Login   Sign Up 


The Sunday Stripper

by Zettel 

Posted: 07 October 2004
Word Count: 187

Font Size

Printable Version
Print Double spaced

Content Warning
This piece and/or subsequent comments may contain strong language.

Adapted in the light of useful comments. Views?

A Northern Pub. Sunday's 'entertainment'.

The Sunday Stripper

When the Sunday Stripper's music
bumped and ground to a halt
across the red-faced silence
the ageing bully cried
"keep going lass, I'll sing for thee"
and the answering roar belied
its echoing of fear.
As well-scrubbed coal roughed hands
groped dog-eared dirty books
a bit of extra profit
peddled on the side,
she displayed her life-soiled sexual wares
demanding penetration,
all she got was stares.
As hate surged over longing
she, knowing, made them laugh and
as the comforting wave of humour broke
she smiled at her private joke.
"Come on luv, let's do thee" -
she nods, but he sneers to his mates
as she thrusts her sex towards him
exulting victory.
"I could do thee some good lass" -
the vanquished saving face,
so she swings her breasts towards him
with contemptuous taunting grace
"I'll fuck tha' rigid tha' dirty cow"
the handsome face contorts;
her exit shouts "I doubt it."
In the space she leaves behind her
only the real dark forces
are standing naked now.


Favourite this work Favourite This Author

Comments by other Members

Nell at 07:53 on 08 October 2004  Report this post
Zettel, this is an extraordinary piece of work, and must I feel, be the realistic telling of an actual event. Although on the surface it appears straightforward there's a terrible air of menace that hangs over it; from ...the red-faced silence/the aging bully cried... through chosen words like fear, stares, hate, sneers and the last lines which sum the poem up. I was perplexed by ...As well-scrubbed coal-roughed hands/grabbed dirty books... I guess that the books were looked at in a different context, but the present tense/situation made those lines seem odd. ...she displayed her life-soiled sexual wares/inviting penetration... is explicit, shocking, ...as hate surged over longing... the air in the pub/poem becomes heavy with supressed violence. That changes with the following lines - the reader relaxes slightly - it'll be all right - but no, the violence of that spoken line hits the solar plexus with Tysonic force. I wasn't sure about ...the vanquished saving face... it seemed from another age almost, but see what others think. You could think about using a different word - deafeated or humbled perhaps? I think you could look carefully at punctation too, in places some adjustment may be needed. I was glad that you left her with power at the end - this is a disturbing piece and the last lines are profound.



Typo alert: defeated.

Al T at 12:56 on 08 October 2004  Report this post
Hi Z, this is a very edgy, raw and thought-provoking piece. You raise some big issues here about sexual and power dynamics. You portray so well the "ageing bully" who is so far down the foodchain, that he inevitably turns his frustration and anger on the only people with less power than him: women and children.

I sympathised with the stripper, but felt you could have added to this by giving some idea of her motivation for doing the job - an abandoned single mum, perhaps? Or have you deliberately left out motivation to make her a more ambiguous character?

It also made me think of Hanif Kureishi's film My Son the Fanatic which sets poor Muslim men against hookers in a grimy part of Bradford.

Good stuff.



PS I realise that there are no children in this piece, but I'm talking about the kind of man you've drawn. I hate bullies.

joanie at 16:33 on 08 October 2004  Report this post
Zettel, this made me shudder. I pictured a scene from several years ago; I think it was the 'well scrubbed coal roughed hands'.

You have built up the tension and potential violence perfectly. After the closing lines we are left with a feeling of foreboding, I thought. Nell felt that the stripper was left with power; I just wondered, "What about the next time?" However, I have just re-read and felt differently - more positive.

A very strong piece. I, too, wondered if it was based on a true account.


James Graham at 21:28 on 08 October 2004  Report this post
Nell's right about this poem, especially the air of menace that runs through it - conveyed by some well-chosen and well-placed words that leap out of a description of what might seem to some people no more than an evening's entertainment: words such as 'ageing bully', 'hate surged over longing', and more - Nell has quoted them already. I also agree on one or two slightly iffy lines. I can't see what you mean about dirty books - no doubt some of these men have them at home, but the way they're introduced into the poem doesn't quite make sense. 'Vanquished' too doesn't seem right, though the thought in that line is ok and relevant.

