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Page 27
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<< 26. The Sound of PTSD28. Teaching and Traveling in Vietnam >>

Dancing in the Streets (poem)

By W. D. Ehrhart

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for Martha & the Vandellas

The summer I was fifteen, I discovered
girls, and beer, and cigarettes,
how to dance, and how to lie
and get away with it. That summer,
everyone around the world
was dancing in the streets.
Except in Perkasie, a one-horse town
without so much as a traffic light
where fun was watching Lawrence Welk
or listening to the corn grow.
Christ, my mother didn't get it,
wouldn't even let me go
seven miles to Quakertown to dance.
St. Isadore's, for cryin' in a bucket.
Teen dance at a Catholic Church
chaperoned by priests and nuns.
"There's lots to do in Perkasie," she said.
What did she know? Lawrence Welk.
So I just said I'd be at Larry Rush's house,
hitchhiked up to Quakertown instead,
danced with Andrea Jenkins, had
the best time ever in my life,
concluded what my parents didn't know
wouldn't hurt them. Freedom!
What a heady feeling. All the world
at my disposal; all I had to do was lie.
This was 1964. What did I know?
Selma, Watts, Detroit, Khe Sanh, My Lai,
the cost and consequence of lies
had not yet come collecting what was due.

—W. D. Ehrhart

<< 26. The Sound of PTSD28. Teaching and Traveling in Vietnam >>