Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Beholding Beauties

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, "Beauty"


  1. Interesting poem, FJ. I was just telling a friend recently, that I was relieved to be getting older, and that I looked forward to "not caring" about how I looked, because women tend to become invisible as they age.

    I think we both knew that I was full of shit. :p

  2. No one will ever call Mother Theresa an old crone.

    Acta non facies! ;)

  3. ...and yeah, in the modern world, appearances are everything!

  4. Unfortunately true. All the more reason to overcome it. We do not lose our value as we age. :-)

  5. No we don't. Our "social" value (non economic) increases exponentially!

  6. ...and the social distances to which we subject ourselves daily, disappear.

  7. I agree. :-)

    If only that kind of wisdom were available earlier in life...