny woodland creatures. His stories, essays, reviews and poems have appeared in many journals, and he is the author of three collections of poetry. The Body Electric, a novel, was published in 2020 by Unsolicited Press. He is working on new poems, a collection of essays and another novel. Terry lives in Willimantic, CT, where he scandalizes the local deer population with the brazen skimpiness of his running attire. He teaches at Eastern Connecticut State University, but yearns to rescue a border collie and return to his ancestral homeland of the Rocky Mountain West. Lorette C. Luzajic is an award winning mixed media visual artist whose collage paintings are collected around the world. Her work has been exhibited from North Africa to Mexico to Europe, and has appeared on a twenty foot billboard, a magazine ad campaign for luxury jewelry, as a prop for reality TV, and in dozens of small press arts journals. She is also a writer who has just released Pretty Time Machine, her fifth collection of poetry. Her writing has been twice nominated each for Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net. She is the editor of The Ekphrastic Review, a literary journal of writing inspired by visual art. Visit her at mixedupmedia.ca.