This poem from my book in progress, ON COLD MORNINGS, begin this new blog series. I will occasionally include some musing on the subject of what I call "the problem of beauty." My thinking often turns to a question: How do we properly acknowledge, appreciate, perhaps even celebrate natural beauty (human and otherwise), without becoming possessive or exploitative?
I think it fair to say that we do not have adequate answers to that question; indeed, we so quickly become possessive and exploitative. We see a beautiful mountain or forest, and we begin immediately to dream of grasping some part of it for ourselves or of plundering its resources for profit. Our having does not satisfy, so we imagine having more. Our profits do not satisfy, so we work tirelessly to increase them, in order to fund our expanding possession.
I see the "problem of beauty" as relevant to our relationship to Mother Nature generally, but most specifically and acutely relevant to men's relationship to women, and thus, to female beauty. In regards to women, and to female beauty specifically, our testosterone-driven tendency toward exploitation and control seems relentless and rapacious. From one culture to the next, we stagger wildly from brutal suppression, on the one hand, to naked display for entertainment, on the other. Both responses serve an auto-erotic male interest and male empowerment. I do not pretend in these poems to have an answer to my own question or a solution to the problem as I see it. I mean only to explore the issue, hoping, as I do so, neither to hold back in fear nor to exploit.
On Cold Mornings
On cold mornings,
while some complain as they sit
tucked within their warm offices,
I want to play hide and seek
in the snow with children until
my blue lips are too numb to speak.
among stiff bodies standing,
I too stand stiffly, recalling
how I dance when I pray alone.
I hold in my laughter, imagining
all of us dancing in long underwear,
like saints in robes abandoned to joy.
At a funeral,
while a pastor lies about the old bastard
or the faithful greive madly as if faithless,
I feel an urge to curse and mock
and dare them to call down holy fire,
or tell them as I leave that I’m bored.
Only life is intetesting
in all the truth and beauty of it.
In my prayers,
images of women distract me.
I ask, Father, how do I love them
without sinning yet with joy
at your beauty in them,
breast, thigh, groin, eye.
On any day,
wherever I fear my protests
like screams may echo,
betraying the hollowness of earth
and sky and heart, I want to fall
weeping, kissing hungrily the neck,
the warm supple neck of one
who understands all of this,
oh Lord, I pray.