Maren O. Mitchell, Lois Hampton, Striptease Artiste, Expatriate, Paris

Maren O. Mitchell

Clothes help us be seen as we want to be seen—
not as we are; they lie for us;
I use them.

Everyone dresses for someone, self or others, or both,
but I dress in reverse for myself—please myself;
others enjoy my motivated movements, my pleasure.

The seen is known; the unseen, only imagined—
never disappoints,
decade into decade, tantalizing for what cannot be had.

Not beautiful, never even pretty, I have the elusive,
what the French call Je ne sais quoi:
I put it down to loving life, having no quarrel with the world.

Those who don’t have it—see and want.
My mother had it; she turned on like a spotlight
and anyone within reach was caught, until she turned away.

Straight hair, pallid skin that wouldn’t tan,
teased by boys in school, insecure,
I roamed my California coast in the company of wind and surf.

Through hatha yoga I found my spotlight—
each position brought me to and placed me where I was—
breathing controlled, strengthening.

Movements learned equality, filled with themselves:
significant putting on of shoes in the morning,
deliberate walk from one classroom to the next,

raising of my hand and arm to offer question
or answer—a motion away from gravity and into the universe,
dividing stillness from a second purpose.

I am exactly where I am supposed to be,
aware of myself at the same time
aware of others.

I hear Gypsy is taking cues from me—
she will be unique,
she will be remembered.

To bring them in, closer to me, I wear a favorite perfume:
if I like my aura, so will they,
but by morning what I’ve shown is passé,

what they don’t see remains with them.
Here at the Moulin Rouge I molt to my own music.
As I slide each piece of clothing I feel my skin applaud,

freed in my reciprocal touching of the world.
They’re silent until I have left the stage—
en masse they witnessed private joy.

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