Poetry November 2007

Doo-Wop

Does anyone but me ever wonder
where these old doo-wop stars you see
in purple tuxedos with mauve lapels
on public-television marathons
have been between the distant time when they
recorded their hit (usually only one,
one huge one, that being the nature of doo-wop)
and now, when, bathed in limelight and applause,
the intact group re-sings it, just like then?

They have aged with dignity, these men,
usually black, their gray hairdos still conked,
their up-from-the-choir baby faces lined
with wrinkles now, their spectacles a-glimmer
upon their twinkling eyeballs as they hit
the old falsetto notes and thrum-de-hums,
like needles dropped into a groove, the groove
in which both they and we are young again,
the silent years skipped over.

                                   Who knows
what two-bit gigs and muddled post-midnights
they bided their time in? And when at last
the agitated agent’s call came through—
the doo-wop generation old enough
and rich enough by now to woo again,
on worthy telethons this time around,
nostalgia generating pledges—why
was not a weathered man of the quartet
deceased or otherwise impaired? How have
they done it, come out whole the other side,
how did they do it, do it still, still doo?

Presented by

John Updike’s recent books include the essay collection Due Considerations (2007) and the novel Terrorist (2006). He lives in Massachusetts.

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