I am not beautiful anymore

before you roll your eyes, mutter ‘vanity’ and dismiss this

read on ….

I am not beautiful anymore

I never really was

the baubles of youth hung on me radiant

like an old lamp made new, turquoise shade placed artfully

I thrived in illusion, trickery and kind light

in my Boudica heart I knew I was neither

fair nor pleasing, so much as fierce and thriving

even that became hard, as life galloped up and said

“forget taking things for granted, here’s a dollop of bad luck

eat it down, before it gets chilled.” And frozen I became

not the only sufferer in this world, one among many

obscured souls, turning to the skies, wondering

at purpose and uncoiled existence, the tempura of Devotion’s

sticky depth of love and how its ephemeral fragility

seems to last but a brief season …

when fading every day, my face gave way to gravity

breasts like crab apples, too sour for suckling, hung

belly emptied of children, taut in scarification

skin burning beneath ozone, crosshatched in sympathy

I continued when you did not

when you, beautiful from birth, with your damson eyes

and chestnut curls, your wide raspberry smile that

literally caused men to wring their hands in longing

you who were beautiful, inside and out, upside down and sideways

I could have shaken you for hours and nothing, nothing

would have disturbed your glow, it burst out of you

like a firefly searching for deepest corner of dream

a blackberry girl with stains of joy eclipsing

I could spend days staring at your opulence

nights thinking on your magnificent thoughts

your reach was like a wedding veil, long and trailing

liable to run with the wind, skim tree tops, fly away

it was you who was beautiful and I,

the pretender, the one who drank to numb

that terrible feeling of invisibility, of second place

who wore crimson and scarlet just to get a look in

the power of heels, make-up, all the trapping falsehoods

women anoint themselves with to fit, to hope

they’ll one day be that rarefied creature beloved

by a stranger, a world, taut in her cruel turn.

I wanted to be loved and I wanted to be special

but all I really got was the mirror of falsehood

stuck in my throat when I removed war paint

at the end of each false day, knowing all the praise

was for a surface butterfly, facsimile of what I yearned

being ordinary and in that plain-faced simplicity, ignored.

It wasn’t easy growing up with you

being stopped in the street and asked

“who is she?” Knowing it wasn’t me

it wasn’t ever me, my thick glasses and lopsided lips

and when I took a lover, he bought the

magazine with your face on the cover and

when he made love to me, he really touched

you with his longing. And I? I was the hand

maid to your radiance, I knew that even as

I pretended the glitter that fell, covered me also

it never did and anyone who knocked on my door

only bothered after trying hard to open yours.

I didn’t have children, clans or marriages

to mark my existence any more than you

had years to live.

A terrible symmetry, you died before youth

vanished from your eyes and they buried you

quietly on a hill that some said

faced Jerusalem

and I watched as the blue black birds

of our youth did not shake then from deciduous trees

rather, filling them with imploring darkness

as your redwood casket was lowered

and loaming earth accepted you.

I am not beautiful anymore

nor was I, but the finery of those days

was sold and given away, to girls we

didn’t know, who crushed their glossy toes

into your jeweled shoes and my flapper

dresses with wide velvet waists

coins under their mouths in ecstasy

and made their own luck beneath

the same holy skies with boys come

from the very men who lavished their gaze

on your perfect ankles. Time rolling

like a dancer too tired to stand

espying once in a while a white-haired girl

who resembled me greatly

rushing like liquid through cloying trees

freed of comparison or need for love

if love should be based upon such things

then a dragon I surely became.

6 Replies to “Then a dragon”

  1. It is a curious thing
    how we think of dragons
    ancient beings
    terrible and wise
    magnificent if not pretty
    keepers of secrets hoarded
    magical and ferocious
    patient and quick to strike
    but nowhere that I know
    is the dragon’s youth considered
    form hatchling lizard
    do they envy birds’ bright plumage?
    do they wish a hide more cuddly?
    do they fall in love, desire
    with more mortal beings
    on their way to becoming
    elders to the world?

  2. I knew that one day “When Women Were Dragons” would spark a poem like this! May we not have too much longer to wait for the Dragoning, long overdue as it is already…

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