For who would not want to
stroke the smooth plane of her face?
Brush those downy hairs that slope
their way along temples, cheekbones,
towards the petal flesh of her lips.

Anointed, the daily ritual,
her cheeks glowing with oils and pigments,
her eyes brush gold, glint, glisten—
flutter away from the mirror’s light
like a bruised moth.

When I was a child, I caught butterflies.
Freedom pinched from the air;
naive cruelty in that curious clutch.
I studied, controlled—I didn’t know
I was hurting them.

But the slip of an adjusted grip
was always enough for them
to limp away, wing-torn,
and all I had left was the colorful dust
of their souls on my fingertips.

The first time I swatted a moth,
Mosquito-thick night
Under the cool veranda;
I was surprised at the brown
On my palm;
Splatter of life I didn’t know
Existed.

When she finally returns that tentative
gaze in the silvered glass,
smudged gold fingers blurring
the pattern on her eyelids,
she blinks, and the resemblance is gone.

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