I remember dancing— in a quiet Khandallah street
at the home of the friend of a friend.
All my party finery could not compare
with the queens
the cross-dressers whose sequins and eyelids flashed.
Are you family? someone asked.
I said, Think of me as a cousin.
Have you dressed, darling? That’s very natural -
I shook my head: he was more glamorous
than I would ever be.
Oh, no, I see now—peering closely—those are real.
So are yours, I should have said
Sustained with courage, held up by belief.
We all have our closets
and wounds that do not show. We’re all of us as real
as we pretend.
There was laughter and music
and a rather coarse striptease to “In the Mood”
but we clapped and stomped and whistled
for the lady with five o’clock shadow
for her intrepid performance and tentative smile.
I remember talking
to a plain and gangling man who
(a friend murmured) had HIV
and talking with a man
more beautiful than Greek gods, with the broadest shoulders
and deepest voice, and the smile of a sculpted angel
who missed his kids.
I remember singing:
we held hands in a circle, chanting freedom
singing “Free Nelson Mandela!”
Mandela is free
and the beautiful, wounded people
dance a rainbow.