Lipstick Bathroom

It’s a whirring mechanism of concentric circles:
A colony of punctures in the wig cap, the hair parted
—an oyster splits—
I prodded the flesh for the wet core.
The gaze is the black shell
But the oysters gather like spores
Into a membrane of one thousand eyes.
You are looking at me,
But I am looking at you.
You are the dead shark, but I am the formaldehyde.
I stretched the membranes dividing subject and object between
    my fingers.
I ate the wig,
Swallowed the talcum,
The honey, the fur;
I ingested the black oil,
The turpentine, the plaster.
The gaze is
The white geometry of caulk between bathroom tiles—
I’m held in place.
I’m slick,
Pressed to the surface.
A point drawn extends to form a core
(many cores)
Half an apple—red split into white
Buy my bananas!—I came undone like the claw-shaped bunch
A spattering of breasts flattened into an herbivore’s molar,
Or some other perfected plane.
I will guide your eyes
From me to it,
From me to the blushing tiles,
From me to the tumbleweeded mannequin,
From the twisting cylinders, the candied offal, the fissures that
    bloom like gelatin in a hole
Back to me now.
I want you to look at this.
I’m an instance of
Stiff peaks erect in the bowl:
I come together slowly now
After much agitation.
I’m the eccentric growth of
My hand + spatula
(leg fused to a boulder).
I’m a sarcophagus—
I’m hollowed, I’m heavy, I’m buried,
I’m stolen, I’m ancient,
I protect,
I stare,
I’m golden,
I’m under glass, under sand
You are looking at me
But I am looking at you.
I’m Maman—but no mother,
A weaver with a wicker basket for a stomach.
I’m the turbine hall,
The pink-glass swan with a neck curled
To my chest—
I’m commissioned to stand! In the sun—
Until my beak melts.
I’ve got a grant!
I’ve got fishing line spiraling my flesh into quilts.
I walk into abscess
With shelves splicing through my thighs.
I walk into the museum, inhabiting, for a moment,
The focus of a pearl
The bodies of the trustees,
The braille name of donors struck through gold
Like bubblegum on Hannah Wilke’s back.
I will guide your eyes
From me to her,
From me to the altar,
From me to the exploded Whitney.
I calcified + teased stiff curls like
Lemon rind in a vanitas:
My shell waxes and lays itself
Across the mantel, thirty-nine plates bulging and collapsing
The fountain is a circle
Feeding itself.
I'm the bone with twenty-eight incisions.
I’m the body serrated into a pyramid,
I am the dancer. At least,
You could think of me as a dancer.
The gaze is distance
Equal to one thousand glass panes slamming into each other
Like a calendar.
You cannot clean up
After a shadow.
I look for truth in art, And—
There it is! Learning to walk with a dustpan for a pelvis—
I see it in the mirror!

Read on . . .

The Fine Arts and Other Poems” by Ursula K. Le Guin

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