1. A Girl is a Container

Day one of seventh grade, I applied my mother’s
crimson Cherries in the Snow to my young pink lips.
We were all painted as we pushed through the halls.
In five different classrooms we sat open-mouthed
as five different teachers poured in five sets of facts.

2. A Young Woman is a Painting

On the first morning after the first time I had sex
with my first boyfriend, I applied dark eye shadow
in the employees’ lounge at Macy’s Herald Square
where I sold cosmetics the summer before college.
Tough and tragic, I wielded my little suede brush.

3. A Mother is a Lantern

My skin in the supermarket was almost green.
In those grad school years too busy for lipstick,
I wrote by lamp light while my kids slept. By day,
they mistook me for a grown lady or a lighthouse
or the glow when you press on your closed eyes.

4. An Old Woman is an Empty Frame

Back when I rode the commuter train to Macy’s,
the tunnels of Grand Central painted me with soot,
but I didn’t yet understand why the city homeless
would drag cast-off sofas into those arched tunnels,
or how much we crave beauty in the darkest caves.

~ ~ ~
Penelope Schott‘s most recent books are Lovesong for Dufur, about her small wheat-growing town in central Oregon; and Lillie Was a Goddess, Lillie Was a Whore, a verse history of prostitution.