I was smitten with a waiter in the dance club,
not romantically, but in the entertainment
division of my delight.
He was long bones and turned-out feet,
his spine like a tape measure
you lock out to its full length,
rigid and wobbly all at once.
His hair bobbed along with the drinks
he carried on the tray palm-up,
and flirting looked like a role
he had overprepared for,
practicing on the DJ, on the bouncer,
on every one of us as he delivered
our seabreezes and my repeat
requests for water.
When I was accepted
into the master’s program for dance
and took my place at the barre,
there he was in tights and battered slippers
warming up with grand pliés and cambré.
Every moment was better
with his repartee
whispered behind my derriere
as we pointed and reached.
You could never get all that ballet out
of his spine in modern technique.
You had to put up with it
if you wanted him in your dances,
which was worth it for the stories
about his days with the Ballet Trockadero
where he played Jane Eyre en pointe,
bourréeing with a book across the stage
and Mother Ginger in the Nutcracker.
At the upscale Italian restaurant
where he also waited,
he stood in fifth position
preparing your Caesar salad
right at your table,
singing along with the piano man
to I Don’t Know How To Love Him
from Jesus Christ Superstar.
One day he called and invited me to dinner,
at The Cork near the apartments
where we both lived.
He looked lovely in white jeans,
his curls shining with something expensive.
We raised our glasses
and his toast was an announcement
of his full-blown AIDS diagnosis
as if it were a part he had fought for.
From that day on
he smelled like Grand Marnier
day or night,
even when I visited him
in a trailer in the Black Hills
after he got too sick
to live far from family.
Neuropathy took the feeling
in one arm and leg,
and his skin was mottled with sores
that makeup couldn’t hide,
but as we walked a brief way
to the river near his home
with his little dog circling
his dandy cane,
he stayed upright and regal
as if a small tiara balanced
atop his nest of auburn curls.
He wanted me to have his pointe shoes,
ending every phone call
with that promise.
But the phone calls stopped.
The shoes never arrived.
I miss that man.
from Rattle #79, Spring 2023
Kim Hansen: “My father calls me to tell me what he is writing about. Sometimes it is about washing dishes or how his father and uncles looked falling asleep in social situations, acting as if they were pushing their hair back or giving their necks a whip. Then we read each other a few poems by our favorite poets, and I get back to writing about how we move and operate in spite of or because of gravity.”