It was written in lipstick on the glass
from which petals of grease had been shed:
‘Live on the evidence of your highest moments,’ it said,
in scarlet confidence of being read.
For years those words in gloss on light came back
unprompted by no strain of thought, appealing
to a spirit, restless, vain, that rose to the call
of the smears in a mirror on a hotel wall.
It’s a long time ago now, and I’m not sure
that scarlet’s my colour, or not any more,
or that ordinary moments might not be the proof
that you’d really demand of a life and its truth.
But just out of interest I tried them again
in a different hotel room thirty years on,
watching my hand as it faltered and fell,
pimping in scarlet that part of the self that
one struggles against (as if one were the rest),
tracing reflections of vainnesses past
and noting, in passing, how easy it seemed,
crushing the petals of grease to the glass.