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“8 Foot Notes from a Dancer’s Diary”
By Douglas John Imbrogno | 1985/2022
Danced nearly till dawn at the Metro downtown Cincy O. And,
oh, the costumes! How the young and restless anoint themselves
with characterizations. So much black! Black sweat pants & tops.
Black dresses. A coat checker whose sexuality is vague wears a
homemade chador which covers his/her/their head.
A bartender in black leopard skin & blackish makeup smiles
with purple-jelly lipstick not out of place upon a frozen corpse.
But, hey, ho, not everyone at the Metro’s dead-set on fashion.
Some dress up hip-casual to prance the night away. Got there
about 2 a.m., joining the throng, hipping-hopping, swaying,
stopping, tripping to the dancing songs. Used to feel put-out it
wasn’t easy meeting anyone to talk to, exchange names & ‘would you
like to ….’ But that’s not the point. The dancing itself a form of
speaking, the embrace, the telepathic look into the face.
I make love to a half-dozen partners & see no more of their
verbalizing selves than a ‘pardon me!’ for an errant elbow.
On occasion, the accidental brush feels like a semi-conscious
caress. I stop trying to impress with my moves (except for the
infrequent solo), shifting into many grooves. Every which way,
swirl squads of dancers, the Asian boy & girl & Yankee pal, the
black-white couple disco sleeks, ooh-la-la! The gypsy boy …
Here’s a lady with cornrows & undulating cheeks, now flanked by
a motorcycle moll with Bob Seger on her chest, now back turned
to the girl whose hair looks like a stack of robin’s nests.
Ah, sweet, the woman in the baggy silver sweater & pleated black
skirt, dances with her lover, hubby, date. Vibrations, primitive
radar. I don’t even look at you, nor you at me, except to snatch
a portrait of your profile, of your body’s contour.
Of how we might embrace … We prance across the floor & close
the space. Until I see your back to me, those hips, an intoxicating
whiff of shampoo, the outline of your lips, an accidental touch,
matched rhythms, yes, our bodies talking on a wavelength our
minds cannot access … Don’t overdo it, the bodies may be taken,
but the mind is free to stalk of passion’s fantasy. You lift one arm
into the air, ruffle that chestnut page-boy hair.
I am transported into inner space, we’re in a room & you’re
wriggling out that sweater, the skirt’s a black hole upon the floor.
And, oh, I know our middles mingle with insistent force.
The real thing might not be better & with this manner of relation
there’s no remorse. We slide apart, I swear you’ve taken a
patch of my heart. But this duet was not just an expression
of our bodies’ abstract art …
Now, you’re a dozen feet away, your husband-lover-date
has restaked your personal space. You look as if you’re tugging
on a ring or deliberating, ‘Should I take this off?’ Or just
fantasy’s extension into the room. Our eyes can’t help but
scan the room as if in random search … And then, boom!
For one long second, I dive into that hazel pool, your eyes.
What joy to look at you and not wear a disguise!
These decades later, whose glance was seeing whom?
The male gaze and all that, across rooms, across the centuries.
Or our own willed needs & deceptions. Yet, in the other
instance, maybe the dance was just a dance, and all the
better for it being no more than that intimacy. The yearning across
rooms, across centuries, for evasions from all this doom.
I salute you, across the years, for some moments minus any tears.
POSTSCRIPT: An old journal entry poem from more than 35 years gone, capturing another era, another me, addendumed with a contemporary quatrain. I am not quite that guy, but he is quite part of me. Hence, something for the historical record of my/our being out in the world, trying to connect and figure it — and ourselves and the other dancers in the room — out.