By the shores of the Nile,
languorous on her pillowed chaise,
Cleopatra stained her lips crimson
with crushed carmine beetles,
while Mesopotamian girls strolled
along the banks of the Euphrates,
their smiles drenched in powdered jewels.
Beauty’s inventions followed
like tongues tasting honied nectar:
beeswax, oils, pigments, cochineal,
Arabian rolled perfumed sticks,
Parisian cosmetics wrapped
in silk tinted papers.
Then clever men fashioned tubes
to swivel and raise the lipstick,
erecting subliminal spires,
which turned with an erotic twist
the mattes, creams, and pearlescent hues—
Revlon, Rubenstein, Dior, and Chanel.
Liz Taylor’s kohl-eyed Cleopatra
kissed Richard Burton
under red hot klieg lamps
in widescreen cinematic profile.
Her gelled lips licked tawny color
far from the sands of Cairo.