It’s only 6:45 a.m. You’re early today,
looking back at me when I squint
in the mirror above the sink,
wearing that zippered robe, smearing
cold cream on lips to remove your face
before you put your face back on.
Remember we had the same sable
eyes, until one of mine faded
to green—yours too, I see.
The smile’s a good smile, actually,
until distracted you forget to use it,
and the lower lip hangs uncertain,
a small shallow wave on the sand.
At this moment, makeup-free, we’d
get no looks from pretty boys—
not these days—they’d be shocked by the
naked face, the pointy nose, beady eyes
plain as a sparrow, set deep in bone.
We rely on our masks, don’t we?
But we also know that under the
smokey gray eyeshadow is the real fire.
You’ve got my vertical lip lines, haven’t you—
from lips pursed in pain, or quiet determination?
I picture a lady’s antique silk purse,
pale pink, deeply pleated with the cord pulled tight
to firmly hold onto what’s inside.
We also share these horizontal lines
under the nose right here, two of them,
from a lifetime of putting on smiles.
And that left eye tears up every
morning, as if it hurts to see
the truth of a woman’s aging face.
Now smile, and apply your lipstick and
mascara. I expect it of you. You who
inhabit my eyes, my widow’s peak,
my wrinkles and my cheeks.
For better or for worse, we’re partners
in this face.