Issue 10 | Winter 2012

Bathhouse Betty

for Bette Midler

On a good night, Barry would sit
behind the piano’s black barge
wearing nothing but a towel,
tucked and knotted on the side
into a white blossom,
the hedge of his brown hair
blunted into a soft shag.
You’d pace in front of the drum kit
acting bawdy, brave, at home
on the small stage by the pool
where garlands of steam
appeared and vanished
over the rush and patter
of the waterfall you hated
emptying into the water’s blue flash.
You channeled Barth, Tucker,
Mabley as the tendrils of your frizzed
red hair struck and shimmered
like the flames of a gas lamp
over that old blues voice
rinsed with sand and honey.
In the early days,
you were just as scared
as the legions of men
cruising the long hallways,
heavy with the scent of pot and poppers,
after they stripped down to nothing,
their striped and paisley shirts capped
with butterfly collars, velour v-necks
that plunged between pecs, platform shoes
braided with suede tumbling together
in lockers, their beaded limbs
stretched along tiled banquettes,
the quick bliss of simple cots,
waiting for the doors to close,
for the globes of light, moons
that rose against the starred ceiling,
to go down.

Filed under: Poetry