Masked Dancers at the Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, 2002 by Alison Hurwitz

Masked Dancers at the Great American Music Hall, San Francisco, 2002
At work they have no names.
The beat heats up past fever pitch, past gilded balconies.
In pleather hot pants, they reflect too many mirrored balls, catch
stares and whistles, fishnets on the splintered stage, legs crosshatched,
grilled, their movements made for moistened lips.
Served up steaming for one more frenzied Silicon event, they’re
a Moulin Rouge-style fantasy for those more skilled with screens
and blue light than with flesh. Half their faces hidden under dominos,
they dance, blinded by the spotlights in their eyes. It is better this way.
For $80, they will whip the watchers dizzy with their spangled hips
and thighs, decolletage and driving syncopation. They shimmy scratchy tulle.
Chafing dishes, they set their incandescence spinning into spotlights, slick
the crowd before the chorus comes. Sizzle buys them Pad See Ew.
Breathing runway groin and sweat, they gyrate, smile and blister,
hot pants bunching where they can’t adjust. Bent to their task,
they lubricate the crowd, then disappear. All of them so good
at getting gone.
Home at 3 a.m. inside her tiny bathroom, one dancer scrubs
at greasepaint till it stings, until her lashes peel away, two rhinestoned
millipedes curled inward, winking and disfigured, skin stripped clean until
her naked face is no longer erased. The mirror cabinet’s been slammed
too many times, lost its magnet, cannot fully close. No matter: she owns
the eyes inside the glass. Safety waits until it spirals into exhale in the after-
shock of sound. She opens it, takes out her name, puts it back
into her mouth.
Alison Hurwitz has been featured in Rust and Moth, River Heron Review, SWWIM Every Day, The Shore, and Thimble, among others. Her work is forthcoming in Carmina Magazine, The South Dakota Review, and Black Fox Review. She is a 2023 Best of the Net Nominee. Alison hosts Well-Versed Words, a monthly online poetry reading.

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