Sumerians invented lipstick
using gemstones and white lead
Cleopatra crushed bugs to create her signature crimson in Egypt
while prostitutes forced to hue their lips like wine.
Pastors declared red lipstick devil’s work, Queen Elizabeth defiantly
paints hers ceruse, poisoning herself and all she kissed, lips caked with lead.
Women who painted their lips tried for witchcraft, marriages annulled
deceitful, sinful, sinister laws written to protect men from their trickery
Sarah Bernhardt brushed hers on street corners and cafes
as shocking to many as sleeping in her coffin.
Wearing white hats and dresses striking blows against Puritan values
Five-thousand suffragettes marched for the right to vote
Lips painted red affirming their power
And still, carcinogens discovered in waxy shades containing lead
cadmium, mercury and arsenic brushed or swiped absorbed through the skin.
Don’t lick your lips. Don’t use it every day, defiance, like other protests,
might kill us over time.
And yet we still march on—
Margaret R. Sáraco