(INCLUDES AUDIO: Scroll down to listen.)

A SWELL TIME IN 1929

By Linda Eve Diamond 

Mac, I’m no pushover, but this doll was the bee’s knees.
Yessiree, she was the cat’s pajamas and all the berries.

She was a floorflusher, a real smudger, too, but I was just a heeler. 
So we’d flap gums—then Oliver Twist would take her hand and steal her.

One night she left the joint early, so I stopped up and knocked on her door. 
Let’s Misbehave was blaring, so I knocked a little more.

When she opened the door, she was still in her glad rags, looking swell.
The place was littered with dead soldiers, but I didn’t care and she could tell.

I took her in my arms and asked: Cash or check?
Check, she said with a smile, reaching for a deck. 

We sat and spat about Gatsby and taking flight. 
Then I said, Baby, I really need that cash tonight.

What happened after that is none of your beeswax, Mac.
She’s my sweetheart now, and that’s all there is to that.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go see a man about a dog.


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This poem features 1920s slang (defined here and also on the audio below): A floorflusher was one who loved to dance, and a great dancer was an Oliver Twist. A smudger danced close—very close. A heeler was a bad dancer, prone to stepping on your toes. One who was the bee’s knees was the tops—also known as the cat’s pajamas and all the berries, too. If you talked or had a chat, you’d say you flapped gums or spat. Dead soldiers were (and still are) empty bottles. A deck was a pack of cigarettes, and reading was known as taking flight. When a man asked a woman, “Cash or check?” that meant “Kiss me now or kiss me later?” A man could only hope she wouldn’t say the bank was closed.  

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©2013 Linda Eve Diamond, The Beauty of Listening
 

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