poetry: red lips by flannery maney

When I was a little girl,

Your stories had fabricated happy forevers—

Sprinkled with falsities in magic worlds

And you would add glitter for good measure.

You made terrors charming,

In blue jeans and button downs—

But no matter what you wore,

It draped like a ballgown.

Even at a funeral, you once said—

When you noticed the corpse’s lips weren’t red—

We have to honor her rightly, honor the dead.

So you pulled out a lipstick, put it on her instead.

For my whole life you did this—

Through awkward years and day job hells.

When the world would beat me down

You’d show up with me, ringing bells.

You reminded me to give people a chance

And told me that love is allowed.

You taught me there’s art in a rainy day,

And mysticism in a snow cloud.

So when you went, I came to your coffin—

Saw a lipstick they’d chosen—of low quality.

Made your lips a rank sort of pink…

And it was a family tragedy.

But I stood back, many feet away.

As they said, how you, without a beat—

Put lipstick on a corpse. Who has another shade?!

And all I could do was look down at my feet.

Your body was bloated and strange.

Your face not warm and familiar.

And the woman I knew, I still couldn’t believe

That anything could have killed her.

You see, that corpse could never

Sprinkle falsities, fabricate happy forevers,

Tell stories in magic worlds

or add extra glitter, just for good measure.

But this— this wasn’t you!

You were lying still, in a coffin, in a hearse?!

I’ve never seen you lie still in my life

So I kept my lipstick in my purse.

I wanted to be who you wanted me to be

But Grandma, I just didn’t buy it.

You’d left that body, those lips behind—

Now you’re up somewhere causing a riot.


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