I note too the unobtrusive but telling rhymes, which hold the poem together and give it just a touch of a ballad or song effect, in line with the supposed entertainment but ironic as soon as we are aware of the 'real dark forces'. The last rhyme, of 'now' with 'cow', is especially telling, because of the huge contrast between the man's words and the last line. In basic technical terms this rhyme is exactly right, because neither word seems in the least forced, or placed there in order to rhyme. This very natural rhyme strengthens the already powerful ending of the poem.

'Real' in 'real dark forces' seems to me a key word. What we have in this sex show is, supposedly, a pretence. It's not supposed to be real, just a show, just a game. But all through the poem we're aware of the reality of the ugly emotions going on in this place. They're partly beneath the surface but come to the surface very readily. So 'real dark forces' coupled with 'standing naked' sum up the sense of lurking reality we already have from previous lines, and sharpen our sense of the grotesqueness of the show.

I don't think there's any problem with punctuation until the line 'Come on luv...', but after that I think you need to add some punctuation. Actually some of the lines in the second half of the poem are complete sentences, e.g. 'The handsome face contorts.' 'Her exit shouts "I doubt it"'. But too many full stops would slow the poem down too much. How about the following:

Dash after 'thee', comma after 'mates', 'him'. Dash after 'lass'. Full stop after 'grace'. Commas after 'cow', 'contorts', full stop after 'doubt it'. The commas, especially after cow and contorts, would give a sense of one thing happening quickly after another. Another alternative would be to have no line-end punctuation in the poem at all. I'm not totally convinced of my own punctuation advice here! You'll probably come up with something simpler and better.

But it's well worth sorting out the little that needs to be sorted out, because this is a strong and powerful poem.


Zettel at 21:36 on 08 October 2004  Report this post
Thanks for such thoughtful and positive comments. I was a bit anxious about this one - but as I hoped, you didn't let me down.

I was so tempted to provide context from the start but felt it would sound 'justificatory' and I didn't want that. Thankfully you've opened that up for me.

So: yes it was a real event. We'd been invited to a northern mining town (that shall be nameless) by friends we hadn't seen for years. Both teachers in senior positions. They identified with 'working class' people despite their middle calss backgrounds. As I come from working class background it was slightly amusing to be 'initiated' by a boy from the suberbs into the male dominated community by going to the working men's club and then for what I thought was just the tradional male Sunday lunchtime drink.

I gather now that strip shows are a regular feature of Sunday lunchtimes in the pubs up there. Apparently the same girls tour around 2 or 3 pubs at a time doing the same show.

Laid out on the table was a kind of 'dirty' book fair. When this girl came on 'stage' (They'd moved a few tables while she changed in the toilets) she was the only woman in the room. And the atmosphere was as disturbing and unsettling as you have picked up from the poem. Yet for me she was psychologically and emotionally in charge. It is hard to imagine anyone more vulnerable: yet no one could have looked less like a 'victim' (deeper down you're probably right Ad but this was where she was and she had real guts as far as I am concerned; and you wouldn't dare pity her).

I know people always say this, but there was a complete absence of eroticism. Instead an air of dangerous, unexamined, powerful emotions which could tip into some form of violence in a moment. I gather it often happens. I know it sounds weird but this literally totally exposed woman was proud and defiant and more than a match for any man present as long as violence didn't ensue and she knew how to use humour to defuse even that.

I'm not sentimentalising her, this was a grubby, nasty, exploitative situation but if pride and self-respect are any measure there was only one person in that room who was not actually demeaned by being there.

I found it an extraordinary event and started the poem then. When I came across it recently I felt it linked with the prose piece I have posted called 'Flirting', so thought I'd dust it off, tidy it up a bit and post it.

Don't get me wrong: these men happened to be miners but it could happen anywhere. And it just won't do to try to distance oneself entirely from 'these kind' of men: not with 95% of violence and abuse to women and God help us, children, perpetrated by men. This goes deeper than that. And its awful, underlying power was filling that room in a most disturbing way.

