Poetry 2011 / Volume 42

Dancing Among Women, American and Kuwati Women at Mai’s Party — Ann Struthers

When the door closes behind the Sheik
Mai whips off her head covering,
as do the other women,
shaking loose their thick, black hair.
Like nuns freed
from their habits and coifs,
they come to life, chatter like birds.
–even the old grandmother tries
her few words of English.
I try my Arabic.

After the banquet
someone turns on the stereo
and intense Arabian music throbs.
The Kuwati women kick away
the Persian rugs,
kick off their Italian shoes,
and dance–solo–
short, fast, hesitating steps.
Their hands dance, too.
They tie long black scarves
around their hips
and rotate,
rotate their stomach muscles.
Belly dancer!
these modest Moslem matrons!
They tie the scarves around us,
and we dance awkward,
but feel the desert sun,
hear the flutes,
bump with the heart beats
on drumheads
made from fine sheep vellum.
We dance the rhythms
of this place of the past
where the dust of our ancestors
dances. We dance and dance.

They open their mouths
with wild, high-pitched cries,
trilling their tongues;
they ululate, ululate, ululate.

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