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Quilt Poem: Teenage Kicks

Jane Yeh

after Gwendolyn Brooks and Theresa Hak Kyung Cha


we make ourselves dizzy on fumes & fruit cocktails        think of plants

how they are visible to each other            take pics of the best looks for the record

if there are flowers, flowers             the flounce on a hem


we try everything on           each body has its pose               a dress that almost resembles a vine

pointy boot or platform shoe           our arena of possibilities: the mall

between some image a blur


stretch turtleneck or ruched skirt        the brave stockings          in hell a radio playing our songs

we shrink into school, then expand:          formal chrysanthemum

our hair as big as a neon sign


we anticipate a message         (actually talking, on the phone)        secret spill

how our jokes line up in permanent rotation           the made up games

our treasury of gestures               all the sparklings    


we have everything but control             like trees, we adhere to silence     

then out the door                  skating at night on empty streets           our looping paths

the rhinestone traces left behind              we who were


Sources of quoted material in italics, in order of appearance:

Brooks, ‘Winnie’
Cha, ‘audience distant relative’
Brooks, ‘Young Afrikans’
Brooks, ‘ “Still Do I Keep My Look, My Identity...” ’
Cha, Dictée
Cha, Dictée
Brooks, ‘a song in the front yard’
Brooks, ‘The Third Sermon on The Warpland’
Brooks, ‘The Sundays of Satin-Legs Smith’
Brooks, ‘kitchenette building’
Cha, Secret Spill (film title)
Brooks, ‘The Life of Lincoln West’
Brooks, ‘The Life of Lincoln West’
Cha, Dictée
Brooks, ‘the rites for Cousin Vit’
Brooks, ‘The Blackstone Rangers’

Commissioned by the National Poetry Library and the Centre for New and International Writing at the University of Liverpool, for the ‘Poets in Vogue’ exhibition, 2023.