It Is with Words as It Is with People

It is with words as it is with people: Actual beauty is rare.
We call things beautiful, not as such, but because of what they mean.
 
Because we commonly attribute beauty to whatever does us a favor,
We are reduced to puzzled despair whenever actual beauty says no.
 
Indeed, our calling a thing beautiful almost means it is not.
For how can we know it is beautiful until it betrays us?
 
A sage once said “The trouble with these great philosophers
Is their only way of doing honor to an idea is to say the idea is true.”
 
It is the same with words as it is with people: Actual beauty is rare.
Humiliated, we are no longer willing to call the beautiful beautiful . . . 
 
Madrid is reading his poetry to a roomful of unearthed cultural relics.
He compares the white hair on their heads | to the flag that signals surrender.

Anthony Madrid, "It Is with Words as It Is with People." Copyright © 2015 by Anthony Madrid. Used by permission of the author for PoetryNow, a partnership between the Poetry Foundation and the WFMT Radio Network.
Source: PoetryNow (PoetryNow, 2015)
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