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Friday Feature: Rochelle Robinson-Dukes

Dr. Robinson-Dukes is a Professor of English at the City Colleges of Chicago. She teaches African-American Literature, Women’s Literature, Introduction to Poetry, and all levels of English Composition. In addition, she is the editor of the annual poetry anthology Brownstone Barrio Bards. Finally, she has been published in The Carolina Quarterly, Atlanta Review, Meridian, Salamander, and other journals.

I was raised with house music in the gay clubs of Chicago

by Rochelle Robinson-Dukes

On the north side, LaRay’s Disco

hidden like a pimp in the shadows

next to a Pepper’s Waterbeds

that offered not one penny down

to purchase a bed of buoyancy

for your sex life.

Those of us who had fucked standing up

didn’t see the need for water or extra motion.

We moved like a pride of pride

dressed in neon and black, wearing suede bucks

or leather penny loafers, which were better for dancing

but horrible for snow, which lasted for three months,

minimum. We sashayed through the doors after paying

one whole dollar to dance to the melodies, melodies, melodies,

to bring down the walls, to move as one big sexual wave

of blackness and brownness, straight and gay

because baby wants to rise for love,

wants to be the godfather of house music

while gyrating around sweat-drenched strangers

and closeted friends who wore Wham’s Choose Life

sweatshirts because gay men didn’t have children back then,

couldn’t get married, but could dance and sweat and fuck

in the bathrooms that security monitored sporadically

like teenagers babysitting siblings. Then, at five am,

before sunrise, between the clear line of black codes and white people,

we filed out like exhausted zombies, felt the cold Chicago

hawk hit us face first, reminding us that we were still black

and queer and had to drive home quickly to our southside,

to our barrios, to our ghettos, to the other places that taught us

we were loved way before the music claimed us,

we were loved in the marginalized silences of color and sex.

Torch Literary Arts is a 501(c)3 nonprofit established to publish and promote creative writing by Black women. We publish contemporary writing by experienced and emerging writers alike. TORCH has featured work by Colleen J. McElroy, Tayari Jones, Sharon Bridgforth, Crystal Wilkinson, Patricia Smith, Natasha Trethewey, Elizabeth Alexander, and others. Programs include the Wildfire Reading Series, writing workshops, and retreats.

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