A Stripper's Christmas
This prose poem was first performed in "A Very Jackie Christmas" at La Mama Etc. in 1992.

A Stripper's Christmas

When she was a baby girl
dreaming not of New York at all but of Paris, France
Where she would be an exotic dancer at the Follies Bergere
Daddy used to take her up/ in his gypsy cab/
to the country estates off Pelham Parkway to see the houses all dressed up for Christmas
Big candy-cane doorways where she practiced her entrances
Tinsel bright as the sequinned gowns in the curtain calls of her future/ Red Light
And Daddy called her Princess
And wrapped blankets around her for warmth like the baby Jesus/ Bathed in light
Safe / in his arms

In Times Square tonight
There's ten thousand lights on but none of them Christmas
Teardrop sequins strung like Pelham Parkway garland
Floor work arias distant as carols
Now Amber Now Tiny Now Asia and Dancer
Now Barbie Now Taurus Go Ginger and Prancer

Simone/ her agent said/ in a voice like Daddy's/ Please
You know how strippers are
Hearts cold as rhinestones then melting real messy at Christmas
They go down like suckers this time of year
You know
The burlesque house sprinkled with stars but none of them signposts
How strippers
No miracles here since Mary Magdalene threw her wooden-soled Frederick's heels at the guys in the front row and gave up her last feature booking

Baby James it's Christmas Eve and your old lady's dancing
While you, her pimp and prophet, scheme pure white snowflakes in the bar next door
To raise her, however briefly from those three dread spectres,
her Josephine Baker dream
the kid she farmed out
and the fox coat you promised but never delivered

Her Christmas Eve long past redemption or Magi
No college boys/ no chinaman gambler/ no vice cops/no tourist couple looking for kicks/ No bouquets /no manger/ no star tonight and despite a desperate search
No Daddy
Only the cranky front row and a couple of sidestage pariahs
Barbarella in tears in the dressing room after
What gifts could they bring?
Are you/ my wise man/ Daddy
Are you even now clutching the six dollar admission and mounting the stairs?

Chi Chi Valenti, 1992