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How Gypsy Invented the Tease

Light flies across the ceiling
to where hangs a picture of her mother:
Praying is like sitting in a rocking chair.
It doesn’t get you anywhere
but it passes the time.

Gypsy Rose lights candles
in her dressing room just to blow them
out, to watch the sultry weave of smoke
in the dark. Headlights through the window
caress her skin.

Sister June was the talent, the belting
voice of breathy sex, the swaying hips
and good tips. But swelling bellies
aren’t good for Vaudeville.

Gypsy Rose moves to the stage
under the glare of bare bulbs,
her hips too thin to please.
I am moonlight
I am blooming iris
I am the opium high of Maiden Lane.

She knows they cannot anticipate
the moves she makes, knows
their eyes burn like neon, lighting her
from the inside, and as she closes her own
eyes, her body is wholly theirs. They shout Give us
the tease, a wraith of lust as she slinks
off her top, her skirts lapping
at the flames catching just below the stage.

A whole-body shiver at curtain fall, her pride
naked beside her, robust:
I am invention.


Ciara Shuttleworth is the author of a poetry chapbook, Night Holds Its Own (Blue Horse Press), and a gonzo prose book, 4,500 Miles: Taking Jack Back on the Road (Humanitas Media Publishing). More at www.ciarashuttleworth.com.