The teenage boys who broke into
Our Lady of the Sacred Heart
to graffiti their new vocabulary
of swear words on the white white walls
were attracted enough by the church, at least,
to vandalize it.
They broke the virgin's plaster nose
with baseball bats
and marked her private parts with orange spray paint
because they loved their mothers so much
it was killing them,
but they left the gaunt, adolescent torso of Jesus
hanging on the wall, untouched,
because they didn't recognize themselves.
Or maybe it's just Spring
which drives more birds and flowers crazy.
Desire, someone says,
polishing his turbo-charged Camaro in the drive,
running his hand over its curves,
it's a bitch.
The blurred blue letters of the name Dianne
scorched into his forearm
record a season in his life
he probably regrets,
but desire, if you don't let it out, everybody knows
backs up and poisons you inside
like old sap clogged inside a tree
or like the hard line of JoAnn's mouth
when she said,
speaking of her first and recently demolished marriage,
gripping the steering wheel with both hands
and jamming the gas pedal
down into the floor,
though she probably still wants
to be followed, pulled over,
taken from her car and carried off
into the heavenly tall grass
of heterosexual imagination,
then kissed all over her thirty-nine-year old body
until, like Spring,
she comes and comes and comes.
Suffering Mother of God. Sweet Jesus.
When the medication she was taking
caused tiny vessels in her face to break,
leaving faint but permanent blue stitches in her cheeks,
my sister said she knew she would
never be beautiful again.
After all those years
of watching her reflection in the mirror,
sucking in her stomach and standing straight,
she said it was a relief,
being done with beauty,
but I could see her pause inside that moment
as the knowledge spread across her face
with a fine distress, sucking
the peach out of her lips,
making her cute nose seem, for the first time,
a little knobby.
I'm probably the only one in the whole world
who actually remembers the year in high school
she perfected the art
of being a dumb blond,
spending recess on the breezeway by the physics lab,
tossing her hair and laughing that canary trill
that was her specialty,
while some football player named Johnny
with a pained expression in his eyes
wrapped his thick finger over and over again
in the bedspring of one of those pale curls.
Or how she spent the next decade of her life
auditioning a series of tall men
looking for just one with the kind of
attention span she could count on.
Then one day her time of prettiness was done,
and all those other beautiful women
in the magazines and on the streets
just kept on being beautiful
everywhere you looked,
walking in that kind of elegant, disinterested trance
in which you sense they always have one hand
touching the secret place
that keeps their beauty safe,
inhaling and exhaling the perfume of it.
It was spring. Season when the young
buttercups and daisies climb up on the
mulched bodies of their forebears
to wave their flags in the parade.
My sister just stood still for thirty seconds,
amazed about the way that things can go,
then shrugged and tossed her shaggy head
as if she was throwing something out,
something she had carried a long ways
but had no use for anymore,
now that it had no use for her.
That, too, was beautiful.