From GODS OF THE SOUTH END

 

Venus

At V’s Pavilion of Beauty,
the goddess stands at the single
pump-up chair, her Botticellian shape
broad beneath a sea-blue caftan, the waves
of hair that lave her back
clearly bleached.

She looks you over, head to toe.
A decent set, she says,
hun, that’s all you need.  
Turns, snaps her fingers. 

A trinity of girls—
All named Grace, in flowered shifts--
Appear with bins of curlers, a plastic cape.

Before you know it, your head’s a maze
of tubes no bigger
than a pinky, each chunk of hair
wound and stiffened
with the sweet viscosity
of setting gel.

Under the dryer,
as Grace Number Two paints your toes,
you close your eyes and drowse. 

What succulent star rises through you, impaling
itself on Dawn’s rosy clouds?

Comb-out time! V. sings, raising  
The dryer’s hot hood.

She mousses and fluffs
until you’re bouffant as a cumulus,
the curls covering your head
as solid and lovely as
the columns of Corinth.  

That boy’ll be calling tonight, V. sings out.
You swivel the chair around to face her,
saying How do you know?

But where the goddess stood,
Just an airy shimmer
Of extra-firm-hold spray.

 

  

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