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
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
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,
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,
as far away;
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
while borrowing lip gloss.
But the bad press
I got for headbands
you mutter and frown, rotating
me in your fingers
like a rotisserie chicken.
your driver says
and pulls to the curb
of the United Nations
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,
back to back
and my ten tiny prongs
unclasp and expand.
You nestle me in
the separated hair,
pat your liberated face,
then you’re out
of the car onto a flag-
into a lobby full of maroon
and oak furniture.
You spot a friend and wave,
as you hug.
I need a gift
for my girlfriend,
he says with an accent.
Who are your favorite
The heavy doors
to the assembly hall
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.
you find a seat
with other Americans
and a man on stage
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,
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?
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Great work, Marianne!
Aug 11, 2018 at 17:00