American Beauty

One does not become enlightened by imagining the figures of light
but by making the darkness conscious.  ~ Carl Jung

by Carmen Mason

Oh yes
the melon roses
shot with coral edging bending
down, their scalloped shadows
(strong scented, sweet) upon my favorite
page of writing (who today? Colette
Munro, Morrison, Millay?)
The West, its burnt sienna mountains
against feathered shirt-white tufts
periwinkle skies.
Oh yes, the sea, everywhere the sea.

And home
my grandchild’s face so full of trust
perfect kissing-lips turned up awaiting me.
Two neighbors, bowed and plodding
hands entwined, their fine
white hair whisping in the reminiscent air;
the garden’s figs, hard purple not yet cracked
by the squirrels’ teeth; obscene peppers, eggplants
melons hot and squirming in their lusty skins
eggplants, peppers like women bent and yearning
lettuces, frilled and gentle green
baby slugs benignly curled in their
tight wombs. America the Beautiful.

But no:
museums filled with blushing forms
of porcelain flesh and corn silk hair.
Madonnas and baby Jesuses putty pink
anemic white ’neath radiant halos –
arcs of sacred personages;
our Founders’ high-bosomed matrons
smiling coldly or away, pinched tight
but certainly please, not Beautiful.

(When my little girl, dark and olive-eyed
first went horse-back riding
the keeper booted and bravado, moved to
the little girl behind her on the line and said
here my angel, my blond-blue-eyed beauty                                                  

jump on his back and let him
ride you to glory, little princess
then pulled the
dappled pony round my own
sweet girl
to that golden smiling one

Later, driving home she asked
what it had been all about :
Why didn’t the man take me
first on the line? Avoiding
what she meant to say
her dark face looking out, away
my brave girl perhaps fearing my reply.
It’s the ignorant people
in the unfair world my .
darling colt, my gorgeous girl.
She laughed and turned to kiss
my neck, my fury galloping away
through her thick dark hair.
What could I say to a girl of six?)

There is a black girl in that astounding book
The Bluest Eye, called out of name:
a child who dreamed of gouging
out her shadowed eyes (her mother
looking down at her, assuring
she was Ugly, Homely, UnBeautiful.)
Pecola Breedlove begged to have the bluest eyes
so she might prevail and overcome.
She goes mad instead.

But the most astounding of all:
Helen Keller, smitten with years and years
of American lore, then old, had her eyes
surgically removed (one had always bulged.
She knew without seeing
it was unsightly.)
What did she replace them with?
Liquid blue glass
globes unseeing –
American Beauties (a marble term.)
Dear old Helen, her new blue eyes flashing,
still deaf and blind to those worn-out Old Men
who served to hobble her along her azure way.

I have been writing prose and poetry all my life. They are sighs of joy, cries for help, testaments of love or loss, refuge and epiphany. They surprise, console and astound me. Just like friends and strangers do.