The Beauty Seekers
For Anne Sexton (1928-1974)
You were born without luck,
which is to say without gold in your mouth:
As withered as a prune,
as rank as the river Hudson,
as repelling as the slime of okra, you’d say.
You were born, but that’s not enough.
You ought to be able to stop here,
but one must learn of beauty,
learn what transcends humanity,
learn how blood flows with purpose.
One must see night;
afterwards one can realize day.
We must listen lightly
to the animal within;
must glide like a sleepwalker
above the porch.
We must extract all of our body
from the devil’s mouth.
Mundane stuff, you’d say, but I say
we must live a little:
Extinguish burning matches in our hands;
offer an enemy the fractured narrative
of our lives.
We must be free to once hear
the lock twist in our hearts.
After all that you are free
to caress leaves, gravel,
thunder, gnats that complicate the air.
Even in a phone booth beauty
can spill from the directory,
and we must open the covers
and mend its flowers.
I’m afraid to stand in this forest,
To interrupt silence,
Or smudge hoofprints
Photographed on the turf.
A surge of birds enters the ritual.
I hide myself
Beneath the blanket
Of their chants.