Mudlark Flash No. 94 (2015)

Valentine’s Day at the DMV and Mask
Poems by Lindsay Doukopoulos

Valentine’s Day at the DMV

It must have been something, long ago—
this old lady’s cleavage on display at the DMV
where we will sit for the rest of time. 

Not much to look at now though its deep
crevice and swells still draw the eye.
The foam cups of her black tank-top’s 

shelf bra are lumpy under the outer 
fabric like a cramped theater where you 
can see the actors stripping in the wings. 

She looks like a woman leather-clad bikers 
would have torn each others’ throats out over, 
like someone who would, if not relish,

at least respect that process. 
Someone who would interpret power
in its most literal sense and hop on the bike 

with the last man standing whether he was 
the same she rode in with or not, loyalty 
being a thing earned and therefore valuable. 

I imagine her presence in this lobby, proof
of residency in hand, is a stand, finally,
against her life’s necessary compromises. 

She will drive—pull taut the black fingerless 
gloves with the metal studs, grip the handle bars,
kick start the machine. I want her roaring 

out of this strip mall, gray hair twisting like a flag, 
slicing through traffic and drawing looks of envy 
from the jammed. I catch her eye and smile like

I know you, human. She turns away, in no mood 
to be pitied or championed. There’s a wrinkled Y 
at the cleft of her bloated breasts. 

It takes momentum, when her number is called, 
and both hands pushing against the chair 
to lift herself up to a stoop—like taking a bow. 


                            I do not think it will
make me pretty: this goopy promo 
mask I found sealed in a 
foil pouch
                            tucked in 
the crease of a magazine. 
No, I slathered it over my 
face because
                            I love the feel 
of peeling its hardened shell 
the same way I loved pulling 
sheets of dead 
                            skin like strips 
of film from my little sister’s sun
burned back, the soft stick like a 
piece of tape. 
                            I do not think 
this mask will make me beautiful
though now I wish it would, 
as my mouth 
                            is settling
into its thirties and men 
I don’t know like the butcher 
                            seem more tolerant 
than interested in my humanity
and questions about when 
I can expect 
                            more Andouille 
and how does the Italian 
taste in comparison?  So
I’m getting 
                            an inkling 
of that invisibility you hear some 
older women complain of though 
I still buy 
                            generic face cream 
because Consumer Reports 
says “no difference” and
I won’t trade 
                            that sound, 
earned sense for the same vain  
hope that kept me sliding
my desperate 
                            wrists across 
perfume samples throughout 
my teens because magazines
told me 
                            I could control 
the way I smelled and tried to 
teach me how to trade money 
for beauty, 
                            how to snag 
a man and do sex in a way 
that kept him coming back, 
how to survive 
                            every humiliation—
the breakups, a rape, those ten 
extra pounds—with a glow, not a 
pimple, not a 
                            wrinkle, not a crack.

Lindsay Doukopoulos has a Ph.D. from the Center for Writers at the University of Southern Mississippi and is a Lecturer in Creative Writing at Auburn University. Her poems have recently appeared in Word Riot, Cimmaron Review, and Tin House.

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