Poetry Shelf Occasional Poems: Rachel McAlpine’s ‘Making Faces’

Making Faces

I do not
have a face I draw one
in the empty space

the wrinkles written
with good cause are  known
as flaws so I
anoint my pores (this
is one of the local laws)

I paint
my eyelids blue
my lashes too
they make a pretty view

to smile and pout as I
have learned I make a mouth
like a burn

I believe, I believe
it is not enough to be clean

I curl my pubic hair
I wear mascara there

Rachel McAlpine

Here is a vintage poem that is even more horribly relevant today. In the early 1970s I wore mascara all my waking hours. Even when swimming and hanging nappies on the line. I was deeply convinced that with mascara I was beautiful and without mascara I was ugly. I kicked the dependence on a trip to Canada where nobody would notice my transformation. Now I am mystified by the grotesque faces of women on “reality” shows like Married at First Sight. And I’m saddened by all women fixated on imaginary flaws in their beautiful faces and bodies. I’ve been there. The juddery line breaks reflect my own distorted perceptions — and a natural rhythm is hiding underneath. Published in Fancy Dress (Cicada Press, 1979). PS I still like red lipstick. Rachel McAlpine

Rachel McAlpine has been writing, publishing and performing poems for nearly 50 years. After many books in other fields and a career as a digital content pioneer, she returned to poetry with How To Be Old (Cuba Press, 2020). Soon she joins a thrilling line of younger performers in the poets’ cabaret, Show Ponies. For VERB, at Meow Cafe, Wellington, 4 November 2022.

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