Downtown Strip Club

By Alan Shapiro

Its night is all day long;
the neon GIRLS out front go dark in sunlight,
while inside the cruciform stage
has stripped down to blackness,
in which the vertical
poles at the end of each transverse arm
stand naked and lonely.
Cold here is the cold on the faces of the presidents
on bills the absent hands
have pushed toward each body bending over
in a gown of brightness;
cold is the heat of the shadowless
shadow play of hands and legs
up and down along the poles,
and the hands retreating from the money,
and the hands in pockets dreaming,
or dreaming later on another body;
the heart of the cold is the opposite of what it is,
cold as the fire
through the day of its night
in the firing line of bottles
waiting for orders
on the shelf above the bar.

Alan Shapiro has two books of poetry forthcoming; Proceed to Check Out from University of Chicago Press in 2022, and By and By from the Waywiser Press (England) in 2023.

Originally appeared in NOR 5

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