Excerpt, Water at the Women's Edge: Poems by B.D. Love

Queen of Fist

We stole our mother’s lipstick,
cherry red, the black mascara,
sometimes shadow, powder, too,
and worked around the opening
the thumb and index finger make
when hands are closed, as if to clutch a coin.
First came lips, as lush as honeysuckle.
Eyes came next, most often blue,
with eyebrows arched like chapel roofs.

We venerated change.
One time I wrapped a rag
around my wrist and crowned
the whole thing with a wad
of cotton gauze. She looked
at first like some grim saint—
in Catholic school we’d read
such things, seen photographs—
a mummy martyred to virginity.
The flesh would mold in catacombs
but, we could rest assured,
such souls as those would blaze in heaven,
God the Father’s truest, purest flames.

We boys had other, earthly plans.
We stuck a cigarette from mother’s pack
between the puppet’s supple lips,
and made her oui and ooo-la-la!
like wild Parisian ladies on TV,
and made her coochie coochie-coo
like Charo in her silk captivity.

We made her wink and smooch,
though gagging every time she did,
and I had danced my puppet breathlessly
until my thumb began to ache
when I became possessed of what
I’d only later loathe to understand.
I stripped away the gown of rag.
I wiped and scraped and scoured
until the face of beatific lust,
a fist I’d innocently made,
became a shapeless, voiceless smear
of tan and black and red.

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