Beauty

By Tony Hoagland b. 1953 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.

Tony Hoagland, “Beauty” from Donkey Gospel. Copyright © 1998 by Tony Hoagland. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.

Source: Donkey Gospel (1998)

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Poet Tony Hoagland b. 1953

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Subjects Time & Brevity, Health & Illness, Youth, Living

Poetic Terms Free Verse

 Tony  Hoagland

Biography

Tony Hoagland was born in 1953 in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. He earned a BA from the University of Iowa and an MFA from the University of Arizona. Hoagland’s poetry is known for its acerbic, witty take on contemporary life and “straight talk,” in the words of New York Times reviewer Dwight Garner, who continued: “At his frequent best … Mr. Hoagland is demonically in touch with the American demotic.” Hoagland’s books of poetry . . .

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SUBJECT Time & Brevity, Health & Illness, Youth, Living

POET’S REGION U.S., Southern

Poetic Terms Free Verse

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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