The pub’s old-fashioned, and is somewhat seedy.
The clientele, all male, look lumpish, needy,
And when the stripper comes, their eyes are greedy.
A smile fixed firm upon her painted face,
She starts gyrating with a teasing grace,
Smoothly undressing at a languorous pace.
She struts through routine choreography
Removes her bra, and lets her breasts go free
The silent men watch her impassively.
And still they stare unmoving as she slips
The golden panties from her mobile hips,
Pauses a sec, then sensually unzips
Her smooth pink skin, and flings it open wide,
To show the flesh and beating heart inside.
Her audience observes all this, dead-eyed.
The flesh from bone she now expertly rends,
And now it’s just her skeleton bops and bends
Seductively until the music ends.
Silence. She picks up flesh and skin, and drawers
So often dropped before on grubby floors.
The men are stirred to offer mild applause.
She dresses quickly, picks up a pint glass,
And then begins the customary pass
Among the men, who goggle at her arse,
Say nothing, but poke fivers in the pot
Because that is expected. They do not
Even try to meet her eye, or speak of what
They’ve seen, but, weekly ritual complete,
Get up, and, bodies drooping with defeat,
They head out to the grey indifferent street.
George Simmers writes: “It must be thirty years ago that I was in a run-down district of some industrial city, looking for a pub that would sell me a pint and a sandwich. I passed one with a sign that said ‘Stripper: 1.30’ and I thought: ‘Why not?’
The audience was very much as described in the poem, though the performance was less extreme. It was a fairly melancholy occasion, and one that stayed in my memory. It was a long while ago, and the pot that day probably filled with £1 notes (maybe even ten bob) rather than fivers, but I thought £5 would be the appropriate donation today – if lunchtime pub strippers still exist. They’re an endangered species in the North of England, I gather, and lockdown has probably killed them off completely.
I wrote this in triplets because the first three lines came to me together, and I thought I’d see how well I could continue. I feel the form somehow suits the subject, or at any rate is better than couplets, which tend to be faster-moving. The triplets seem (to me at least) sluggish and a bit unusual.
I dimly remember years ago seeing an animated film in which a stripper goes on to unzip her skin, so to that extent the poem is not original. But it was the deliberately unimpressed audience I really wanted to write about, and making them still stolid even after watching the impossible made my point, I hoped.
This is one of a series of poems that I’ve written over the past couple of years, telling stories that are extreme or somewhat gothic. I may get some of them together into a short collection later in the year.”
George Simmers used to be a teacher; now he spends much of his time researching literature written during and after the First World War. He has edited Snakeskin since 1995. It is probably the oldest-established poetry zine on the Internet. His work appears in several Potcake Chapbooks.