1 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. 2 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. 3 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. 4 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. 5 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.