Two Poems by Jess Smith

Red lips painted on white wall
Photo by Etienne Girardet on Unsplash

Why Don’t We Paint the Town

I married an older man and why? I do not wish
to be alone when they turn the lights on. Perhaps
I’ve thought too carefully about the overture
and not the coda. I would like, right now, to have lips
so red that even the cheap seats feel kissed. I’m still
pretty with this ghost mouth though. That is okay to say,
okay? I am done with pretending you didn’t audition
for this role, that you were even interested
in the play before I was cast. What a waste –
these days of tap dancing away from each other
and back into the eaves. I liked the spotlight I couldn’t
see beyond. I liked my tight little costume. I didn’t mind
when you asked me what I was afraid of,
what I was willing to do to feel safe.


The Standard

In a black bathtub, the water looks black. I swim up to you
as through God’s womb, surfacing tongue-first to swallow
the rich dark milk of your gaze. My thirst turns me into a two-
headed beast who can glimpse her own image, her own
certain outcomes, her own slow demise. Tomorrow we’ll have
just lush honey residue, sunrise spreading its dry gloom
over our wading limbs. But, for now, our champagne flutes
are nightlights on the tub’s lip, your broad chest half
submerged like the moon rising over a lake. Aren’t you
worried your camera will get wet, and ruined? Who will save
these fatal moments if it does, who will catch
the petals rippling when your teeth discover my pistil’s
limit? Even we were shocked by our own eyes in the dark,
by the camera’s clapping flash, and what it captured.

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