Hookah Saturnalia

Belly–dancing Friday & Saturday nights
 Ask about our cakes and pastries
 together on the hookah menu
It feels illegal
 this fantastic peace–pipe
 imported from a distant land
 where — I imagine — it is the usual
 mouthpiece playing the timeless tune of friendship
 in some tent with cushions and languishing heat
We talk of brownies
 as we inhale deeply
 blowing dragon’s breath from our nostrils
 attempting Gandalf rings
We talk of communism and kibbutz
 as the silent flat–screen
 entrapped in its frame
 trails on pitching capitalism
Abruptly comes the belly dancer
 sword balanced on head
 smirk balanced on lips
 a knowing corniness goes unheeded
 tables laugh giddy with defense
It feels illegal
 this brazen display
 with its own language it speaks fluently
That middle–aged Persian
 to whom I earlier beamed
 glares at her — all the women do —
 not enviously
 at beauty speaking its truth
 which all possess and most mostly murmur
All part of the act
 dancer coaxes handsome man
 to mimic her poorly in happy embarrassment
 revealing the difference between babble and eloquence
Then the young, curly-haired maiden stands
 and with so natural an expression on her face
 silently undulates a state of grace
 echoing phrases of child’s play
 the staff see her and she is suddenly attired in native spangles
Everyone understands the dance now
 the entire table of Persians join them
 the Africans on the other side of us, too
And me, I wax on
 about the bump and grind
 with a generous tutor
A beautiful woman entreats
 to dance with the dancer
 and share in the speech
O happy buzz, good–natured delirium
 The things we are saying this Saturnalia
 I am always hearing them
Thank you, hookah, magic lamp,
 who cleans the substance’s impurities
 and turns smoke white
for the young maiden’s sweet grace
 and a pleasant night