7th grade dance

growing up poem

Days of innocence lost….written in 2004

David L. Passmore https://davidpassmore.net (Distinguished Professor, Emeritus, Penn State; Academic Visitor, University of Pittsburgh)

The 7th Grade Dance

As the pink corsage almost slipped from your wrist
Your father was shaking hands with this gangling boy
With the cow-licked hair
With the ruddy, pocked skin
In the starched white shirt ill-fitting at the collar
Under a circus clown sized suit coat and well-knotted tie
Gazing tightly at his just-polished shoes
Blissfully taller than you
Even with your half-heels on.
Your mother smiled and went behind the kitchen door
To cry softly
While your father waved as you entered the other father’s car
To drive to the 7th grade dance.

There, with your hair stiffened into a
Snow carnival sculpture
By fire hoses of your mother’s hairspray
And your suspender-held nylons bagged
At your skinny knees but hidden as if by magic
By parachutes and gusts of endless white and pink crinoline,
You rocked from one foot to the other
To match your awkward hero’s tentative rhythm,
As all around you slid like Canadian geese
landing on a frozen arctic lake
From some warm place,
With, as the night progressed, your left hand on his
And your right hand in his constant

And, Brenda Lee sang on the jukebox:
I’m sorry, so sorry …
That I was such a fool …
I didn’t know …
Love could be so cruel …
Oh, oh, oh, oh …
Uh-oh … Oh, yes.

Of course, these words meant nothing to you
Other than the chance to clinch for a few more minutes.
Some said that such pathos is wasted on the young
That there was still much time for innocence and wonder
But it was just practice for the poignant
Passion, suffering, and affliction
That would follow as countless others
Eventually turned their backs
Ground their heels into your soul
And left you for love dead.

But, all that was a long journey away from this night of red punch and cookies.

Just how did you get the nerve to brush his lips with yours
With your dad and mom waiting nervously behind the door
And his dad smoking with the radio on in the car?
How did it feel to gasp with a sense of wonder
That this rough-hewn boy liked you, yes, you?

How did it feel for the first time to long
To see someone again?
How long did it last?
When was your innocence lost?

Last updated on

[1] "2022-07-01 10:35:29 EDT"


Text and figures are licensed under Creative Commons Attribution CC BY 4.0. Source code is available at https://github.com/davidpassmore/blog, unless otherwise noted. The figures that have been reused from other sources do not fall under this license and are recognized by footnoted text: “Figure from …”.


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For attribution, please cite this work as

Passmore (2004, Dec. 20). NOTES FROM PITTSBURGH: 7th grade dance. Retrieved from https://davidpassmore.github.io/blog/mem/2022-03-29-7th-grade-dance/

BibTeX citation

  author = {Passmore, David L.},
  title = {NOTES FROM PITTSBURGH: 7th grade dance},
  url = {https://davidpassmore.github.io/blog/mem/2022-03-29-7th-grade-dance/},
  year = {2004}