The Arty Semite

POEM: 'Lilith at the Cosmetics Counter'

By Lynn Levin

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Lilith’s face made a face at her
in the lighted mirror at the cosmetics counter.
Craggy, ravined, parched,
that thing above her neck looked like the Sinai Desert.
Yesterday militants high on toxic rumors
baby killer! man raper!
had run her out of town. Again.
She needed some ego first aid.
New address, new name, plastic surgery—
all that in good time.

“You look as one who has returned
from a long journey. This makeup will help,”
said the saleslady. She tilted her head
toward Lilith as if to say
we’re all in this together
then tried to sign her up for a store credit card:
20% off all first-day purchases
including cosmetics!
The lady also happened to be
missing a front tooth.
Her false eyelashes were so thick
she gave everyone the hairy eyeball.

She began to fuss with her brushes
(probably not clean)
and pots of color
(no doubt contaminated by frequent double dipping).
Lilith was about to put herself
under the other woman’s power
when she detected a whiff of sabotage
in the jasmine of her perfume.
Advice from an old lover tapped Lilith on the shoulder:
never buy makeup from someone
who’s not as good looking as you.

Lilith glanced at the high-def mirror.
The wilderness of her face looked back at her
with weird familiarity. Haggard
is good enough for me, she decided,
thanked her saboteur and slid from the chair.
She knew her fate was a bitch
but it was her bitch.
And that was the beauty of it.

From “Miss Plastique” (Ragged Sky Press, 2013)


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