Now you se what bedevils my poetry - the philosopher's obsesssion with content - it always overloads the poetic form.

Nell I'll have a look at the punctuation. Unfortunately my punctuation is more instinctive than methodical. And Lynne Truss hasn't helped: I now spray colons and semi-colons about with thoughtless abandon.


Sorry its so long. It's my vice.




James thanks for the specific punctuation advice. I was tempted by the none-at-all solution but that seem to make the flow of meaning ambiguous and therefore distracting. Yet I also agree with you that too much would slow it down too much. I'll think about all the comments and try to polish a bit. Thanks again


Fearless at 09:23 on 09 October 2004  Report this post

Great piece - I like this kind of poetry/social commentary. The poem reminds me of two things:

- A photograph taken by Don McCullin, c. early 1970s, with all the guys standing up close to the stage while the stripper bends over. A woman is seated at a nearby table watching the spectacle.

- A related thought...in a sub-dom relationship, who has the power and control? It's the submissive.

Write on, for you have a lot to say,


Zettel at 19:35 on 09 October 2004  Report this post
Hi Fearless

Evoking Don Cullin is praise indeed.

There are 2 remarks that come to mind from your thought:

I have heard this situatiom called the 'tyranny of the weak' but in some of the contexts this would be grotesque.

The jargon has it of course that such relationships reflect 'co-dependence'. (Not all views quoted reflect the opinions of the management)

Thanks for the comments


Fearless at 11:14 on 10 October 2004  Report this post

Thanks for your response. I am still wondering, years on, about man's relationship with self and his fellow man. What is the difference between pain and pleasure? Is there one? Perhaps I should re-read Sade's 'Justine...'.

Did you ever see the film 'Quills'? Anyway...

'Tyranny of the weak'...not a far cry from 'survival of the fittest', is it? But that brain burp aside, the issue of 'co-dependence' is apt. A submissive may only feel fulfilled when dominated, but a dom can only be fulfilled when allowed to dominate (civil rights, and other societal changes makes that rarer these days in general society). But why is such fulfilment sought from others and not from within?

Somehow, I think we have missed something, and the BigJoke[TM], if there is one, is on us.


BTW, I was surprised last week to meet what I sometimes regard as an oxymoron (since the times of LBJ at least) - a Texan Democrat (although he doesn't like Kerry).

James Graham at 14:10 on 10 October 2004  Report this post
It's clear now how the dirty books fit into the scene. Could that be made clearer in the poem by adding a line? '...grabbed dirty books/from the side-tables'? But you may not want to add that.

More important, I can see - in the poem itself, not only from your comment - the emotional strength of this woman, the way she makes this her scene and somehow doesn't let herself be demeaned by it. The poem challenges anyone who just clings to the high moral ground and deplores all this sort of 'entertainment' in the abstract. We may condemn sexploitation in general but we have to see the particular as well, otherwise we're being too simplistic.


The Walrus at 17:59 on 10 October 2004  Report this post
Haven't read through the lengthy comments!! but just wanted to say, I really enjoyed this. Original and quite brilliant.

The Walrus

Zettel at 23:48 on 11 October 2004  Report this post
Thanks Walrus.

James: I've posted an adapted version to address a particular point you made. I'd appreciate your opinion.

As for your general comments. I agree entirely. Because of a universally shallow treatment of sex in our culture driven by its all-purpose selling power, we tend to forget how deep and sometimes dark is the territory that is exploited for profit.

Women like this one are so to speak in the front line of repressed and confused sexuality, for reasons both biological and worse, cultural, especially films, they confront and face down the deeply disturbing blurring of the line between sex and violence.

Two things struck me recently: a television programme interviewing prostitutes in a legal brothel in Texas. This was a secure, controlled, well-ordered environment where no girl had been physically injured for years and where obvious health risks to the girls and the clients were properly monitored. These were not 'victims' - they received a good share of their earnings and they saw themselves performing a valuable, much needed social service. They disagreed with many feminist attitudes to them and their work but with a great deal more good grace and humour than those who would use their chosen situation for their own purposes.

