Not a Beauty
Good thing I was never beautiful.
I have found other uses for ink and skill
than the rim of my lashes. I have heard
music in something other than my sharp voice.
If I were beautiful, if I bowed my head
to regard the stream I would only see
myself, falling in toward an image dancing
in light. And then I’d miss so much: the stealthy
salamander sky-spotted against the muck
the gray fingers of fish darting through the weeds
and such weeds! So green they make the heart quake
and shiver. I could even be envious
of such a bright thing, since I fail to shine.
They say there is virtue in ugliness,
that it builds character in the manner of
masonry. Maybe its sturdiness roots down
to lift that twisted mountain tree.
Maybe it threads under the forest floor
to spring up the occasional mushroom,
misshapen but endlessly interesting.
Maybe it’s the rough rock that holds in its palms
the memory of the very first leaves.
Don’t get me wrong: sometimes I wish I were
the shimmering bloom on the fragile stem
and not the common eye that regards it.
But on the whole, ugliness has been a gift,
to be the subject of desire and never
its object, to see the subjectivity
in what surrounds, even the green carapace
of flies feasting in a cathedral of bone.
I can’t quite keep my languages straight
tonight. The meanings curve from lip to ear,
and next thing you know a verb is rooting
into a daisy and I have a mouth
full of flowers, attracting butterflies,
which seems like such an incredible thing
in a literal sense: Who can believe
a woman becoming a field of blooms?
Apollo is probably involved, he
often is in such cases, stories say.
Some divine man has his desire thwarted
and the next thing you know, you’re a tree
with someone hacking off bits of your hair
to award the sweaty winners of
sundry athletic competitions.
It’s just the way things are. You fall in love
and next thing you know, you’re a cow running
across Egypt, stung by relentless
horseflies. Or you settle down to sleep
as a cozy bed of marshy cattails.
Next thing you know, someone is turning you
into a flute. There are many stories
like this, how you start from a common shape
and your own magic twists you into
something unexpected. The reverse
is never possible: once you are changed,
you are changed for good, and though pursuers
may hack off bits of you — even a god --
you are no longer accessible
for kisses and other harassment.
You are something wild now, something feral
that speaks in leaves and flowers and wind,
something that answers the petitions
of women and haunts the dreams of men,
pulling them under the fountain’s broad lip.
Jenne Micale lives in the woods in Upstate New York. Her poetry has been published in Enheduenna, Mandragora, and several anthologies. When she’s not scribbling, she is making music as the ethereal/wyrd folk project Kwannon, learning Gaeilge and practicing aikido badly.