Thursday, November 22, 2012

ομορφιά (Beauty)

It is a breach of etiquette to use another woman's cosmetics--
that is for young girls
painting each other's new, blank faces
until a woman they can be emerges.

One must never walk out of one's front door
without looking one's best.
Beauty shows respect for others as well as for one's self,
and lets lesser women know
to lower their eyes.
It invites men to blind themselves
on the unexpectedly keen edge
of genuine feminine power.

Having spent the night with Athena,
and with no time to go home,
I went to the SAV-RITE,
leaned my claymore against the glass display case,
and described the things I needed.

"Are you a winter or a summer?"
Well,
it said one thing that a sleety rain began turning to snow,
the flakes collecting in my horse's mane
as we stood tossing our heads and shifting from foot to foot
under a giant Revlon ad.
But that was contradicted by the lilies
blooming white as death,
white as a bride,
around our legs and up to our knees.

"I'm not sure," I told her.

I have come across Persia, Africa and France.
I have killed and I have enslaved
all who opposed me.
At times,
my red curls became damaged,
with no product to be had.
I wore a helmet
for six weeks on campaign
to hide my split, untrimmed ends
and my shame.

In Athena's arms last night,
I confessed what she already knew--
that my beauty is limited
by nature
and by the boundaries of artifice.
She kissed me,
wrapping herself around me like silken fog around an evergreen.
I wept to think
that she would do that;
that she would call me "baby",
and value me
as she does her owl and all those she loves the most.

My skin lacks a smooth, even tone.
I am blemished from sun, fire, injury, and fever.
I turned away from the SAV-RITE counter,
daunted,
and went back to Athena,
where I found her pressing my hand-written poems to her
into coherent volumes.

I raised my eyes.
I asked her if she would rather be with Aphrodite
or Artemis
or Phoebe.

She took my hands,
dark with blood under their blunt, unpolished nails.
She said,
"Come back to bed,"
and so I did,
naked
and trembling.
______

12 comments:

TexWisGirl said...

lots of power in this one.

happy thanksgiving to you, shay.

Sherry Blue Sky said...

Oh, wow. What a tale. I, too, trembled when the narrator asked the question, and was heartened by the response. SO lovely.

Kerry O'Connor said...

We can use beauty to blind, out there in the glare of daylight streets, but our truest admirers see more than meets the eye... Your words show all this and so much more, and make me proud to have been born female. I know how to love, and how I deserve to be loved too.

hedgewitch said...

You surprise the essence within the great temple of feminine power, built on a crumbling edifice that can't last, but so beautiful while it does, and sometimes, even more beautiful after it passes--I echo Kerry, and your poem--beauty after the first blinding flash, becomes invisible over time--what shines beneath the surface never dulls, only glows with a deeper sheen as it is polished and perfected.

myheartslovesongs.com said...

it has been scientifically proven that the more deeply in love we become with someone, the more beautiful they are to us. we didn't need science to tell us that, did we?

this is a stunning-as-only-Shay-can-do-it poem! Love it, Sista!

Shawna said...

You're right; I love it. And I'm just going to press it against me and hold it for tonight. Tomorrow, I will leave you a real comment.

You know I love the owl. :)

Happy Thanksgiving, my beautiful friend.

Shawna said...

I love that you included the Greek in the title.

This is one of those pieces that's hard to comment on because the words are glued together so tightly that it's difficult to break them apart without hurting their feelings.

Excellent (and true) opening.

"Beauty shows respect for others as well as for one's self,
and lets lesser women know
to lower their eyes." Ouch. I don't follow this code; I love the way you've so obviously made this someone else's voice. These are not things you really believe; they're things you fear others might believe.

"It invites men to blind themselves" I love this imagery, as if it is a kindness to offer a blade. I like the double meaning in "keen edge"---which makes me think of sharp personality, wit, and mental ability almost before a sword. But this is an excellent transition into your next stanza (where the claymore appears).

"described the things I needed" This is SO loaded. It could be quite a long list, depending on your heart.

The SAV-RITE is perfect. :)

Your "I'm a paradox" paragraph (snow/lilies) is exquisite.

"I have come across Persia, Africa and France" Ha! This is awesome.

I was surprised she had red hair, for some reason. But I dig it.

Love this:
"I wept to think
that she would do that;
that she would call me 'baby,'
and value me
as she does her owl and all those she loves the most"

"where I found her pressing my hand-written poems to her
into coherent volumes" Now isn't this telling. Not only does she see your worth, but she also understands you. I like that in the pressing, they become coherent.

The ending is moving as well, particularly the last three words.

I love this, Shay. It was a pleasure to read.

Daryl said...

awesome write ... incredible read ..

belated but sent with love

*´¨)
¸.•´¸.•*´¨) ¸.•*¨)
(¸.•´ (¸.•` ¤ HAPPY THANKSGIVING!!

Roselie said...

One of your best poems yet...I was enthralled...

Sioux said...

"the flakes collecting in my horse's mane
as we stood tossing our heads and shifting from foot to foot
under a giant Revlon ad.
But that was contradicted by the lilies
blooming white as death,
white as a bride,
around our legs and up to our knees." This is such a exquisite image. It was stunning.

"I have come across Persia, Africa and France.
I have killed and I have enslaved
all who opposed me.
At times,
my red curls became damaged,
with no product to be had.
I wore a helmet
for six weeks on campaign
to hide my split, untrimmed ends
and my shame." This a marvelous pairing of the ancient past and the present, of the warrior and the woman--at least from my perspective...

"She took my hands,
dark with blood under their blunt, unpolished nails.
She said,
"Come back to bed,"
and so I did,
naked
and trembling." The vulnerability and the acceptance is quite poignant.

AND the gravy--your voice reading your poem.

Thanks, Shay. I'm thankful for writers like you who share their gift with others...

mac said...

Athena is one lucky lady !

Mama Zen said...

I've been waiting to comment on this one until I could come back and listen to it (without Dramatic Chipmunk playing in the background!). It's exquisite (as I knew it would be). Such truth in the contrast between feminine power and vulnerability. I love this, Shay.