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White Eyeliner to Hillary and other poems

White Eyeliner to Hillary and other poems
Eight poems by the Assistant Professor of Creative Writing and Publishing at Missouri Western State University as part of World Poetry/Prose Portfolio [WPP], curated by Sudeep Sen

White Eyeliner to Hillary


The cocaine of makeup,
I turn an exhausted face
into a hopped-up, hyped-out
who’s-ready-to-party
mask. Just ask the stylist
who, after your flight
from L.A. to Brooklyn,
dabbed then smudged me
on the inner corners of your eyes.
At that night’s debate
you were brighter than
Bernie’s hair, your skin
the highest-watt porch light
on a twinkly street. Come
September, a cough
blazed your lungs, burning
hours off your sleep regimen;
the doctor gave you pills
and said pneumonia while
the stylist triple-traced me
along your lower eyelids.
And that’s how you arrived
at the 9/11 commemoration,
looking impossibly awake,
your fried, bloodshot eyes
not as noticeable as
my cheery chandelier hue.
It’s too bad nobody applied me
to your legs, which buckled,
or your tongue as men
helped you into a van.
To Chelsea’s apartment,
you croaked, while back
at the park, friends like me
wanted another swipe at you.

Brow Brush to Hillary


Your world’s a surplus of old, scruffy men—
furry-eared judges, diplomats whose teeth
match buttered popcorn, senators who spend
more on cigars than anti-aging cream.

Don’t get me started on their eyebrow nests.
Hairs sprout north, south, east, west, as if neglect’s
in vogue, as if the longest, wiry pests
wave at their brothers — stubbly chin and neck.

Meanwhile, I rake your clipped brows into place,
frequently pausing so stylists can pluck
a few distracting hairs, or fill bald space
they over-plucked. The next unshaven shmuck
who wishes you good luck before a speech
will see me bristle — luck is men’s private beach.


Mascara to Hillary


You don’t realize how good
you have it. To turn the heads
of Egyptian bachelors

in 4000 BC, women mashed
dried crocodile poop
with kohl and honey, a vile paste

into which they dipped Q Tip-shaped bones,
then coated their lashes
with one hand, the other

pinching their nose. In ancient Rome
women burned fruit pits and flower petals
then squeezed plump elderberries

over the ashes, determined despite
juice-stained fingers
and smoke-steeped hair

to paint sludge on their lashes.
You don’t appreciate how safe
I am now, not like in 1933

when a man invented
eyelash dye—coal tar sold in tubes
with little brushes; when a woman

in a hospital wailed that her eyes
were bonfires, it was too late,
her corneas

settling into blindness.
I could be newly waterproof,
its first recipe half-turpentine

so swimming pools reeked
of pine and women in them rubbed red,
itchy eyes. Lucky you

to be around in 2016
with my curvy, self-coating wand,
my tube with a silver ring on top 

for scraping off excess liquid—
a perfect mixture of pigment,
wax and tiny fibers for thickening

your lashes. Yet minutes before a debate
you bat me away
to review your notes. Mr. Trump

and his entourage saunter
down the hall and you glimpse
his plain face, his untouched

pockmarks, his spider-veined cheeks.
Masked by his whistle, you whisper to a stylist
Does he know how good he has it?

Eye Shadow to Hillary


In the bag where I live, I brag
to new makeup that I used to touch
your eyelids, painting them taupe with an arc

of soft peach just below each eyebrow.
I describe the day I met you, when my owner,
your stylist, opened my rectangular lid

to reveal all twenty-four shades
and you pointed to my lightest corner
and said Those colors look good.

Powders and creams Ooh at your compliment.
I never tell them you said Nothing garish.
You may have thought my violet or burnt orange

was too risky for someone running for president,
or heard bold colors on pale eyelids
look too clownish;

the truth is, more than you
wearing the same corner of me every day,
I’m most proud of one Friday morning

at a black women’s symposium
when you shared a makeup room
with two other speakers.

Your stylist finished your face
an hour early, turned to the women
and said I’m a big fan. Can I do your makeup?

Then she dipped into my emerald,
cerulean, tangerine and fuchsia,
tickling parts of me for the first time,

robust shades that mellowed to soft glow,
contrasting beautifully against their dark skin.
When the crowd began chanting

your name, the makeup room emptied.
I never learned the black women’s names.
I dream of a day my owner works

for a presidential hopeful who’s not white
and more of my shades are dipped into,
her eyelids ushering in a rainbow.


