American Life in Poetry: Column 101


Those big cherry flavored wax lips
that my friends and I used to buy when I
was a boy, well, how could I resist this
poem by Cynthia Rylant of Oregon?

Wax Lips

Todd's Hardware was dust and a monkey--
a real one, on the second floor--
and Mrs. Todd there behind the glass cases.
We stepped over buckets of nails and lawnmowers
to get to the candy counter in the back,
and pointed at the red wax lips,
and Mary Janes,
and straws full of purple sugar.
Said goodbye to Mrs. Todd, she white-faced and silent,
and walked the streets of Beaver,
our teeth sunk hard in the wax,
and big red lips worth kissing.

"Wax Lips" by Cynthia Rylant from WAITING TO WALTZ.
Copyright (c) 2001 by Cynthia Rylant. Reprinted with
permission of the author, whose most recent
book of poetry is "Ludie's Life," Harcourt, 2006.
This weekly column is supported by The Poetry Foundation,
The Library of Congress, and the Department of English
at the University of Nebraska-Lincoln. This column does
not accept unsolicited poetry.