Thursday, January 28, 2010

Beauty

...and they lived happily ever after...

When the medication she was taking

caused tiny vessels in her face to break,
leaving faint but permanent blue stitches in her cheeks,
my sister said she knew she would
never be beautiful again.

After all those years
of watching her reflection in the mirror,
sucking in her stomach and standing straight,
she said it was a relief,
being done with beauty,

but I could see her pause inside that moment
as the knowledge spread across her face
with a fine distress, sucking
the peach out of her lips,
making her cute nose seem, for the first time,
a little knobby.

I’m probably the only one in the whole world
who actually remembers the year in high school
she perfected the art
of being a dumb blond,

spending recess on the breezeway by the physics lab,
tossing her hair and laughing that canary trill
which was her specialty,

while some football player named Johnny
with a pained expression in his eyes
wrapped his thick finger over and over again
in the bedspring of one of those pale curls.

Or how she spent the next decade of her life
auditioning a series of tall men,
looking for just one with the kind
of attention span she could count on.

Then one day her time of prettiness
was over, done, finito,
and all those other beautiful women
in the magazines and on the streets
just kept on being beautiful
everywhere you looked,

walking in that kind of elegant, disinterested trance
in which you sense they always seem to have one hand
touching the secret place
that keeps their beauty safe,
inhaling and exhaling the perfume of it—

It was spring. Season when the young
buttercups and daisies climb up on the
mulched bodies of their forebears
to wave their flags in the parade.

My sister just stood still for thirty seconds,
amazed by what was happening,
then shrugged and tossed her shaggy head
as if she was throwing something out,

something she had carried a long ways,
but had no use for anymore,
now that it had no use for her.
That, too, was beautiful.

-- Tony Hoagland --

6 comments:

Ruth said...

What an incredible poem and snapshot. And the synchronicity, again, is uncanny. I was talking just yesterday with a friend about this very topic. How young beautiful women step up to the media spotlight in their turn, then step down for the next, and the next.

We age, our beauty sags and lags. But how lovely an aging woman can be, an old woman with the mystery of life in her soft eyes. A misty Allegheny - not a breathtaking Mount Elbert.

I love this poem. And Hoagland. Thank you.

João said...

"my sister said she knew she would
never be beautiful again." but then she was...and kept being, because in the end you just learn what beauty is.
Beauty emanates, glows, wavers about like stardust. Life is all about beauty and even when you leave it, there's a lot of beauty too, because you go but life lingers on...it resumes intact, anew in the Spring and all its promises.
All about Mozart this.

Peter said...

Beauty of course depends on with which eyes you watch... and of course not only with the eyes!

Ruth said...

Came back to say how much pleasure I get from the image here. The bouquet is so lovely, and the photo treatment is heartwarming. soon those blooms would be fading and drooping and dropping petals. I think even decay is beautiful.

Claudia said...

Ruth, aging is difficult. The beauty we may choose to find in it usually derives from an intellectual process rather than from aesthetic perception. But I agree with you that decay can be beautiful, that's what I tried to convey in my photo.

Peter, yes, beauty is in the eye (and heart) of the beholder and fortunately there are a lot of different beholders! :)

João, I agree that the beauty of aging has to be learnt.

rauf said...

the idea of beauty keeps changing according to moods and circumstances Claudia