General Poetry posted January 15, 2022

This work has reached the exceptional level
Behind the fantasy

Nostalgia of an Aging Stripper

by Theodore McDowell

I thrive within strobe light fantasies  
in a strip club, whispering
innuendoes and alibis to men
who hate their wives.
It wasn’t always about cleavage,
garter belts, and the wad of money
bulging in the pocket of pleated pants.
I cover skin with a shawl, remember
a time when sensuality was wrapped
in the shy wink and flirt of innocence.
I learned what made the boys tick
playing t-ball as a kid.
I slid into second,
brushed off the dirt boys
thought they owned,
winked to the dugout.
Pattering testosterone
hollered hooray
in their veins.
It wasn’t always about lust,
casually resting my hand
on the thigh of a balding man.
I tap the cremated ashes of dreams
in an ashtray, remember
a time when I was enamored
with the doppelgangers of lust.
I learned the shelf-life
of infatuation
lasted slightly longer
than the taste of stolen
cigarettes smoked to the butt.
The girls shared the pack
underneath the boardwalk
as the boys fumbled
with buttons and bras.
We used to swoon
against a new starry-eyed lover
with fresh breath every two weeks.
It wasn’t always about stripping
for my supper, dancing for the rent,
hiding the stretch marks of a single mom.
I snag the peripheral vision of a regular,
run my hand through platinum hair, remember
a time when I knew the art of a slow striptease.
I learned to make my skirt
ride up my leg taking down
laundry from the line, listening
to Mr. Jones mutter Damn
in the yard next door. I learned to slowly
unbutton pants on my knees,
staring into glazed unfocused eyes.
It wasn’t always about the grunt and groan
of a twenty-dollar lap dance, the spin
and twirl on a phallic pole. I watch a man
close his eyes as he sits on a couch,
I pull open his legs like a wishbone,
remember a time when love
felt like the birth of a star.
I learned my lover could play my body
like a perfectly crafted violin, tattoo
my soul with his name, melt me
into molten iron in a blast furnace, pluck
a star and lightly press it against my heart.
It wasn’t always about taking a hot shower
to wash away the shame and sin, waking
to tears on my pillow. A client pays for a shot,
I drink to make my head spin, remember
a time when tears expressed the dignity of mourning.
I learned to never say no, feeling the burden
of a man pressing on my bones, cracking
my spirit, insisting I was less than a woman,
a mere marionette prancing to strings pulled
by a male God, an impotent voyeur
watching my humiliation and pain.
It’s closing time. I vow to never come back,
change into my jeans, lean against the wind
of a mean street, take my boy from the arms
of a neighbor. I rest in his grin stretching
from joy-to-joy like a hammock tied
to two sturdy tree trunks with thick roots
knotted underneath us.



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