676: Last Sundays at Bootleggers

676: Last Sundays at Bootleggers

676: Last Sundays at Bootleggers


I’m Ada Limón and this is The Slowdown.

Sometimes when I am nostalgic for my past, I’m not actually nostalgic for my youth, but for what I thought was my wisdom, for what I thought was my beautiful righteousness. I knew so much about life. I knew the problems with the world, and I even knew some of the answers. I knew that when you were too down to want to leave the apartment, you should actually leave the apartment, or blast music as loud as you can to change your brain waves.

I knew that hoop earrings could be a game changer, and heavy eyeliner could make you look prettier while crying. I knew that if you danced, really danced, in your bedroom, in your dance class, in the community center to that local band you liked, you’d start to feel a little better. I miss my old certainty, my know-it-all-ness, my confidence, my teenage bluster, my egotistical grandstanding. But even though I might not feel like I know anything for certain anymore, I do know that dancing still helps me.

Full confession, I danced this morning. Learned a whole routine and really danced. I do it at least twice a week, and if my body is in pain or my mind is in pain, dancing is one of the ways I can find myself again. I mean I can dance in a chair, just sway a little, and it can still help.

I remember once sneaking into a great old club in Seattle while I was underage, not to drink, but to dance! I had a boyfriend who was a DJ there and he’d play records and I’d dance all night long until his set was finished. It could be two in the morning, but I wouldn’t be tired, I wouldn’t be tired well, because I was young, and because dancing made me feel like the whole world was vibrating in me.

Today’s poem celebrates that brave swagger of youth, that intoxicating revelry of the club, and the confidence of coming into one's own.

Last Sundays at Bootleggers
by Carlos Andrés Gómez

My entire wardrobe was Canal
                      Street original, knockoff chic,
adolescent sleek in my double XL

blue & black bubble jacket.
                      Yeah, I was inside the club
& what? Inside an oversized

coat coated in sweat & Old
                      Spice, a kid eyeing sixteen but
not quite there. I wanted it all,

chico: learner’s permit,
                      the latest Jordans in baby
blue, maybe a wink from

the pretty Boricua from Social
                      Studies. & when Biggie’s
verse dropped in “Only You”

he was in that room & teaching
                      us how to live elevated from
that third-floor wasteland towering

above India Point, so we sang,
                      sour throated & nostalgic
for times we hadn’t yet lived,

in unison: like we wrote it, till our
                      voices cracked & spilled over
& between every rift but in

the throng of lost kids where
                      I finally found a self I loved,
it all came together like we

could remix any wreckage
                      & make it into a stage
to slay, so we swayed &

grinded like our lives
                      were a music video
tribute, hip-to-hip.

"Last Sundays at Bootleggers," by Carlos Andrés Gómez from FRACTURES by Carlos Andrés Gómez, copyright © 2020 Carlos Andrés Gómez. Used by permission of the University of Wisconsin Press.