Rumpus Original Poetry: Three Poems by Robin Gow

By

 

 

 

PRIMER

Standards of beauty describe in precise terms the relationship that
an individual will have to her own body.
-Andrea Dworkin

 

The face is a canvas:
This alteration is an ongoing, repetitive process.1
I’m preparing the skin to vanish.
I recommend [    ] brand to blur that shininess.

This alteration is an ongoing, repetitive process.1
My mother put on her face I put on mine.
I recommend [    ] brand to blur that shininess—
work the product up into the hairline.

My mother put on her face I put on mine.
Everything feminine is earned—
work the product up into the hairline.
Watch your pores diminish just like you yearned.

Everything feminine is earned—
I’m preparing the skin to vanish.
Watch your features diminish just like you yearned.
The face is a canvas:

1. Dworkin 1974:113–14

 

FRINGED LASHES

Wig makers in France used to sew
human hairs right into the eyelid
to create the long lashes their patrons craved.

When people talk about beauty, they always say something like
“the lengths people will go” but what they really mean is
“I want you to be beautiful without any effort.”
Which, historically speaking, is impossible.

I’m here to suggest you hold your eyelid still
for the needle. You tell the man that your own hair
is never going to be enough. You don’t ask

where he gets his though you imagine a factory
where women lay in beds just growing out
their hair. They are fed honey and milk
and then their hair is sheared like any other animal.

You know you were meant to be
the beautiful one. You were meant to be the one
who would with stand any pain.
You grip the arms of a wooden chair.
He tells you to please hold as still as you can.
His face powdered white.

 

VANISHING CREAM

If you want to live your vintage life.
If your skin is dry.
If you need a break from bones.
If you’re tired of men.
If you’re tired of gender.
If your hair is smoking in the jaws of the flat iron.
If your pores are tunnels full of rats.
If your nails keep breaking off.
If your concealer doesn’t hide the blotches of discoloration.
If you don’t want to paint your face like those night walking women.
If you are a natural woman.
If you have a vanity.
If you never show up in the mirror.
If you accuse yourself of being fake.
If the lock on the front door is never enough.
If you share a bed with someone warm and burning.
If you’re convincing yourself to not drink foundation.
If your insides are in need of eyeshadow.
If your whole girlhood was a blur of fear.
If you were scared to be a woman.
If people made fun of you the first time you wore a bra.
If the fat on your thighs rubs the hair thin.
If you never trusted your knuckles.
If you married the good man inside you.
If you apply your face in circles.
If there is a template for your sadness.
If you can’t remember what name you chose today.
If you want to be the mirror.

***

Photograph of Robin Gow by Robin Gow.


Robin Gow is a trans poet and young adult author from rural Pennsylvania. They are the author of Our Lady of Perpetual Degeneracy (Tolsun Books 2020) and the chapbook Honeysuckle (Finishing Line Press 2019). Their first young adult novel, A Million Quiet Revolutions, is forthcoming in 2022 with FSG Books for Young Readers. Gow’s poetry has recently been published in POETRY, New Delta Review, and Washington Square Review. More from this author →