Dive

By JENNIFER PERRINE

Central Pennsylvania

Every Friday and Saturday night, 
and sometimes Thursdays, too, we would drive 
the highway out from the college town, 

past farmland, turn down that road that led
deep into the forest. In the dark, 
we parked and followed the unlit path,

Hansels and Gretels flocking, hungry,
to our gingerbread shack, sweets hidden
behind a plain façade, unmarked save

for a rainbow draped over the door.
Inside, we threaded dollars into
the jukebox, into the spangled straps

of each queen’s dress, blew kisses to Cher
lookalikes, to our friend who sauntered
and swiveled to Shania, who worked

days as a fry cook and nights the crowd, 
who knew we, too, hadn’t been impressed 
much, had, oh man, felt like a woman

sidling up, pulling us to the floor 
to sway under lazy purple lights 
to Macy Gray might leave us dizzy 

for days. I have forgotten the names 
of all the butches who bought me drinks,
of the flannelled bartender who played

eight ball in the hour after last call, 
of even the bar itself, but still 
recall the pleather chairs that stuck red

welts to my thighs, that creaked as I plied 
beautiful strangers with cigarettes,
still remember their sports bras under 

white tanks, the thunk of chunky boots, flex 
of forearms as they ran thin fingers 
through my fade, the delirious crush 

of weight when they sank onto my lap. 
What fool would wish for such a place now,
secret space that appeared on no map,

that offered not quite safety, only 
its dim copy? What ingrate would spare
a thought for the bad old days when we

had to wander so far from home, roam
through fields and thickets, into hushed woods 
to find our kin, our tribe? Still, it’s there

I learned the slide of hips on hips, grip
of a belt buckle under my hands 
to draw a body close, how to lure

 and hook with one long look in a room 
brimming with long looks. It was the cage
where we hid until we could escape, 

biding time behind those glittered walls.
It was no dive but a fall headfirst 
into this ever after, which will

have us as we are or not at all. 

 

Jennifer Perrine is the award-winning author of four poetry books: Again, In the Human Zoo, The Body Is No Machine, and No Confession, No Mass. Jennifer serves as an editor for Airlie Press and a guest editor for Broadsided Press, co-hosts the Incite Queer Writers reading series, and hosts The Occasion, a poetry radio show on KBOO FM in Portland, Oregon. When not writing, Jennifer leads workshops on creative writing, social justice, and intersectional equity. Read more at www.jenniferperrine.org.

Dive

Related Posts

textured sand

January 2022 Poetry Feature

MADELEINE MORI
A. and I were both hurt by that cold, hard change, / the snap of my leg bones. / I saw the root in the trail as a swag-bellied dog / with a cape I wanted to support— / both dog and sneaker flying as one. / When they came, Search and Rescue’s tools unbent my pain.

Quarters

BEINA XU
I live in the wrong colonial quarter of Berlin. My neighborhood is called Afrikanisches Viertel, and my flat is on Guinea Street. There’s Kongostraße, Togostraße, Kamerunerstraße, Transvaalstraße, Sansibarstraße, Otawistraße—I could go on, but you could also just Google Germany’s colonial conquest of Africa.

headshot of Elvira Hernandez

Translation: Poems by Elvira Hernández

ELVIRA HERNÁNDEZ
nowhere / anywhere / would poets meet dressed as beacons / if their mirrors were not fogged / if their mirrors were not fogged / they would have seen the mandorla set sail / perhaps at this hour they are filing claims /to recover their lost luggage / agreed: that’s not the teide