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MacQueen’s Quinterly: Knock-your-socks-off Art and Literature
Issue 17: 29 Jan. 2023
Haibun Story: 315 words
By Roberta Beary

The Super Power of Lipstick


My mother wore only one color of lipstick: pink. She kept a tube of fire-engine red for emergencies. Like funerals. Mom said peekaboo pink was perfect for bridge at the clubhouse. Deep-dive pink was perfect for lounging by the pool. Bubble-gum pink was perfect for watching Law & Order reruns in her condo, with the AC off. The dead air used to bother me when I visited Florida. Today, I leave the air off, like she might walk in any second.

empty unit
sunlight warms the windowsill

My mother’s closets are filled with designer-wear, which she hid when her mooch of a sister showed up uninvited. I plan on donating them to Home for Domestic Violence. Not because I’m a good person. But because I know it’ll drive my aunt crazy when I pick her up for the funeral.

inside a thin-lipped smile boozy peppermint

It’s not that I’m ungenerous. I give my aunt Mom’s brand new lipsticks, still in the little brown shopping bag. She says, “I prefer lipgloss.” But doesn’t hand them back. The whole drive she goes on about how Mom promised her the condo, while sampling shades of pink lipstick on her elbow. When we get to the church, she orders me to drop her off out front. What the hell is she up to? It takes me a few minutes after that to find a spot in the shade.

open casket
the unnatural blush
of her lips

I dig inside my pocket for Mom’s fire-engine red. Perform an emergency swipe, blot, swipe, blot. Afterwards, everyone says my mother looks beautiful. A few weeks later, I’m sitting in the lawyer’s office. He hands me the eviction notice against my aunt. I take out my mirror and lipstick. Fire engine red. Swipe, blot, swipe, blot. Then sign on the dotted line.

Roberta Beary
Issue 17 (29 January 2023)

grew up in Queens, New York and identifies as gender-fluid. They divide their time between USA and Ireland. Their honors include: Winner of Bridport Prize for Poetry, Best Microfiction 2019 & 2021, and The Best Small Fictions 2020 & 2022. Their work is featured in The New York Times, Rattle, Atticus Review, MacQueen’s Quinterly, and other publications. They are the longtime haibun editor for Modern Haiku.

Follow on Twitter: [at]shortpoemz

More on the Web: By, About, and Beyond

Featured Guest: Roberta Beary on Rattlecast 133 hosted by Tim Green, editor of Rattle poetry journal (YouTube, 28 February 2022)

Featured Author: Roberta Beary in MacQueen’s Quinterly (Issue 12, March 2022)

Roberta Beary, haiku poet and editor, on writing Haibun, interview with Mike Rehling, editor of Failed Haiku (YouTube, 8 February 2021)

Tiny Love Stories in The New York Times (8 January 2019); scroll five stories down the page for Roberta Beary’s “Now It’s All Fresh Fish” and her photograph of lobster traps in Clew Bay, Ireland.

The art of brevity, an interview by Ciara Moynihan in Mayo News (22 January 2019)

Lunch Break, a haibun by Beary in Rattle (#56, Summer 2017), Tribute to Poets with Mental Illness; includes audio (17 July 2017)

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