War Paint

Words: Caitlin Stobie
Photograph: Fiona Christensen

She sometimes turns on talk shows
when her husband isn’t there.
This is when she sees the war–paint women.

They wear visors of mascara.
Their hands are grenades of painted nails.
These ladies’ lips are crimson minesweepers
and they’re light like phantom limbs.

They remind her that her breasts –
once the inspiration of songs and sonnets –
are now just tin mugs from which future regiments drink.
The thump of her heart is slightly too slow;
the offbeat march of the last soldier in a line.

The women talk about their country sometimes.
They paint themselves for a battle
for equality and equity and balanced equations
but she never sees them fight.
She still talks to them sometimes.
She explains that the skin from the scruff of her neck
to the space between her shoulder blades
is a no-man’s land.

She says the bruises don’t heal anymore.
They never reply.

She sometimes turns on talk shows
when her husband isn’t there.
She watches the war–paint women
and wishes she could be that strong.