Wednesday, March 7, 2007

Marilyn and Madonna Wore It

When I read Poetry Thursday's prompt for the week, I immediatley thought of red lipstick, since I wore it for a little too long in high school. I decided to attempt a rewrite of a poem from my manuscript about my high school life and this totally unexpected memory came through. I know that this is really rough, but I was happy to finally be able to write about it.

Self Portrait, 1991

Red Lipstick

Each morning, I painted my lips dark red
with Wet N Wild 99 cent lipstick, number 516.
I dreamed myself invincible, as I blotted and pressed, powdered, blotted
and pressed my lips together until
I had a thick brown-red stain

seeped into my skin. I cranked
my music loud, listened to Rage
Against the Machine, and thought
I could, listened to The Cure
and waited for it, then skipped
breakfast, to avoid red marks on my teeth.

In school, I was invisible
next to all the other girls with blue-red
war paint smeared across their lips,
black kohl eyes hiding their true
intentions. I was just another one
skinny enough to squeeze through the crack

between the chinks on the high school fence,
while the police officer was busting kids for pot.
Instead of sleeping through Geometry, we
broke into our parents’ houses, with keys
hidden in secret pouches in our Pic N Save purses,
punched in the alarm codes before it went off.

My house had Bud Light and nosy neighbors, Elena’s
had a liquor cabinet with Sharpie lines drawn
on the bottle’s sides. We cracked open Cokes
and poured in whiskey and rum, vodka and peach
schnapps, and filled the bottles back up with water.
We invited the boys over after lunch

to watch them slam beers and mosh to Metallica.
One guy told us he went to juvie for assault
with a deadly weapon, pulled back his bangs
to show us his forehead, where he bashed the guys
skull open with his own. We sipped our drinks

from red Coke cans, whispered to each other.
One afternoon at Elena’s, her dad came home
early, found us curled on the couch, drunk and watching
MTV. Elena picked up our garbage and kicked
us out. Her father screamed at her in Russian
as we left, his face turning red and swollen.

The next morning, before school, she answered
the door, slowly, cringing as she moved. Her nightgown
slipped to show her shoulder covered in red welts.
Her father stood behind her, hand on the door frame
pushing the door until it clicked shut
and I walked back to school, alone.


Clockworkchris said...

This was amazing. Very similar to mine in a way-the abuse part at least. I ended in fighting back but the story you have is very gripping, I could not turn away. It's haunting yet beautiful.

DewyKnickers said...

Very gripping story. I hated the ending, I mean not the writing, but the abuse. I liked very much your descriptive way of moving us through your memories.



Emily said...

I really liked the way you re-created this high school world. Things like the wet 'n wild lipstick placed me firmly back in high school. And I like how it traveled to this other place. Really enjoyed this.

Poet with a Day Job said...

Intense poem J - I really love a lot of your line breaks - one face: last of the first stanza "stain" very great break.

The story in this poem reminds me of ym very good pal's poetry - which is a compliment!

Colorful Prose said...

It is not at all rough, it's perfect. Don't touch a word! It's full of truth.

Natalie said...

You can't express teenage experience better than that. The ending is harsh, and truthful, and concludes the poem so poignantly. I really enjoyed reading what was a 'rough' poem...

Sticking it in your eyes said...

Wonderfully told moment in time. I connected to the time very much. Personal yet universal.

Regina Clare Jane said...

Very intense poem here- but very well done. It makes me wonder what happened to Elena...

Jessica said...

Thank you to everyone who commented. I've been a little busy,, so I'm going to be celebrating Poetry Saturday and Poetry Sunday and making my way through the 100 odd links on the PT site.

Thank you chris and rose for your comments. I wish I could have fought back, but I've got remain true, in a respect, to what happened.

Emily -- For me, Wet N Wild lipstick *is* high school. Hooray for cheap cosmetics.

pwadj -- thanks for the link to your friend's site. I'll enjoy exploring her work.

colorful prose -- thanks for the encouragement -- I'm an obsessive reviser, so this will probably not be the final draft. But I'm glad you like it.

natalie and sticking -- I really appreciate your feedback. thanks for reading!

regina -- I wish I knew what happened to Elena too. I never saw her again, although I did once think I saw her driving a car down Ventura Blvd. in LA about 3 years later, but I'll never know for sure.

Kimberley McGill said...

So often poetic attempts at recreating teenage memories can be tedious and fall flat. This definitely does not fall flat! The poem pulled me in to its images and sounds and smells - very well done.

jillypoet said...

Oh this brought back memories! You did a fine job of bringing the reader right back to high school. The ending was surprising, and, probably more than we know, real. You have so many great images, and a nice flow to the story. The only thing you might consider is tightening up some of the language, get rid of words that don't do much. You have so many words that do a lot. But, that's just my opinion! I'm just an art teacher by day/mild mannered poet by night (and mommy all the time).

gautami tripathy said...

Very beautifully told with a great ending.I enjoyed this.

Journey within the mind