by Sam Barbee
– Carolina Beach, 1964
Mingling among their taboos, I stand outside
between patrons crowding the double-doors.
R&B and Soul wafts into summer nights,
through wide windows of The Wave Crest,
and The Beachcomber, and The High Tide.
It pulsates past hurricane shutters, into salted mist,
curls around each beach bars’ feminine façade:
white plaster wraps corners, portals smoothed
by the bend and blend of blues enticing all
in earshot. Men starched, women slipping
in and out of moody rhythms, treble and clef
taking turns driving surge of stifling solos.
Otis Redding, Wilson Pickett, Sam Cook,
chitlin’ circuit legends, crooning, hooting, hollering,
all entraining my blood with trim rhythms.
Peering in the door or hoisting myself on the sill,
I witness with red and blue lights, hear neon’s buzz
publicizing brands of beer and bourbon to grease
demeanors and dance moves on saw-dusted tiles.
James Brown blasted on the one; Little Richard
and Chuck Berry reeled and rocked. Between
draughts, Marines on a weekend pass shimmy
in green fatigues against local girls, or wrestle
their high-school beaus. I revere cigarette smoke
curling, and beer-drinking along the Formica-topped bar
or around small tables. Aroused as the girls
remove fuzzy sweaters, white blouses plunge
into Night Train, In the Midnight Hour,
You Send Me. Their slim silhouettes pulse,
long straight platinum or strawberry falls, all concoct
a nocturnal potion. My newfound buddies
dismiss snow cones and cotton candy. Only
these musicians keep it coming − brass glimmering
in hard stage lights, each hot note swirl night
breeze and laughter juking onto the boardwalk,
and into nearby dunes. Each nod, each phrase,
each bridge, a cushion for the next fantasy when,
stretching in my bed and breathless about the night, I
straddle a threshold with my ticket to dance into this
newborn heaven where back-beats unbind my wings.
Sam Barbee’s poems have appeared in Poetry South, The NC Literary Review, Crucible, Asheville Poetry Review, Main Street Rag and The Southern Poetry Anthology VII: North Carolina, plus online journals Vox Poetica, Pyrokinection and The Blue Hour. His Second poetry collection, That Rain We Needed (2016, Press 53), was a nominee for the Roanoke-Chowan Award as one of North Carolina’s best poetry collections of 2016. He is the current president of the North Carolina Poetry Society. Read his previous poem in Deep South here.