My mother never appeared in public
without lipstick. If we were going out,
I’d have to wait by the door until
she painted her lips and turned
from the hallway mirror,
put on her gloves and picked up her purse,
opening the purse to see
if she’d remembered tissues.
After lunch in a restaurant
she might ask,
“Do I need lipstick?”
If I said yes,
she would discretely turn
and refresh her faded lips.
Opening the black and gold canister,
she’d peer in a round compact
as if she were looking into another world.
Then she’d touch her lips to a tissue.
Whenever I went searching
in her coat pocket or purse
for coins or candy
I’d find, crumpled, those small white tissues
covered with bloodred kisses.
I’d slip them into my pocket,
along with the stones and feathers
I thought, back then, I’d keep.