The Masquerade

by Collin Kelley

Atlanta, 1990

The night we almost died,
crushed at a one-hit wonder concert,
comes back to me
when the club announces it's closing.
An ancient excelsior mill
turned industrial dance hall,
I spent three years mapping 
every dark corner, finding secret 
places for sex and drugs, 
dancing and stomping in a sunken 
disco for misdirected youth.

I can't remember who bought
the tickets for Deee-Lite, maybe Heather,
Tina's momentary femme fatale, 
but we marched up the creaking stairs
to Heaven, oversold and invaded 
by suburban yuppies and kids.
The old floor cracked and gave
under unfamiliar weight. 

When Groove is in the Heart began,
I felt my feet leave the floor, 
pinned between shoulders,
my glasses slapped into a crush
that inhaled and exhaled like an accordion. 
I saw Heather go down, sink 
into a sea of shirts and skins.
A year before her breast reduction,
Tina would wear scars across her chest
from being pushed over a barricade.

It was drag queen Jeff, who hated me
for sleeping with his ex, that saved us.
Lifting Heather over his head, clearing
a path as Tina and I found use 
for elbows and knees.

The Masquerade — this firetrap 
where I cried over boys, overdosed
in the overflowing toilets, gave 
secret handshake hand jobs —
is becoming luxury apartments.
The hipsters and transplants
erasing history with their IKEA.
The night we almost died 
buried under thick-pile, my map
good for nothing but excelsior. 

section breakExcelsior: soft shavings used for packing fragile goods or stuffing furniture