A Theory of Lipstick


In stock

poems by

Karla Huston

Poetry chapbook, 73 pages, $14 cover price

ISBN: 978-1-59948-407-5

Released: 2010

KHuston_PxKarla Huston

Winner of the 2003 Main Street Rag Chapbook contest, Karla Huston (www.karlahuston.com) earned an MA in English/Creative Writing from the University of Wisconsin-Oshkosh. She is the author of six chapbooks of poems, most recently An Inventory of Lost Things (Centennial Press, 2009). Winner of a Pushcart Prize in 2011, she has published poetry, reviews and interviews in many journals including North American Review, Pearl, Poet Lore, Rattle, Smartish Pace (online),Verse Wisconsin and others. Huston currently serves on the board of directors for the Council for Wisconsin Writers. A new chapbook of poems is forthcoming in late 2013 from Dancing Girl Press.

Karla Huston’s poetry is both brainy and sensuous, and the whole is underwritten by a musical ear attuned to the American idiom at its jazziest. From the title poem, which is a tour de force of naming, to the linguistic highwire act she performs in “O Hair,” Huston writes the way her mother wore lipstick–“red was her color…and she was taking all of it with her”–this poetry is bright red, and the poet has firmly in her sights nothing less than everything.

–Phil Dacey

A Theory of Lipstick embodies the tension and play between ideas and pop culture that the poems in this large-spirited and kinetic collection enact. The terrific opening poem, “An Inventory of Lost Things,” with its focus on loss and its movement between different areas of culture (“Lot’s Wife…”Gina Lollobrigida”), serves as an overture of what’s to come: memorable imagery, idiomatic and sonic pleasures galore, a gendered I/eye that states, explores, lists, and narrates female experience, desire, artifacts, loss, and celebrations. Huston’s poems are generous with the pleasures of poetry.

–Susan Firer,
author of Milwaukee Does Strange Things to People?


The most wonderful thing about Karla Huston’s poetry is accessibility. The reader doesn’t have to be a poet, an academic or an intellectual to be able to appreciate it. All you need to do is pluck the book from the shelf, open it, and revel in your own experiences sung in a new and lovely way. Huston’s poetry expresses the sheer elegance of the ordinary as it captures small moments, from lake flies to a girl with Jesus glitter-written on her jeans to songs stuck maddeningly inside our heads. The small becomes magnificent in Huston’s capable hands, making this collection at once accessible and unforgettable. Anyone can read this book. And everyone should.

–Kathie Giorgio,
author The Home for Wayward Clocks

Fifties Women at Windows


They wait at windows
in aprons and house dresses,
cross-your-hearts, buckled
and pointed. They wait
at kitchen windows, soapy hands
plunged into Joy, a little
orange grease catching the edges
of their wrists. They wait for husbands
to get home, for children walking
down streets, for the delivery
with its boxes and butcher paper
wrapping what they can’t afford
this week. They wait at picture
windows while plows clear snow
into impossible rows. They wait
for neighbors and coffee,
the Jewel Tea man with his bag
of brushes and cleaners,
for the Avon lady to ding dong,
bring vials of To a Wild Rose,
tiny tubes of pastel pinks. They wait
for the knock of The Millionaire
offering a check to solve
what ails them. For once,
they want to be Queen for a Day–
or at least the idea of it. Not
the pitiful sobbing women
in the small window of the TV.
They wait for the window
of the world they knew to open
and take them back.

The cruelest thing I did to my dog
wasn’t to ignore his barking for water
when his tongue hung like a deflated balloon

or to disregard his chronic need for a belly rub
but to teach him to shake hands, a trick
that took weeks of treats, his dark eyes

like Greek olives, moist with desire.
I made him sit, another injustice,
and allowed him to want the nuggets enough

to please me. Shake, I said. Shake?
touching the back of his right leg
until he lifted it, his saliva trickling

from soft jowls, my hand wet with his hunger.
Mistress of the biscuit, I ruffled his ears,
said good dog until he got it. Before long,

he raised his paw, shook me until he got
the treat, the rub, the water in a chilled silver bowl,
the wilderness in him gone, his eyes still lit with longing.





The tomatoes hang from
one side of the vine,
fruit strains and spills
like the pendulous breasts
of old women bending
over old men, saying there
there, this won’t hurt a bit
as they pull a sliver
out of a palm or excise
a blister or apply a tincture
of something mysterious.
The leaves of their hair
yellow and wrinkle with age
spots, rust or blight, but their thin
lips whisper, over the tree frogs
singing the gossip of wires,
over everything that turns
ripe, red seeds aching.

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