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

poetry feature image

January 2021 Poetry Feature: Bruce Bond

BRUCE BOND
I was just another creature crawling from the mausoleum, / and I thought, so this is it, the place in the final chapter / where I am judged for all my cruelties, blunders, failures of attention, / and I waited for the furies to take me, or some such host. / But it was just another morning.

Sky full of comets

Poems in Translation from Bestia di gioia

MARIANGELA GUALTIERI
And he soars / saved, outstretched / untouched by the gravity that pins us / down / we deserters of empty spaces and heights / shadows cast / into modest taverns for a bite. / Heads in capitals / of rust. / A lifetime annuity of darkness. / Only a cry can save us now.

Cihu Memorial Sculpture Park

Cihu

ADAM DALVA
One of my life’s regrets is skipping the Cihu Memorial Sculpture Park when I was in Taiwan. ... I spent a week wandering Taipei… but all along, I was thinking about Cihu. I’d researched the park before my trip, but my host said… he’d rather show me the art and night-life of his city. I was twenty, night-life susceptible.