The Stripper in the Mojave
Ruth Anderson Barnett
through the publisher only
DIXIE DREAMS A HAREM
Oily odor of cloves and ginger,
the melody of spilling waters,
laughter, steam-muted, then
among the columns and the tiles
slick under her feet,
white bodies. Beside the brass faucets
and marble basins, an arm along a thigh
or lifted to the trickle of a sponge.
Out of sodden air, three shapes emerge,
kohl-darkened eyes like anthracite in snow,
not walkingto walk is to put one foot
before the otherno, like clouds. Now fluting,
they circle around her.
She is their favorite:
their palms skim over her arms,
they lap against her body,
tugging gently, calling her
to pour herself back into the current of women.
She lifts one hand,
curls it lightly against her breast,
and with the other, open,
gestures toward the shape standing ready
to undo the stiff brocade, the laces,
the stays of the strangers dress.