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

Image of a bag of bread attached to a doorway

Bread N’ Roses

ERICA PLOUFFE LAZURE
This morning, from our bed, Luke and I listened again for the ice-cream truck melody of the Portuguese bread truck. Not that we needed bread, because we’d bought a week’s worth the day before at our tiny grocery store that is also a bar and is also a café.

kp image

Writers on Writing: Kritika Pandey

KRITIKA PANDEY
The first time I was shortlisted, in 2016, is when I first realized that now people see me as a “writer.” But I don’t think any of it particularly changed how I thought about my writing itself.

Brazilian Poets in Translation

ELIANE MARQUES
Don’t carry large umbrellas (neither at night nor during the day) / They might seem to be an AR-15 rifle or an HK submachine gun / Don’t use drills / They can be confused with a pistol and the bullets being fired / Don’t carry bags / They can suggest that you’re carrying a bomb