By Katherine Perry
We were thirteen, or almost,
and I had a swimming pool in my yard.
We poured canola oil on our skin
and stretched out on faded beach towels
between the bright blue waves
and a boom box. Cassette wheels turned,
and we listened,
ears too close to be cool,
and gulped down lyrics
like the Bacardi her father mixed with Coke,
like the answers to our afraid-to-ask questions
were pouring out of those speakers
and we would walk confidently in middle-school halls
with our hands wrapped around a wisdom
we thought we weren’t supposed to have
Prince was with us, his gender and color liminal,
playing a guitar that bellowed the ache
of longing we were just beginning
to understand, and his voice
enveloped us, seduced us, and required
we listen to the entire album:
every note, a thing to be savored.
Back then, 1999 was so far away
that when we sang with him,
we knew the end of the world
would come at 2,000 zero zero,
and so we bit down with all our might
on the leather strap of tonight that he offered,
and with tween bodies, we mimicked his sexiness,
and wished for more of our own to arrive.
We wanted to want like Prince.
I remember looking at the purple
cover, those eyes in the design,
and feeling that now I might need to cover myself.
That maybe, as the cars drove down the street,
they could see our utter nakedness,
our bodies shining like a wave in the summer sun.
Katherine D. Perry is an Associate Professor of English at Perimeter College of Georgia State University. Some of her poems have been published or are forthcoming in Women’s Studies Quarterly, The Dead Mule of Southern Literature, Eco-Chick, Poetry Quarterly, Melusine, Southern Women’s Review, Bloodroot, Borderlands, Women’s Studies, RiverSedge, Rio Grande Review, and 13th Moon. She works in Georgia prisons to bring literature and poetry to incarcerated students and is currently building a prison initiative with Georgia State University to bring college courses into Georgia state prisons. She lives in Decatur, Georgia with her spouse and two children