She can draw a perfect cat’s eye without a mirror,
her liner almost touching the waxy black of her hair,
razor-parted and plastered down the middle,
the dare of a crescent moon on each powdered cheek,
explosive chrysanthemum at her nape, matching
the flared ruffle of a dress she wears once a year.
Nine at night ‘til sunup, the music, her wrists
move graceful as her castanets click time to guitars,
the echo of both electrifies the night air—
in the narrow alley dimly lit by doorway lamps.
She watches families on their way from the river,
stays in the cocoon of shoulder-wide streets,
blossoms and stands taller with the music,
occasional laughter, an odd horn.
Someone hands her a blood-red sherry,
she bows her acceptance.
Tucked up inside the stocking on her left thigh,
cash. On the outside of her right thigh, a knife.
She has never used it— its part of the costume.
In a week she will go back to the dreary bank
until next year, when she will bloom once more,
dancing in evenings that shiver over the city,
a gift to strangers, but also to herself. The castanets
and chrysanthemum lovingly retrieved from hiding,
black liner fished from the back of a drawer.