Chanel Brenner

Caked on. Blotted. Bleeding into the cracks.

Heartbreak Red, Nymphette, Orgasm.

When I was twenty-one,

my favorite shade was Matte Claret.

I thought it made me look older.

I’d layer it on in the bar bathroom,

while my best friend waited at the door.

Hold on, hold on,

I would say until they were perfect.

Andrew, Sean, Bill, the other Andrew.

My lucky lipstick.

Lots of kissing. Lots of fucking.

       Lipstick on the cheek.

       Lipstick on a napkin.

       Lipstick on a cock.

When I was twenty-eight,

the girl at the make-up counter said,

Discontinued, with her unforgiving gloss.

I replace it with Amande Sucree,

put it on in my cubicle at work,

examine my lips in a handheld mirror.

Count down the minutes to happy hour.

       Lipstick on a wineglass.

       Lipstick on a collar.

       Lipstick on my boss.

My new lucky shade.

His office. The bathroom.

The suite at the Ramada Inn.

In my thirties, Viva La Glam

made me look younger.

I’d put it on in the car. Check it out

in the rear view mirror of the mini-van.

Preschool pick-ups. The grocery store.

       Lipstick on a water bottle

       Lipstick on a Kleenex.

       Lipstick on a Luna bar.

Lipstick on my son’s cheek,

rubbed off with a thumb.

Quickies with my husband, who says,

You look better without it.

Chanel Brenner is the author of Vanilla Milk: a memoir told in poems, (Silver Birch Press, 2014). Her poems have appeared in Poet Lore, Rattle, Cultural Weekly, The Coachella Review, Diverse Voices Quarterly, West Trestle Review and others. Her poem, “What Would Wislawa Szymborska Do?” was displayed at the James Whitcomb Riley Museum in Indianapolis, Indiana; and her poem, “July 28th, 2012” won first prize in The Write Place At the Write Time’s contest, judged by Ellen Bass. In 2014, she was nominated for a Best of the Net award and a Pushcart Prize.

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