It is a breach of etiquette to use another woman's cosmetics--
that is for young girls
painting each other's new, blank faces
until a woman they can be emerges.
One must never walk out of one's front door
without looking one's best.
Beauty shows respect for others as well as for one's self,
and lets lesser women know
to lower their eyes.
It invites men to blind themselves
on the unexpectedly keen edge
of genuine feminine power.
Having spent the night with Athena,
and with no time to go home,
I went to the SAV-RITE,
leaned my claymore against the glass display case,
and described the things I needed.
"Are you a winter or a summer?"
it said one thing that a sleety rain began turning to snow,
the flakes collecting in my horse's mane
as we stood tossing our heads and shifting from foot to foot
under a giant Revlon ad.
But that was contradicted by the lilies
blooming white as death,
white as a bride,
around our legs and up to our knees.
"I'm not sure," I told her.
I have come across Persia, Africa and France.
I have killed and I have enslaved
all who opposed me.
my red curls became damaged,
with no product to be had.
I wore a helmet
for six weeks on campaign
to hide my split, untrimmed ends
and my shame.
In Athena's arms last night,
I confessed what she already knew--
that my beauty is limited
and by the boundaries of artifice.
She kissed me,
wrapping herself around me like silken fog around an evergreen.
I wept to think
that she would do that;
that she would call me "baby",
and value me
as she does her owl and all those she loves the most.
My skin lacks a smooth, even tone.
I am blemished from sun, fire, injury, and fever.
I turned away from the SAV-RITE counter,
and went back to Athena,
where I found her pressing my hand-written poems to her
into coherent volumes.
I raised my eyes.
I asked her if she would rather be with Aphrodite
She took my hands,
dark with blood under their blunt, unpolished nails.
"Come back to bed,"
and so I did,