[Elvira H. D., 1924–2019]
You love a red lip. The dimples are
extra currency, though you take care to keep
powder from caking those charmed valleys.
Mascara: check. Blush? Oh, yes.
And a hat is never wrong
except evenings in the clubs: there
a deeper ruby and smoldering eye
will do the trick, with tiny embellishments—
a ribbon or jewel, perhaps a flower—
if one is feeling especially flirty or sad.
Until Rosie fired up her rivets, flaunting
was a male prerogative; now, you and your girls
have lacquered up and pinned on your tailfeathers,
fit to sally forth and trample each plopped heart
quivering at the tips of your patent-leather
Mary Janes. This is the only power you hold onto,
ripped from the dreams none of you believe
are worth the telling. Instead of mumbling,
why not decorate? Even in dim light
how you glister, sloe-eyed, your smile in flames.
Although it is night, I sit in the bathroom, waiting. Sweat prickles behind my knees, the baby-breasts are alert. Venetian blinds slice up the moon; the tiles quiver in pale strips. Then they come, the three seal men with eyes as round As dinner plates and eyelashes like sharpened tines. They bring the scent of licorice. One sits in the washbowl, One on the bathtub edge; one leans against the door. "Can you feel it yet?" they whisper. I don't know what to say, again. They chuckle, Patting their sleek bodies with their hands. "Well, maybe next time." And they rise, Glittering like pools of ink under moonlight, And vanish. I clutch at the ragged holes They leave behind, here at the edge of darkness. Night rests like a ball of fur on my tongue.
From Selected Poems by Rita Dove, published by Random House. © 1993 by Rita Dove. Reprinted by permission of the author. All rights reserved.
I work a lot and live far less than I could,
but the moon is beautiful and there are
blue stars . . . . I live the chaste song of my heart.
—Garcia Lorca to Emilia Llanos Medinor,
November 25, 1920
The moon is in doubt
over whether to be
a man or a woman.
There’ve been rumors,
all manner of allegations,
bold claims and public lies:
He’s belligerent. She’s in a funk.
When he fades, the world teeters.
When she burgeons, crime blossoms.
O how the operatic impulse wavers!
Dip deep, my darling, into the blank pool.
Copyright © 2015 by Rita Dove. Originally published in Poem-a-Day on April 24, 2015, by the Academy of American Poets.