The poet feels that beauty unscathed by time comes from suffering.
We may love their looks, wholly mistaken.
It was really suffering which taught them.
Those who live too fast, as if time threw them,
Chips placed onto velvet, swiftly taken –
Those whose bodies glow, as if death thought them
Beautiful, whom light adores, clings to them –
Those who sleep through fire and awaken
In another world – whatever brought them
Here ensures that age cannot pursue them –
Those who flee all limits run, forsaken,
Straight into the infinite which sought them
Out, from all the crowds who thought they knew them.
The poet muses philosophically about beauty.
Always one sensation when I see
A woman who is beautiful alone.
Always – as if in another place
Part of me were falling endlessly
Through clouds in an amorphous hidden zone.
Always beauty. Always one pure face
Slaps me like a hand. Is it just me
Whom the vision transforms into stone?
Everything around me slows its pace
As if it agreed that she might be
Why being feels. Why feeling has this tone
Of missing something it cannot replace.
Is someone immune? Are some of you
Able to pass by those you desire
Without leaving part of you behind?
Can it be the beautiful is true
And the world is false? Love does require
Passionate response. Were you designed
To contain emotion, always new,
As if you could casually admire
Your own deepest need? My unconfined
Heart observes as if I always knew
This woman. Before the stars caught fire,
When feelings were a jumble, still combined.
Hopeless, what we offer is sincerest.
The glamorous require frequent
Tributes from the people they displace.
If beauty can arrest us with its merest
Hint, its possibility or scent,
Just imagination of a face,
Is love then the farthest or the nearest?
Is the beautiful what distance meant
By assigning everything a place?
Our humiliation becomes clearest
When despair takes joy on its descent.
When rejected, ours is no disgrace.
Some have said that beauty will be how
In the end absurdity makes sense.
The exquisite draws beings to a stand.
What we think we know should not allow
One image to remain, remain intense
When the thing is gone – you understand
Because a sunset happens even now
That was in your youth. Experience
Goes beyond five senses in this land,
This country where all women take a vow
To the infinite – at their expense
Obey its inarticulate command.
What is love if we have not confessed it?
Cowardice, or deeply held respect?
And why does the need for love insist?
The heart hopes for a crisis that would test it,
Never knowing what it may expect.
That is also how we too exist.
Our best art could never have expressed it,
How beauty can harm us, its effect
On the endless longing we resist.
No one lacking beauty has possessed it,
Even when she ceases to object,
Kisses us, and lets herself be kissed.
Music reaches us – before we hear it,
Noise around us vibrates in a throng
Of agitation – nothing seems to guide it.
Then a tone emerges and can clear it-
Self out of the background, so a song
Finds a steady updraft and can ride it.
Beauty does this for us, making Spirit
Suddenly remember it is strong.
Beauty is like Spirit but beside it,
Almost touching, infinitely near it.
Without beauty, every day seems long.
Those who suffer homeless in the cold,
Burning rags and garbage to stay warm –
Who have faces altered by disease
Or whose bodies do not fit the mold
Their culture says is beautiful, whose form
Makes them jokes, the people others tease –
Those whose skin is wrinkled and can fold
On itself, whose spines at last deform
Into a curve, who cough, convulse and wheeze –
Who were once desired, now grown old –
Life torments them until they transform.
Do they shine inside? Yea, even these?
Earlier than everything we sense,
In the shadow world before we are,
Silence taught the nothing how to shout.
We treat beauty with a great pretense
Though the land it rules is very far –
Do even the stars live so far out?
Beauty is unlike our own existence,
Neither ordinary nor bizarre.
Everything we see has come about
Because Spirit has no good defense
Against beauty, which we only mar,
And must usually live without.
Poetry by Stephen Lefebure may be found in his own volume, Rocks Full of Sky, and in Wild Song – Poems of the Natural World and Going Down Grand: Poems from the Canyon, two anthologies of nature poetry. His work may also be found in journals like Twenty Bellows, Weber Review, Bombay Review, and The Bangalore Review. He lives in Evergreen, Colorado, USA.