A minute after crying in the bathroom
she comes out smiling. You shake her hand.
She laughs at your pretty little jokes
with one hand resting on her right cheek.

Her natural hair is hidden by highlights
each week, for ten dollars, in the shower.
Her day starts with a half-hour in the mirror,
minding the bulges of skin that roll out.

Her dark glasses, resting in her hair
reflect despair when she wears them. For now, they're
neatly put away while she acts and
smiles like a model. She daintily sips her tea.

Her thin dress cost a hundred dollars,
as much as her shoes. She sees herself
through her clothes. Spandex is too tight;
she uses stripes to cover up.

She takes men's eyes in two ways:
First, as a reward for her hard work.
Then, as a measurement and failure.
They're like yearning glances at a dead thing.

'cause when men want what she's got
they don't listen, but nod to be polite
and coax her out to dinner.
They indulge her aloof, meek voice.

She grins reflexively when she forgets you're there.
Her fear is covered like a rice-pot.
It's quaking to get out, no matter
how she forces down the lid.

Her will strengthens from stress
but like muscle needs a rest
to grow from all the ripping.
The bathroom's her bedroom, where the tears flow.

She shudders, but for a half-blink only--
a thousand tiny angry tendons contract
like when you're naked in the air-conditioning--
because an offhand word reverberated with her.

You won't see into that rice-pot.
You won't see how it's boiling.
She carries it with her. Smiling
and waving her hand, she whispers good-bye.

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