Belly Dancer

By Diane Wakoski b. 1937 Diane Wakoski
Can these movements which move themselves
be the substance of my attraction?
Where does this thin green silk come from that covers my body?   
Surely any woman wearing such fabrics
would move her body just to feel them touching every part of her.

Yet most of the women frown, or look away, or laugh stiffly.   
They are afraid of these materials and these movements   
in some way.
The psychologists would say they are afraid of themselves, somehow.
Perhaps awakening too much desire—
that their men could never satisfy?
So they keep themselves laced and buttoned and made up
in hopes that the framework will keep them stiff enough not to feel
the whole register.
In hopes that they will not have to experience that unquenchable   
desire for rhythm and contact.

If a snake glided across this floor
most of them would faint or shrink away.
Yet that movement could be their own.
That smooth movement frightens them—
awakening ancestors and relatives to the tips of the arms and toes.

So my bare feet
and my thin green silks
my bells and finger cymbals
offend them—frighten their old-young bodies.   
While the men simper and leer—
glad for the vicarious experience and exercise.
They do not realize how I scorn them;   
or how I dance for their frightened,   
unawakened, sweet
women.

Diane Wakoski, “Belly Dancer” from Emerald Ice: Selected Poems 1962-1987. Copyright © 1988 by Diane Wakoski. Reprinted with the permission of
David R. Godine/Black Sparrow Press, www.blacksparrowbooks.com/titles/wakoski.htm.

Source: Emerald Ice: Selected Poems 1962-1987 (1988)

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Poet Diane Wakoski b. 1937

SCHOOL / PERIOD Beat

Subjects Social Commentaries, Love, Relationships, Arts & Sciences, Gender & Sexuality, Men & Women, Theater & Dance, Desire, Break-ups & Vexed Love, Realistic & Complicated

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 Diane  Wakoski

Biography

Diane Wakoski, described as an "important and moving poet" by Paul Zweig in the New York Times Book Review, is frequently named among the foremost contemporary American poets by virtue of her experiential vision and her unique voice. Wakoski's poems focus on intensely personal experiences—on her unhappy childhood, on the painful relationships she has had with men and, perhaps most frequently, on the subject of being Diane . . .

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SUBJECT Social Commentaries, Love, Relationships, Arts & Sciences, Gender & Sexuality, Men & Women, Theater & Dance, Desire, Break-ups & Vexed Love, Realistic & Complicated

SCHOOL / PERIOD Beat

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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