The Stripper Cycle, late 1990's

Writing and poetry
From the 1990's

by Richard Van Ingram

Black Angel

I. Who are you, girl, in this place
On the borderlands of dreaming?
Here in the neon light
Where our flesh seems as pale
As the soul of a washerwoman,
Here, where we are ghosts
And images of ghosts,
My question remains lead heavy,

II. While the dancers shift places
On the catwalks and platforms
My money aches only to purchase
Your name. My mouth would say
It till I made of it a symbol:
The coal dark tattoo of your
Evening majesty across the meat of my
Unadorned lips.

III. I did not even ask the stage name.
I can invent them well enough alone
And you would be the Black Angel
Fallen from some broken Heaven
To touch my lacerated heart
With purpose, with incense,
With saltwater kisses burning
With magnesium intensity.

IV. But I do not know who you are,
Lost stripper out on the borderland
Of dreaming, dark lips and eyes
All serious, all disguise and show
For the little boys who lost their sight
Sometime in their youth,
Boys who cannot, will not see
The hushed radiance of God
In a young woman's dance.

V. To see holiness is to die
And some part of me has died a little
In the presence of this woman's
Slow and deliberate motions
And the slight and perfect curves
Of her hips, her belly,
Her pale fire-like body.
All brides stand in ice this day.
Send all the virgins away;
They lack the beauty to cut me
As deeply as this.


I. The Angel of a world gone black
confounds me.
My pencils cannot capture
even the image that now
sits in the blue throne
of all my secret thoughts,
distant in how her mouth's set,
her long, perfect nose,
but the dark eyes promise and invite
more than any horizon
beneath any hidden sun.

II. For the space of my dollar bills
there was something like a word between us,
something cutting across the chasm
as you danced for me
slowly, against the reckless rhythm
of the room's stupidity.
There was no hurry in you
as you removed the velvet gloves
and shining rubber armor
and swayed your perfect hips
and raised your white arms
like a pale fire braiding to the sky -
having no words to match or hold
your beauty
there was nothing left for me
but the sad exchange of money.

III. Angel of the black hair halo,
flesh and symbol all at once,
but more symbolism
like the emerald and bloody fire
of a crow's feathers in the sun.
All I have of you are those colors
that sit high in the land of my memory
and sad fantasy;
you recline coldly on the blue throne
of my very secrets
and I am the mere universe around you,
yet a universe removed, all at once.
Your ghost is a reality to me;
I wonder whether, even for a moment,
I was ever flesh to you?


I ran through the evening
To rest at your doorstep
The car engines preaching
The holy books humming.
I was bent with a crooked foot
And you were a dancer
In the House of Frustration
Where conversation and flesh
Cost a fist-full of dollars.
And there you were
A fairy tale princess
In shiny black rubber
And Bettie Page hair.
My money was desperation's song
And you were a crow in the sunlight
Shining and preening
Slowly peeling and dropping
The long velvet gloves
The red bustier
The wicked black bra
The slick, gleaming g-string
Till at last it was just you and me
And the eight-inch spiked heels
And the ten-thousand idiots around us
Who believed they owned the place.
I will swear to my dying day
That somewhere in your eyes
There was just room for me
For a fist-full of moments
In the House of Frustration
Where I fell on your doorstep
Another fool seeking
Flesh and salvation
And something beyond The Machine.

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