rainbow dance

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!”

And now

Mandela is free

      and the beautiful, wounded people

      dance a rainbow.

pastiche of original photographs © bronwyn angela white