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Jendi Reiter

About this Christian Poet:
Jendi Reiter is the editor of Poetry Contest Insider, a quarterly online guide to over 400 poetry contests per year, published by WinningWriters.com. Her work has appeared in Poetry, Best American Poetry, The New Criterion and many other journals. Her first book of poems, A Talent for Sadness, will be published this fall by Turning Point Books (for ordering info, see www.turningpointbooks.com). Visit her website at www.jendireiter.com.

Lipstick Sestina

Revlon and Jesus saved me from death.
Stubborn cowardice, to punish the poor flesh,
as if you, illiterate beloved,
could read me if only I inscribed the page with blood.
Hair in weeds, loose body a burden of fat.
A mess. God save me.

Happiness isn't for me
too necessary. You hid me from death
so long in your arms I grew fat
with suppressed desire to spend my allowance of flesh,
a naive romance of oblivion in the blood.
A raping god from the sky. O beloved

destruction. I'm the idol you loved
and I thought I couldn't move till someone knocked me
off the shelf. Like a pathologist's rack of blood
test tubes shattering into stars of glass, invisible death
to be mopped up everywhere, falling like ash on the flesh.
Like a leech I was fat

with sin. We can't help being born to grow fat
on others' losses. But God so loved
the world, he freed this flesh
from the immortal illusion of control, absolved me
to praise and paint my poor self, showing death
and life where to find me shining like spilled blood.

Washed in blood,
plunging fearless into filth and color. How the fat
heart gladly races to death
with each pounding step toward the beloved.
Love is nothing but this: let you and me
and everyone be wrong, let the flesh

cover itself in bold concealer, powders flesh-
toned, scarlet sparkling, lips blood-
red confessing the need for artifice to restore me;
and then at our unrobing, frail or fat,
to wash our faces and lie down, beloved,
to passion's little sleep, to dreams or death.

Copyright ©1999 by Jendi Reiter