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June 16th, 2012 - Nance Van Winckel

A Face to Meet the Face

On June 16, 2012, the day after my $500-facial, I luxuriated in the about-to-be-pretty feeling. I was almost there—IF I didn’t look in the mirror.

If I looked in the mirror I was way too here.

I was blue. Literally blue, aqua to be exact. The facial was called The Blue Peel, and according to Dr. Carol, I’d be blue for another two days, then tan for a few days, then peel and peel, and finally, after a week, there’d be fresh pink skin. Blemish-free. Wrinkle-free.

In my mind the new face was on its way to me, a butterfly biding time inside its blue pupa.

Outside my windows, the little lake and hiking trail around it were calling to me, but I was not allowed out there—the whole outdoors denied to me. No sunlight, Dr. Carol had said.

* * *

"i hate what i become"

Don’t look at the blue, I told my mirrored self on day three, but now there was this itching: behind my ears, at the back of my neck. Was I having an allergic reaction to whatever had been placed—burning hot—on my face?

On day four, I was less blue and more tan, the old skin taut and shiny as a plastic mask. And the itching more intense. Red bumps and welts had emerged along my hairline.

Just those few days away from the perfect face, but I was suddenly bent to a new task: dousing my head in vinegar. At the kitchen sink. The about-to-be had been yanked back into the IS.

The IS lived there, right then, among the lice.

The lice. Tiny and wriggling, they seemed like tortured but vaguely erotic souls in Bosch’s hell. I stared at them under the big magnifying glass that came with my two-volume set of the O.E.D.

Who did I think I was? Or who was I to think I wasn’t who I was? The forbidden sun slapped me upside the head; the vinegar stung against my new raw face.

* * *

As I doused, I pondered the source of the lice. All I could finally deduce was that the lice must have laid claim to me just as I’d laid my head on the pillow in Dr. Carol’s office, just as the blue acid bit into my cheeks.

Recalling this today, I get the Wordle word on guess three: scoff. Perfect. A word I now fling to the former-me, she whom the universe mocked.

Feeling pretty is the feeling the world wants me to have. X-amount of dollars can make it so. Year by year that X escalates. The SO gets fat and perches like an old crow on a tree bough just about to break. The cawing and cracking circle my memory—loud, then louder.

When my new pink-tinged face emerged back in 2012, my smile felt stiff. It looked painful on the person in the mirror. The vinegar smell wafted behind me.

My husband wouldn’t kiss the new face. Sweetie, he said, about your whole head, there’re still some bugs to be worked out.



Nance Van Winckel’s memoir entitled Sister Zero will appear in October with Slant Books. Her ninth poetry collection, The Many Beds of Martha Washington, is recently out with the Pacific Northwest Poetry Series/Lynx House Press. She's also published a book of visual poems with Pleiades Press (2016) and five books of fiction, including Ever Yrs, a novel in the form of a scrapbook (Twisted Road Publications, 2014). The recipient of two NEA fellowships, the Washington State Book Award, a Paterson Fiction Prize, Poetry Society of America's Gordon Barber Poetry Award, a Christopher Isherwood Fellowship, and three Pushcart Prizes, Nance teaches in Vermont College’s MFA Program and lives in Spokane, Washington. Her author website is:; her visual poetry website is


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