Retexturizing Cream to Hillary


What I wanted to do was soften and feminize her look and make her someone women can totally relate to. —Kriss Soterion, makeup artist


When Kriss brought me to you, she’d just
mixed me up in her car — an impromptu blend
of oil, water and dye with a little acid
stirred in for burning off dried-up skin cells.
Like twins, we were born seconds apart —
me, a new cream, and you, radiant.

Kriss smeared me on creases around your eyes,
above the bridge of your nose
and beside the corners of your mouth
called crow’s feet and marionette lines 
cute names for hated wrinkles. This’ll sting,
she said. You asked if she meant me or aging.

When you took the stage that night in ’07,
my light-reflective properties made you glow
with a youth that rivaled Obama’s,
a calm that outdid Edwards’, a shine brighter
than Biden’s frosty comb-over. Emails
poured in to Kriss asking how she did it.

Others didn’t ask, assuming Botox
or plastic surgery. Soon speculation soared
to dangerous heights; women voters 
Kriss wanted to like you saw in your taut face
their shortcomings, as familiar 
as air, as habitual as cosmetic chemistry.


Lip Gloss to Hillary


I’m sorry that we did not win this election for the values we share and the vision we hold for our country. — Hillary Clinton, concession speech


Who knows why you decided, of all words,
to say sorry? History didn’t force

you to; men in your place, looking tired, hurt,
have groaned I regret and The failure’s mine, not yours

but never sorry — a word women drop
less if they’ve goofed than if they want to seem

non-threatening and soft. Like soda pop,
was sorry sweet refreshment to redeem

your image after such a heated race?
Or did you see what fans saw — a new world

where science, immigrants, health, a broad tax base
were gone — and took the blame like a good girl?

I can’t help thinking I was there as grease
to loosen your pursed lips, let sorry leak.


Scrunchie to Hillary


Looped around your ponytail,
I traveled the world looking
past your ear, over your shoulder.

Your standard Secretary greeting —
So nice to meet you — rang
like a well-worn bell, followed

by a handshake, cheek-kissing
or, my favorite, a bow; you dipped
and beyond lowered heads

I could see fiery red pagodas,
Taiwan’s record-tall skyscraper,
banana-laden boats dotting deltas.

You visited 112 countries,
more than any other Secretary,
and a ponytail was practical —

quick, no stylist necessary.
Before every landing, you piled
your long hair into one hand

then scooped me up, stretched out
my elastic middle, threaded hair
through me, twisting until I was snug.

Back home, Americans mocked
my casual white cotton, just as 
they’ve mocked you forever.

Come, let’s return to Perth —
its gusty wind made you laugh
and reach back to press me closer.


Butterfly Clip to Hillary


Her less-than-perfect hair was not the issue, it was that she adorned it with a silver butterfly clip—an accessory most commonly worn by middle- and high- school girls. —Raquel Laneri, Forbes Magazine


The sun floats high
over Manhattan traffic—
if only your hair,
which you’ve grown out
in your new role
as Secretary of State,
could float
as far away;
shoulder-length strands
slip from behind your ears
and hang over your eyes
as you skim world news.
Here, try this,
your assistant says
and pulls me from her purse
where yesterday
her daughter
accidentally
dropped me
while borrowing lip gloss.
But the bad press
I got for headbands
and scrunchies…
you mutter and frown, rotating
me in your fingers
like a rotisserie chicken.
We’ve arrived,
your driver says
and pulls to the curb
of the United Nations
assembly building.
Quickly, you slide
your hands into the top
and sides of your hair,
gathering all but
long pieces in back,
then grip the half-
portion of hair
high and center
as your assistant
helps you open me—
pinching my unfurled,
spring-loaded
wings together
until they’re
back to back
and my ten tiny prongs
unclasp and expand.
You nestle me in
and around
the separated hair,
pat your liberated face,
then you’re out
of the car onto a flag-
edged sidewalk
into a lobby full of maroon
and oak furniture.
You spot a friend and wave,
his briefcase
knocking yours
as you hug.
I need a gift
for my girlfriend,
he says with an accent.
Who are your favorite
clothing designers?
The heavy doors
to the assembly hall
creak open
and men in suits
rush through them.
Would you ask
a man that question?
you say, barely smiling,
then take a step
toward the doors.
Once inside,
you find a seat
with other Americans
and a man on stage
booms Welcome,
world leaders.
What a title
you share with everyone
in this room,
such clout and power,
though I’ve seen
the embarrassing distractions
that come with
being a woman in your role.
My title, too,
promises more
than I actually am—
it’s nice to look
like a butterfly
and perch on heads,
but what good is this
existence if I can’t
fly, can’t glide
so freely in my body
it’s the only one I want?

Comments


*Comments will be moderated
Great work, Marianne!
Ana Royal
Aug 11, 2018 at 17:00