Brooke Sahni

Esther Perel & Audre Lorde Go Dancing

Audre wants a booth seat
but Esther is drawn
to the long, metal architecture
of the barstools. They compromise—
stand in a corner that’s dark
but not hidden, where the neon
light can touch the tips
of their hair & they can watch
the bartender move her hips
while setting fire to the
open mouths of drinks.

The music is loud
& even though
they are standing
inches apart they feel like
they are yelling across
a great distance.
What have you been working on,
Audre shouts to Esther,
but Esther is pointing
to a couple across
the room. Audre
can only make out limbs
& eye contact—is frustrated,
they are both frustrated—
after all, how did they
end up here? In a bar
on a red-lit street?
An unknown
city where
everyone is dancing
with abandon & the music
is so loud they can’t hear the brilliance
coming off of the other?
& even though it’s all deafening,
they do like the feel
of something thumping
quietly in their hearts.

And you? Esther yells.
Audre is working on something
perfect, radical, complete,
Esther is sure, but her voice travels
& refracts. Esther is thrilled—
she could make out the part about
moving into sunlight against the body
of a woman, is convinced she
understands the context even though
Audre’s voice floated into the music
& became something else.

Their voices
are hoarse, there is so much
to be heard from the other, but
they are tired of yelling,
tired of feeling percussion beat
their flesh and stand still
against it. So they take off
their jackets,
put their drinks down,
hand in hand,
they head toward the wild womb
of the party.
They close their eyes.
They are ready to write a new scripture.
They are ready to dance.

Brooke Sahni is the author of Before I Had the Word (Texas Review Press, 2021),
which won the X.J. Kennedy Poetry Prize, selected by Maggie Smith. She is also the author of Divining (Orison Books, 2020), which won the Orison Chapbook Prize. Other work has appeared in journals such as Denver Quarterly, 32 Poems, The Missouri Review, Prairie Schooner, Nimrod, the Massachusetts Review, Boulevard and elsewhere.

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