anne bancroft’s lipstick

She sat in front of me in a community room in a building which was once a school. The room was so bright, I could hear the visibility of every freckle on my skin. We were alerted that the poetry reading was going to begin shortly. I can’t recall who made the first move. I think it was her who turned around and began asking me questions.

“Are you going to read something?” she inquired.

“Uh, yeah,” I answered nervously.

My eyes studied the language of wax on her lips. A thick coating like winter wool of bloody red on her mouth. Some call it lipstick; I title it paint. And she was like a painting that I felt mesmerized by.

During intermission, which was after the open mic, she asked me about the human beside me, wanting to know if he was my boyfriend, if we were married, and where we lived. Her inquisitiveness was charming and I barely hesitated before answering each one.

At the end of the night, I told her how much she looked like Anne Bancroft. She smiled.

“In my youth, I looked like Audrey Hepburn.”

“Well, right now you look like Mrs. Robinson,” I quipped.

“I’d much prefer to look like Audrey Hepburn,” she insisted.

I looked at her and studied the age in her face. I wanted to see how many chapters I could read in her forehead and between her upper lip and nose in those minutes before the lights went out and everyone had to leave.

I wondered if she wondered about the stories in my skin or if I had revealed them all during my poetry set.

“I’m glad I met you.” She interrupted my thoughts.

“I’m so pleased I met you as well.”

Earlier in the evening, the host of the night asked everyone to look around the room and lock eyes with someone they did not know. Then, we were encouraged to get up during intermission and speak to them. This is an opportunity to meet someone new, he said.

Anne and I had not locked eyes. And yet, she turned right to me and I to her.

I appreciated the motivation to learn a new human. This doesn’t happen enough. I didn’t get Anne’s phone number, nor did she ask to be facebook friends (the current ways in which humans connect these days). Though I quite liked leaving, knowing she’d already turned into a poem inside me.


My dream (or one of the many that I swim in each day) is to write a banned book or poem. There is no intention of offending when I write, but when I disrobe my syllables, I do aim for some form of stun to occur. Basically, I want humans to feel things.

Tonight, I read alongside some fabulous contemporary poets such as:  Matvei Yankelevich, Timothy Donnelly, Deborah Landau, Alex Dimitrov, Ana Bozicevic among others. We will each be reading some of the best censored and banned poems by Allen Ginsberg, Walt Whitman, Frank O’Hara, Sappho, Lawrence Ferlinghetti and more.

Head on over to Housing Works Bookstore in NYC at 7pm on Monday, September 30th.  Join PEN American Center and the American Booksellers Foundation for Free Expression for readings in celebration of Banned Books Month and the poets whose work have been banned throughout history.

Beer and wine will be served. Free drinks to the first 100 attendees and drink specials after that. Seating begins at 6:30 and readings will begin promptly at 7:00.

Housing Works Bookstore Cafe
126 Crosby St.