Troy Jollimore


Anything can be beautiful: a discarded 
Taco Bell wrapper, an industrial park, 
a strip mall, a bloodstain, a bruise, a corpse:

you just need to see it from the right angle, 
in the right light, and in a spirit
of equanimity, open-mindedness 

and receptivity. Isn’t this
what twentieth century artists were trying
to tell us? No, they were trying to tell us

that anything could be art. As for beauty,
they held it in contempt, they thought beauty 
made us bad people, blind to the plight 

of the poor, to the possibility of change. 
That wasn’t their nuttiest notion, either. 
Not by a longshot. But me, I can’t 

give up my beauty, I’m an addict, a beauty 
fiend, if you want to take it away
you’re going to have to pry it from my cold dead hands.

Give back the ache that echoed in 
my heart. Return to me the ache 
and the echo of the ache I felt 

in Orchid Park. Send back to me 
the loose-strung ache that echoed in 
the ark that is my heart. Retrace 

the arc a happy heart might make. 
Sing back to me the song we sang 
in the outer dark, the art we make 

of the ache we felt when we traced the arc
of the last falling star to fall. 
And stir me, stir me with the spoon 

you used to hide the moon. Then stir 
the echo of my ache. My melody
has fallen out of tune.

One: what pleases, what disgusts,
is only skin deep. Like the beast who becomes
a handsome man at the end of the film.

Two: ‘tis thinking makes it so.
What troubles is in the beholder’s eye. 
Or should that be the beholden?

Three: it was born from the womb of death,
or so it is said. You have met its brothers 
skulking in the bushes with their video-recorders.

Four: it is what truth is, where that 
is all we know, and all we need 
to know. Pretty is as privilege does.

Like a man who will happily murder a thousand 
songbirds, if need be, 
just to nab one perfect specimen.

At which point it is obligatory
to make mention of Pope Urban VIII,
who had the songbirds in the Vatican

gardens slaughtered, to create 
a quiet sanctuary in which a 
great and moral man

might suitably reflect
on such topics
as beauty, mercy, and grace.

Does every man, handsome or no,
contain a hidden beast? Is that 
why pretty girls won’t meet my eye? 

Whoever it was thought to install
that scatter of houses, that precise
and poignant human outpost, in 

that hilly spot beneath the dark
erasure we call sky, should really 
be commended: such a perfect 

counterpoint, such a revealing
object lesson in the plight 
of mortal aspirations in 

the face of the indifferent. Not 
the pain of being, but the pain 
of being some particular body, 

of dragging a narrative behind you,
like a swimmer tangled up
in heavy nets, feeling the ocean, 

its whole weight, beneath him. Similar
to sitting on a bench named for 
some fallen hero or forgotten 

poet and wishing one of those flare-winged 
dashes of unabashed color, whose names 
you have tried to learn but can never quite 

remember, would pause and plummet
in mid-bombardment and alight 
on your outstretched, expectant hand, 

on your shoulder, on your tongue. Stay 
awhile, as Faust said to his life,
you are so beautiful.