Where my mask fits around my muzzle
it breaks me out in blemish. And sequestered
away, my scrutiny face in the mirror
is not the kind of company I need. I ask
my lover, hey handsome, how’d you get so
pretty? Sometimes she says it’s cold water
splashed on the face like a French woman
in a show she saw once. Sometimes she says
it’s the dependable drugstore apricot scrub
with pits ground into the paste as a grit that
exfoliates you (from the late Latin—‘stripped
of leaves’). Sometimes, she says, it’s all
made up. If I could have my face painted
like a child at a carnival, if I invited new oils
and pigments to seep into my pores, I’d ask to be
made green leaves, dense foliage, the whole thing,
even my eyelids, dark as evening in the orchard.
My eyes, the unripe fruit when I open them.
Alicia Mountain is the author of FOUR IN HAND (BOA Editions 2023) and HIGH GROUND COWARD (Iowa 2018), which won the Iowa Poetry Prize. Her work appears in American Poetry Review, Poetry Northwest, Adroit Journal, Ploughshares, and The Nation and elsewhere. Mountain is a contributing editor at the Kenyon Review and serves on the Board of Directors for Foglifter. She is a lesbian poet living in New York where she teaches at the Writer's Foundry MFA program at St. Joseph's College.