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 mess
of sticky red 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 plump for 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
stepped from a Scheherazade tale, in a dress
of ruby reds and emerald greens,
long hair brushed to a blue-black sheen,
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 lipsticked smile.
A smile of scarlet defiance.
Magi Gibson is a Scottish poet. She’s had four collections of poetry published, including Wild Women of a Certain Age, now in its fourth print run. Her work has appeared in many anthologies, including Modern Scottish Women Poets (Canongate) and Scottish Love Poems (Canongate), and also New Writing Scotland. She has also been widely published in literary magazines. She won the Scotland on Sunday/Women 2000 prize for poetry, and has held three Scottish Arts Council Creative Writing Fellowships and a major Scottish Arts Council Bursary. She runs the Wild Women Writing Workshops in Scotland and Ireland. A new collection will be out in 2016.