Charlie Chaplin Wants Us to Stare At His Lips

Charlie Chaplin Wants Us to Stare At His Lips

By Valerie Loveland

His mustache twitches, squirms.
Half a caterpillar. Where is the other half?

The saturated black of his hair. The mustache, engorged,
monopolizes Chaplin’s over-powdered face.

It reveals his underage preferences,
personifies his legal trouble. The eyebrows are accomplices. Tramp
acquired multiple meanings.
He only wore it
as part of his act.

Someone curated an online gallery of Chaplin Mustaches,
every slight variant wiggled in gridded rows.
I could barely look.

Humbert Humbert wore the same mustache.
Hitler copied it.

Buster Keaton’s bare face comforts,
his sleepy lids soothes my own to droop.
Harold Lloyd’s glasses maintain structure.

Named a toothbrush mustache
to further remind me of the inside of his undulating mouth.

My parents never allowed me to watch his movies until I was 18.

I shivered when I saw a photo of Helen Keller with her hand on Chaplin’s
mouth, so she could feel what he was saying.

Sometimes real,
sometimes fake, un-rooted.
It could fall off, it might attempt to perch on any lip.

– refers from the poem The lips were the worst by Laura McCullough

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