Poems of the Week

Persian Emersion

by Julia Griffin

“Tube of Ancient Red Lipstick Unearthed in Iran… The lipstick dates to between 1936 and 1687 B.C.E.,
according to a study … [A]nalysis revealed
that the powder is made of hematite…, manganite, braunite, galena,
anglesite and plant-based waxes.
This mixture… ‘bears a striking resemblance to the recipes of contemporary
lipsticks.’ …
While researchers now know more about the vial’s contents, its owner remains mysterious.”

A thousand years and more before great Cyrus,
Beauties in Persia murmured: “Come admire us!”
And, seeking something sensuous yet zippy,
They summoned forth the world’s first scarlet lippy.
Cyrus was born and died. His Empire followed;
Conqueror Alexander’s soon was swallowed
By Rome’s. It fell. So, later, did the British.
Now, with America on top, this skittish
Adornment is unearthed, and how we prize it!
Solemn researchers rush to analyze it,
And find therein, through their exacting praxis,
Galena, anglesite, and plant-based waxes.
“How like,” they cry, “how curiously similar
The wares today of Revlon and of Rimmel are!”—
And all experience the reassurance
Evoked by tokens of our own endurance.
Still, there’s a warning, too, that time’s dispensing
For those today whose trade is influencing:
Those Persian belles: we know their lips were glowing,
But who they were, we have no way of knowing.