Pole Dance Lesson Poem

In this evening’s lesson,
our Russian instructor Raya
teaches me three new moves,
none of which I manage
to do masterfully or elegantly.
Today we will forget our hands
and we will hold on to the pole
with only our non-hand parts,
Raya says.
Trust the pole, Ayşe.
Climb higher, Ayşe.
Come on, Ayşe!
You can do it!
But after one whole hour,
still unable to hold on to
the pole with my non-hand parts,
I persuade Raya
that the insides of my thighs
are red and hurt enough,
and I should leave.
Hardly able to drag
my poor body on the
muddy pavements of Kızılay,
I try to count how many more
bruises I’ve added to my limbs.
It will be a painful walk.
It’s mid-December,
and Kızılay is cold as usual.
Cold, but not just the weather.
Maybe something about
these wicked and forlorn
shapes of the buildings.
Something about this
touchable hunch of the city,
this invisible hunch
on its people’s backs.
Something mirrored in us.
Some sort of warmth
that can only be found
in Ankara’s dreary nature.
A part of me has got to be
lurking in this city.
A hidden part.
And undeniable.
I wonder how many
of those trotting in front of me
have bodies covered with
this many bruises.
How many are pocketing
their hands to hide
the terrible tremble?
How many are as thirsty as I am?
How many are unsure
whether they will make it
to Güven Park and then
the subway station?
How many are unwilling
to actually get on
that damn subway car?
How many would think
this pain is much better
than the beating and
bleeding hole in their hearts?
As the man I love said once,
sometimes the pain on the outside
is better than the one on the inside.
I must agree with him tonight.
Just as I find a strange peace
in this gray and often abhorred city,
I’ve started to find an icy solace
in my aching bones
and my flesh fluctuating now
in a haze of colors—
purple, blue, green, and yellow.
I guess I love my colorful bruises
and I will remember these days
with always a smile.

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Ayşe Tekşen lives in Ankara, Turkey where she works as a research assistant at the Department of Foreign Language Education, Middle East Technical University. Her short stories and poems have been included in Gravel, After the Pause, The Write Launch, Uut Poetry, The Fiction Pool, What Rough Beast, Scarlet Leaf Review, Seshat Literary Magazine, Neologism Poetry Journal, Anapest, Red Weather, Ohio Edit, SWWIM Every Day, The Paragon Journal, Arcturus, Constellations, the Same, The Mystic Blue Review, Jaffat El Aqlam, and Brickplight. Her work has also appeared or is forthcoming in Willow Literary Magazine and Slink Chunk Press.