bellydance/

daring me to
return her sultry
stare,
to fall into her
walnut eyes
lined with kohl
she danced
for tips on
saturday nights

bold, i mirrored her stare
& i handed her a fiver
she winked
and let the doumbek
guide the dance
my money disappearing
impossibly into her dress
before moving on

Another one of those poems that actually needs a bit of explanation or you’ll think I was hitting the strip clubs every Saturday. On that note, I’ve ended up in strip clubs on two or three bachelor nights and I have to say that I found it a pretty degrading experience as a customer. I’m more than fine with nudity or with other people going to strip clubs, but I felt like a real creep and spent most of my time talking to the fully-clothed bartender when I was in those situations. I think the problem is that the desperation is so dense, it feels like a hot, humid day in August and I couldn’t wait to be done with it.

But no, this might be a true story, but it wasn’t in any strip club. I think her name was/is Suzanna, and she did belly-dancing at one of the Middle Eastern restaurants back in the day. I stumbled on her first show quite accidentally, as I was craving baked kibbeh and rhania (a blood-red spiced hibiscus tea sweetened with tamarack syrup), with a desert of baklava and turkish-style coffee on a Saturday evening. I usually dined at the Java’s 5-seat deli in downtown Minneapolis, but they had a full restaurant a few miles away. We were in the area for something like going to the Minneapolis Institute of Arts when the craving hit me and we showed up at dinner time. About half-way through our meal, Suzanna came out with her tambourine and belly-danced for the patrons. It was a quiet night, so we were two of about eight people in the restaurant and Suzanna took that as reason enough to dote on everyone in the building, especially two young guys sitting by themselves, off in the corner.

I won’t lie and say that I didn’t fall in love with her that night, but it was that kind of love that isn’t overtly romantic, more of a lusty sort of thing. It’s hard to describe — I wouldn’t have turned her down if she’d asked me out, but I wasn’t expecting more than to enjoy her dance. I guess I loved her dancing more than anything; it felt like like I was living in The Mission song, Severina:

She believes in angels
She believes in the will of the gods
And she’s dancing amongst the magic dust
She believes in the midnight trance
She believes in ‘love is the law’
And she’s dancing amongst the magic dust

Mission, Severina

She was olive skinned and wore dark makeup that reminded me of Siouxsie and she seemed a bit like an angel dancing next to me wearing next to nothing at all, and yet, she showed very little flesh (which, everyone knows, is sexier than nudity at times). Plus, she danced barefoot. Yes, I was an impressionable young man.

She and I developed a relationship over the next year. We never talked, but I went out of my way to visit her on more Saturdays that I care to admit. She recognized me and always lingered a bit longer at my table. I’d like to pretend she was interested in me, but it was probably because she was guaranteed to get $5-20 in tips from me the evenings I was around. It wasn’t that icky kind of passing of tips — the kind where you put it in someone’s waistband — it was all very chaste. I’d put money on the table and, at some point, it would disappear.

Alas, the Java is gone. I miss those days.

5 thoughts on “bellydance/

  1. There is a wonderful little North African restaurant in my city that features a belly-dancer Saturday nights. The food is amazing, we can bring our own wine, and the dancing and merry-making is plenty… well, was before covid…. I have been there 3 times lol Belly-dancing is so beautiful and fun and sultry. A lovely way to connect to the body, and to the earth and ether at the same time. Suzanne sounds absolutely scintillating. What a nice memory to share.

    Liked by 1 person

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