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Poetry Competition: Emma J.

My Sister’s Eyeshadow

After Liddy’s Orange by Sharon Olds

She stands in front of the mirror with the door cracked,

mostly shut, but enough for me to sneak in and watch.

She smears color onto her eyelids,

blues and blacks rubbed on with soft padded fingertip,

like she’s trying to press night into her skin,

absorb it with every pore.

reds harvested from her mom’s old, dry lipsticks,

oranges scraped onto a q-tip from the surface of the sun,

and she sometimes paints her whole face,

drenches herself in the colors she finds,

carefully covering her blue-pale skin,

cleaning the edges of her eyelids with the thin crescents

of her fingernails.

And at night she returns to the bathroom, pulls

the cotton swabs from the drawer, and the makeup remover,

and turns the sink on, steam rising.

She scrubs, pulling at her skin, pigment collecting where she can’t reach,

just along her jawline, in a crease below her eye.

The scalding water and the sweet chemical smell and sweat

wash themselves down the drain in sweeps

of color.

And when she’s done, she sops up the water on the counter

with our tired green towels, flicks off the light,

lays down her body and washed-raw skin,

as if it were just a cycle like the rise and set of the moon,

paint and wash,

the way her life at 13 seems all cycle and routine,

unless you see her collecting it onto her fingertip,

mixing it with blues and greens,

painting it onto herself

exactly how she wants it.

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