“Lifelike” and other poems by Jennifer Matthews

Family Portraits

 
With skin like that,
you don’t have to
open your mouth.
 
Muting
praise; Mother twirled
back the sardine-tin key
of his sister’s tongue.
 
Richard Avedon, embryonic
photographer
fixed his Kodax Box Brownie
on Sister, to exhume
her from her own beauty.
 

… she believed she existed only
as skin, and hair,
and a beautiful body …

 
He sought
sun, the negative of his muse
in hand to place on his shoulder:
used his own skin
as a contact sheet
for the image to burn into him,
to carry her
as widows clutch framed photos
of loved ones lost
to war.
 

ok

 
1.
 
His tattoo: a stitch of self
harm, a barcode, a brand,
a word he wants so badly
to replace his own skin
that he signs consent
to be burnt blue.
He lies down
to give his flesh
to the upper-hand,
the cruel beautician.
 
2.
 
Beauty is nothing
but a flaw so stunning
it can’t be ignored.
Its twin image burrows
into the soft space
of the beholder’s mind,
home-making, breeding
ideas, word by word
they contort and leap
to twist every eventuality
into the bent shape
of ok.
 

Lifelike

 
Transcend the gown without
leaving your body: your first mission
should you choose to redress it.
Followed by negligé negligence,
flattened heels,
unproductive visage
with lips unstuck
and colourless toes.
Forget bridal makeup packages,
beauty queen campaigns,
perfectly accessorised communions.
What lies
on bare skin but dead skin
motes of past times
exfoliated until your final
newness halts
and you are painted lifelike
and dressed
in something really very You.
 

Scent of a Woman (Echolalia)

 
Text: NPR article ‘Smell that sadness? Female tears turn off men’ by Joe Palca (7.1.11)
 
From human testosterone
levels in this specific moment
edge sweat or saliva.
A drop in arousal, colleagues
say, dribbled down cheeks.
 
A team of scientists starts crying.
Crying serves a purpose.
 
What is the state
of sexual chemical communications
causing this effect?
Whatever substance
women’s tears may reduce—
tear donors watch, seeing clearly
questions.
 
Researchers had their female
smelling authors of compassion
(a recognisable smell).
Colleagues sniffed, not convinced.
But scientists could be found
in a lot of places, willing
to donate tears.
 
The urge to signal: your human
tears may have an effect on you.
That was responsible
for quiet after men. Even if
you can’t look at pictures
of women’s faces,
a few drops of a woman was
to see a reality.
 
‘Lifelike and other poems’ is © Jennifer Matthews

jen_headshotJennifer Matthews writes poetry and is editor of the Long Story, Short Journal. Originally from Missouri, USA she has been living in Ireland for over a decade, and is a citizen of both countries. Her poetry has been published in, or is forthcoming from Banshee, Poetry International — Ireland, The Stinging Fly, Mslexia, The Pickled Body, Burning Bush 2, Abridged, Revival, Necessary Fiction, Poetry Salzburg, Foma & Fontanelles, and Cork Literary Review, and anthologised in Dedalus’s collection of immigrant poetry in Ireland, Landing Places (2010). In 2015 she was selected for the Poetry Ireland Introductions Series. A chapbook of her poetry, Rootless, is available to read free online at Smithereens Press.