Paint clings better to paper mache.
A strange bird’s feathers
float between her mask’s furrowed eyes.
Her eyes, the only humanity visible,
and they are dark and creased. Overflowing.
The gold paint glimmers how she cannot.
The tired smile is carved into the mask,
Her skin below the mask hesitates,
drifts out of the fabric of her costume.
Bright and faded, it stretches,
and folds over her like an envelope
without enough postage.
When she changes her face,
she turns away and her dark hair curtains,
and creeps down her back.
The mask has become her;
the paper hides her hollow.
So, it has come this,
when I must again strip
the latex gloves from my hands
like a second skin that defines who I am.
I must again scissor and untether the cords
that bind and pull, cut into my wrists like steel wool snakes.
I’ve long since stopped feeling the bite, but the fuel
that floats behind my eyes made me hollow.
When I walk, I feel the slosh of
what used to be my will, and everyday
I wear the gloves that hold it in.
Behind the counter lined with hunger,
glinting eyes read past the menu, and I stand away,
waiting for the counter to fall like a fence
and let the hyenas at me. The orders come in, like a roar
from Wall Street, and money flies just as fast.
My fingers twist around a beef ladle, dip and dive,
and I can almost imagine I’m being creative. The tenth
taco, all the same: this creation lacks creating.
It is not my hands that define me,
but the pull of tendon on bone grabbing the yellow corn
shell and scooping the meat into, turning
my hands arthritic and old, curled against my wrist
and stretch back to young and back to old.
So I am a servant to those asking to hold the tomatoes,
but extra beef. The cords slip around my wrists
as their cash feeds the register’s ding,
and I must scoop against my flesh, ladle against ribs digging
to my heart. It is my skeleton that holds me.
Behind my liquid eyes, gasoline
floats so heavily. I can see the faint spark in the mirror.
When I strain against the ropes, I can feel
them strain back. Something tears: my skin or my bonds?
The paper taste on my tongue craves to be written on.
My skin is running out of room, and I will never
run out of words. Teeth bared, fire eyes, letters stretched taut:
it’s my turn to pull.