She was completely naked, holding her poetry up to her chest, and with a booming voice, read her villanelle.
The amazing thing about the Poet was not that she was naked, necessarily, but that she was so at ease with being so. Knowing this poet outside the reading, I’d come to think of her as a wonder woman, a larger-than-life force that drew the attention of the room to her smile and gesticulating hands. She seemed more herself without clothes on than with!
As she read on stage, a man came up the bar I was standing behind, he looked nervous and deeply uncomfortable. “This place could get shut down!” he whispered. “Do you guys have a permit for this? This is practically public masturbation!” I stared at him, agog, more shocked at his clear discomfort than the nudity. His eyes were wide, his fingers gripping the glass of beer he was holding. He didn’t even look at the stage, but at anyone who could listen. “Has this happened before? Has there been naked people on that stage before?” He continued, urgently.
“Yes. I’ve seen plenty of body parts on that stage.” I replied, smiling, trying to keep him calm. It’s people like you who would find this offensive and get us in “trouble” with god-knows-who would listen. I thought. Just leave if you don’t like it.
A woman standing next to the uncomfortable man leaned in. “I’ve seen naked people here, too.” She whispered. The Man still looked deeply unsettled as the performing poet’s words were cried over the rest of the room. The Man’s clear discomfort made him more naked than the poet, I could see the fear in his eyes as clearly as if he had no pants on. I felt nervous, suddenly. The fear rolling off of him like a bad stink. “This is art.” The woman next to him continued. There was a silence, then our attention was pulled back to the stage as the poet finished to the uproarious applause of the supportive audience.
The Man disappeared, silently, and I cheered in my head.
The woman who was talking to him made eye contact with me. She leaned in and said, “He was just uncomfortable because that poet was not the image of typical female beauty. He didn’t know what to do with himself because I don’t think he’s ever seen a real woman before.” I nodded in agreement, unsure of what to say to that, the nervous rolling eyes of The Man still seared into my retina. I glanced over at the Poet who was now pulling her clothes on as easily as one might toss a towel into a laundry bin. There was no shame on her face, no embarrassment, no apologies…
Two guys walked in 30 seconds later. I asked them for their entrance (which is to buy a drink at the bar). They each bought a beer and waded into the room to watch the next poet on stage, none the wiser, they probably had no idea that just 5 minutes prior there was a naked woman in the room. Would they have cared? I felt deeply defensive of the act. Damn right, that Poet can be as naked as she damn well wants to be. I thought. That takes some tough tits to do. In fact, that was so tough that it made a grown man retreat with his metaphorical tail between his legs.
Give me strength like that, I wished inwardly. After the reading was over, I went over to the Poet and hugged her feeling immensely proud. “You should have seen the look on that guy’s face!” I told her excitedly.
November 11, 2013 at 8:15 pm by Natalie Allen