The second was a chilling reminder of how deep and dark these things run: a news report that a young paedophile the police were going to arrest, cut of his hand with an electric saw before they arrived. As the father of two children, I need no lessons in hating paedophilia, but anyone who cannot feel some sense of compassion about such a situation is for me, lacking something.

Sorry - enough heaviness. If the men in my poem made me ashamed of my gender, the woman filled me with admiration. So oddly, for me a hopeful poem.


James Graham at 19:53 on 12 October 2004  Report this post
The extra lines about the dirty books do make it clearer. 'Groped' is good, and in 'dog-eared dirty books' there's a hint that the books are actually stained or finger-marked as well as being dirty in the other sense. 'Lying' is maybe a bit weak - how about 'peddled on the side'?

The punctuation is still quite loose but doesn't get in the way of following the poem through. It might be just as well to leave it, as it helps the poem to have immediacy, a sense of it being spontaneous response to this experience.

'They confront and face down the deeply disturbing blurring of the line between sex and violence'. Spot on. The poem demonstrates that.


engldolph at 15:55 on 13 October 2004  Report this post
Hi Z

What a strong capturing of the stark and gritty human landscape of northern England. With family from Yorkshire, I can vouch for the authenticity of the feelings you are putting on the page.

The language it muscular, no-nonsense and terse, like the subject.
I liked the way you brought in speech into the commentary.

Some favortie lines:

* across the red-faced silence

* As well-scrubbed coal roughed hands

* she, knowing, made them laugh (a crucial line to understanding the balance of power here)

* "I'll fuck tha' rigid tha' dirty cow"
the handsome face contorts;
her exit shouts "I doubt it." (what a great come back)

In the space she leaves behind her
only the real dark forces
are standing naked now.
(great ending..like an echo resonating)

I liked the way you are not too judemental, but, I think, capture the fact that both are driven to this desperate level of human interaction. The coal-face de-humanizes.

Agree with general suggestions to clarify a few things, but I think this a great piece.


Zettel at 23:41 on 13 October 2004  Report this post

Thanks. From the little I know about poetry, it has always seemed to me that we should do our best to decribe, not judge, and try at least to do that well enough to capture something of the truth of things. Therefore as a Northerner, it is very encourgaing to hear that you feel this has captured something at least of that. I agree entirely about coal and mining. My working class background ws the fishing industry and this could just as easily been a group of fishermen. And while it was not the point of the poem I am absolutely certain that if the bully had got further out of hand, there wereplenty of deecent men there who would immediately have leapt to the defence of the stripper.

An illustration of the complexity here is that coal miners, fishermen and steel men for example shared a special kind of pride in a very traditional form of masculinity. I'm neither nostalgic for it nor sentimental about it, now that all three industries have virutally disappeared, there is a loss of pride in the courage and fortitude of men sharing dangerous and appalling working conditions. There always more fishermen killed at wr work each year and most other occupations yet to see men of this tradition wither, lost without jobs and therefore purpose or putting transistors into TV's on an assembly line, is a tragedy of very mixed feelings. It would take a better poet than me (I? - one of my blind spots) to capture that.

Thanks again for the comments



Sorry that is a disaster of punctuation and typing etc. It is a bot frustrating one can't correct them through owner edit of comments in the way one can on the original piece.


Ticonderoga at 16:40 on 14 October 2004  Report this post
Z, What a truly excellent poem! Totally agree with all the praise that's been heaped upon it. Dark, menacing, humorous, humane and really rather scary!! Rock on!


Zettel at 20:53 on 14 October 2004  Report this post
Thanks Mike


Lawrenco at 00:04 on 15 October 2004  Report this post
Well without repeating everyone else it was a great piece,when I read it`s if i`m seeing it in grainy black and white.
The battle ground of the stripper and the punter in rather precarious ,circumstances.
Make a good short film,or perhaps thats the effect it has.

Zettel at 00:29 on 15 October 2004  Report this post
Hi Lawrenco

The film thought is very interesting. The only film I know which has looked closely as some of the uncomfortable issues here (for both men and women) is Jane Campion's 'In The Cut' whioh bombed at the box office - perhaps not surprisingly.

Thanks for the comments


To post comments you need to become a member. If you are already a member, please log in .