By Magi Gibson


Putting on my make-up at the bathroom mirror,
– for me, a daily act, a sacrament, a quiet solemnity –
I find my lipstick’s almost done – a blunt and bloody
stump at the bottom of its silver bullet case.

But how can I think of shopping for lipstick
while food banks sprout like bindweed in our towns,
while refugees flee burnt-out homes, while bombs drop
on bathrooms just like this, where I stand
the whole world in a state of chassis
wondering what colour I might choose –
Shrapnel Wound Vermillion, Refugee Red,
or maybe Damson Purple Bruise?

Later, on the TV news, a woman picks her way
through an endless stretch of dust-encrusted shelters,
heaving a weighty water carrier, a bright spot
of colour in the endless grey, like a tropical bird,
or a princess strayed from a Scheherazade tale,
in a dress of ruby reds and emerald greens,
her long hair brushed to a blue-black sheen,
her dark eyes rimmed with smoky kohl.

I’ve lost my home, my family,
she tells the camera.
I will not let them take my femininity.

Then she smiles – a lip-sticked smile.

A smile of scarlet defiance.