Wednesday, April 14, 2010

"Beauty," by Tony Hoagland

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.


Poems by Tony Hoagland previously posted here: "A Color of the Sky" (my favorite breakup poem, besides "You Must Accept"), and "Hard Rain" (a bare knife blade). All of these via The Writer's Almanac.


  1. Very evocative! I was always glad in my youth to be more interesting than pretty. It makes aging less of an emotional train wreak for me than some of my gorgeous girlfriends.

  2. The beauty here is a brother's love (and attention to) his sister. Thanks for sharing this!

  3. I cannot tell you how much I love this poem. Love, love, love it. Tweeted about it, too.

  4. 鄭凱仲念阿彌陀佛往生西方極樂世界April 19, 2010 4:30 AM

    阿彌陀佛 無相佈施


    之為腥。所謂「葷腥」即這兩類的合稱。 葷菜
    (重定向自五辛) 佛家五葷



    興渠另說為洋蔥。) 肉 蛋 奶?!

    念楞嚴經 *∞窮盡相關 消去無關 證據 時效 念阿彌陀佛往生西方極樂世界

    不婚 不生子女 生生世世不當老師

    log 二0.3010 三0.47710.48 五0.6990 七0.8451 .85
    root 二1.414 1.41 三1.732 1.73五 2.236 2.24七 2.646
    =>十3.16 π∈Q' 一點八1.34

  5. Patricia NesbittApril 21, 2010 6:32 PM

    Thanks for sharing this beautiful poem. It stopped my thinking and made me ponder if I have experienced that moment in the mirror. Would I rather be the young woman that turns heads or the mature woman still sought, but for her wisdom cultivated through the experiences of life? I am not sure the choice is mine to make.