Beauty Bound / Marsha Mathews


poems by

Marsha Mathews

ISBN: 978-1-59948-704-5, ~72 pages, $14

Release Date:  February 5, 2019


Marsha Mathews served as an Ordained Minister in the United Methodist Church during the 1990s and is now a Professor of Emerita after having taught writing and literature at Dalton State College. Her poems and stories have appeared in Appalachian Heritage, The Fourth River: Best Writings of the Decade; Gargoyle Magazine; Literature Today; Raleigh Review; War, Literature & the Arts; and many other fine magazines as well as thematic collections, such as Circe’s Lament: Anthology of Wild Women Poetry and Of Burgers and Barrooms. She has published four previous books of poetry, most recently Growing Up with Pigtails (Aldrich, 2016), winner of the Georgia Author of the Year Award, Young Adult Division.

The poems in Marsha Mathews’ Beauty Bound travel through both time and space to show the lengths to which women go to achieve and maintain the impossible standards of beauty set for them in various cultures. In a forthright voice, these powerful, unflinching poems bear witness to practices that are by turns unnecessary and humiliating, providing vivid examples from all parts of the world. –Wyn Cooper


Neck coils adorn and stretch women’s necks in Burma. Western ladies have toes surgically removed to fit a pair of fashionable stilettos. South Sea islanders have teeth ritually filed and reshaped. Each conforms to a cultural norm. Men are not exempt from this propensity, whether working out at the gym or seeking artistic enhancement at tattoo parlors. In her latest book, Beauty Bound, poet Marsha Mathews reveals myriad similarities in a world of beauty seekers. –Ray Zimmerman


Beauty Bound is stunning poetry that empowers the soul. Mathews gives a voice to those unheard and encourages others to be exactly who they were created to be–all without apology. –Karli Land, author of Made to Move, Founder & President of The Calhoun Area Writers

Museum of the Maya

Merida, Yucatan, Mexico, 1978


Our Mayan tour guide keeps
scratching. We women
avert our eyes to look at charts, sketches.
He shows us things
we never learned in high school.
Mothers dangled stones
between their babies’ eyes
so they’d cross
in beauty.

Hearing my gasp,
the guide lifts a tuft
of my bleached curls.
His eyes weigh my breasts.
His pause asks,
Are American daughters any different?
Imitating the latest pop star
so they can kick their legs high
and step one-two
into the crevices of men’s eyes?



Scribbling, in Heels

Tallahassee, Florida, U.S.A., 1983


Even at eighteen months and diapered,
my daughter goes for the eyes.

Lying on the carpet,
her stomach flat to floor,
she squints at a department store flyer,
open-spread, glossy.
With a pen, she jabs the
pupils of fashion models,
who stand elegantly
in their cute short shorts and sassy sashes,
thin legs stretching
into satin.
Humming, my daughter blackens irises, whites,
works the pen straight through the paper
as if she somehow knew

of feminine rituals already twisting her
into the cool sheen
of a perfectly upturned page.




Florence, Italy, 1510


Leonarda knows
the power of her eyes.

She sits at her walnut vanity,
pulls her hair back
beneath a turban,
plucks her hairline
to create the highest possible forehead,
powders it white,
tweaks her eyebrows,
outlines her eyes with kohl,
oils her lashes.

She frowns
opens a bottle
of belladonna herb,
fingers open an eye,
one drop.
The other,
two drops.
Her pupils expand, big black alluring
smiles. Never mind the blur,
the intoxication, the wild glint,

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