Mardi Gras Mannequin
Sequined braiding, gold lamé, split-tunic dress,
kohl-brimming lids and brows, a pythoness
of claret paint down one cheek – who would guess
she’d see such losses in one life, her tulle
a multi-glittered crown of thorns, the jewel
of mysticism round her neck: a fool.
No caricature, though, each feature fine
and delicately handled, she is wine
not punch; not Judy – Judith in design,
expensive and articulate. Trace hands
bend cryptically from crystal-tinseled bands
of cape, expression no one understands.
This is how society begins:
benign impulses, masquerade, mock sins;
loose, thick-skinned drums, horn-blowing chamberlains,
though she might rather credit the ascetic,
the purple of her headdress net pathetic
and purged in its restraint, at the cosmetic
creases of her temples. This is how
society must end, as well – low-brow
or high, with jest and joker, cat’s meow
and costumed dog, clown’s bow and crowd appeal.
Who could have known the mirth she could make real?
Who the swaths of sorrow she’d conceal,
swan-drawn, eyes streaming burgundy and teal?