Anthony W. Pahl

THE STRIPPER

“Getcha gear orf” we all shouted
(The almond eyes grew wider).
The hat was passed among the blokes
to raise the money needed.

Papa San said, “It’s not enough”,
so we shouted even louder.
The sweat poured from his yellow skin
as toward the stage we crowded.

He saw our surge,
he sensed our urge
so to the throng he ceded
“Go my child, show them your best,
for you are theirs this evening.”

As she went on and clothes came off
for once we had no voices.
No cheers or whistles or slow hand claps
not even eyelids blinking.

From our eyes the teardrops fell,
the hope of memory fading.
‘Cos the girls back home were not like this,
they all had indoor plumbing.

Author’s Note: I wrote this poem straight after the Anzac Day Parade in 1988 as a few mates and I sat around in the RAAF Sergeants Mess on Saint Kilda Road, Melbourne, drinking and reminiscing about our time together in Vietnam.

The poem recalls a Filipino show, which included strippers, performed at the Ettamogah Club (the Other Ranks Club) in the RAAF cantonment in Vung Tau in about March 1970. The stripper turned out to be a female impersonator.