Diana was a dancer,
not a stripper,
she was quick to say.
She danced in
a g-string, pasties
and dark glasses,
for five drunk men and
four soon to be drunk men
and me, who was not
to be drunk tonight.
Three dances an hour,
one in a shirt,
one in a bra,
one in a g-string and pasties,
dark glasses for all.

I creased singles
into Japanese fans
for the dancers,
one per dance.
Long red finger nails
pluck the string off her hip
and I tuck in a bill.
A cold hand on my shoulder,
she bends down from
the stage for a tight lipped kiss.
You could do that
in those days.
With my three bucks,
six dollars for
an hour's work.

Diana sits beside me,
chairs touching,
while the other girls dance.
Cigarettes and lighter
on the table.
I hold the lighter up.
Diana looks like she's
never seen it done.
"Buy the Lady a drink?"
She sits on her shirttail,
Green sparkle g-string,
Green lace bra with
Round bandaids stuck
To her nipples.
A five goes on the table.
Brandy Alexander, made
with chocolate milk
and a spoon full of rum.
Diana just made two more dollars.
Diana smiles and sips
her five dollar chocolate milk.
"Thank you"

I take another sip of beer.
and study my new girlfriend.
She woke up that morning
with tired on her face
wiped it off with a dry cloth,
leaving streaks of fatigue
at the corners of her eyes.
Eyes too big for her cheek bones,
brown eyes and brown eye lids.
Cheek bones painted red
to glow under the pink lights,
look hollow away from the light.
Long slender fingers wrap the glass
clicking red finger nails.
She licks chocolate milk from her lip
and smiles again.
"Why don't you smile?"

Deep breath, sigh, sip.
Bottle on table beside her glass.
Another deep breath,
push it back, hold it tight
My mother died this morning.
Words tumble in the bar noise
to reach her ear, out of order.
I watch her brown eyed brain
reassemble the message to
turn her pink cheeks white.
She pulls my face to hers
cheek pressed to cheek.
Sweet ginger perfume
and cigarette smoke.
The pulse in my neck
pumps against her cold fingers.
Whisper "I'm sorry,
Do you want me to leave you alone"
This raises an eyebrow.
I have to smile.
There is no more alone
she could give me.
I have all there is.

Her glass is empty
"Buy the lady another drink"
Not this time
No more cash.
"Don't worry.
I'm sitting with
the best looking man
in this place.
If I sit with you,
those assholes
wont bother me."
I smile again.
Why the sunglasses?
Diana puts the glasses on.
"I hate doing this.
I wear the glasses
so no one can see how
much I hate it."
Why do it?
The tired comes back
to her face.
"Money just money"
The glasses come off.
How do you stand it?
"I write poetry every morning
when I get home. It helps."
Angry stripper poetry
dances through my brain.
"I'm taking GED classes.
We had to write a poem
and read it to the class."
I would like to read it.
I write too, a lot of bad stuff.
"Why do you think its bad"
I feel bad, so the poem is bad.
"But its your feelings"
I have bad feelings.
The brown eyes study me.

I want to say more.
I want to take her home.
I want to read her poems.
I want to write one for her.
I want to feed her breakfast.
I want to meet her mother.
I want to hold her and cry.
I want to know more,
but I don't know what.
She wants to say more.
but I don't know what.
We don't say anything.
"I have to go back to work."

Diana brushes her hair,
Puts on her sunglasses
and steps into the light.
Slow smooth machine
motion for nine silent
drunk men and me.
She is someplace else,
writing a new poem
about hating men
who think she is beautiful
and pay money just to
watch her dance and
more money to sit and talk
or sit and listen.
A good deal for them.

Wallet check, one single left.
I fold another fan
and wait for song three.
Diana does a high leg lift
and a sinking split
to slow stripper roll
across the stage.
leaving talcum powder and
glitter on her ass and thighs.
She kneels and pushes
the glasses over her forehead.
Tuck in my dollar,
get my open eyed kiss.
Diana pulls down the shades
And goes back to work.

I step into the hot night air
Dust and diesel smoke,
music still grinding my ears
as I drive home.
My alarm goes off
two hours later.
I reach for the clock
and pick up my shirt
to smell sweet ginger
and cigarettes.