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Poetry Arrived In Search Of Me
Y fue a esa edad...Llego la poesia a buscarme. -Pablo Neruda

Schmaltz

Thursday, February 23, 2006
I confess

I stalked her
in the grocery store: her crown
of snowy braids held in place by a great silver clip,
her erect bearing, radiating tenderness,
the way she placed yogurt and avocados in her basket,
beaming peace like the North Star.
I wanted to ask, "what aisle did you find
your serenity in, do you know how
to be married for 50 years, or how to live alone,
excuse me for interrupting, but you seem to possess
some knowledge that makes the earth burn and turn on its axis"
but we don't request such things from strangers
nowadays. So I said, "I love your hair."

-Alison Luterman


Portland is a pretty remarkable city in a million ways, but one of them is fact that it so very literate. Each year, they run a program called "Everybody Reads," where they basically give away thousand of brand new books, just to get everyone on the same page (get it?!). And while riding the bus, if you've forgotten your latest His Dark Materials book (yeah, I'm reading a children's series...what of it, bitch?) you can read and consider beautiful little poems posted all around you.

This was one of the poems I encountered one day, and it made me laugh, because I had had the exact same experience a few weeks before. I was out, enjoying some coffee and just generally enjoying a lazy Sunday morning, when a women sat right outside the window I was sitting inside of. She was was, in a word, stunning. She had the kind of beauty that leads you made assumptions about her morality. That peaches and cream complexion? A reflection of her pure soul. The out of control curls that don't have an ounce of frizz to them? Her personality in hair form; bouncy and fun without a hint of insecurity to mar her sparkling demeanor. And of course her clear blue eyes were framed by impossibly long lashes, and each smile (of which there seemed to be an unending supply of) was punctuated by the deepest dimples humanly possible.

I wanted to talk to her, tell her that I was in love with her and would give up men (I probably wouldn't bother mentioning that they'd already given up on me) in a second if only for fifteen minutes of her time. I wanted to know what made her life so perfect, and become a part of her blessed existence. I must have stared at her for a half hour with slack jaw and dumb look, just infatuated with this perfect specimen. Of course, I couldn't help but making comparisons. I was in my tattered and stained men's hoddie, jeans that hadn't seen a washing machine in a week, my mascara from the night before lay smudged underneath my eyes, and my indecently long hair was pulled into a messy knot that sat askew on top of my head.

As I stared, however, I started to notice little things. Like, was that freshly applied mascara on her lashes? It was! That porcelain complexion...could that be blush on her cheeks? I also began to suspect that her hair probably adhered to laws of physics, and to keep it from being a giant fro in perpetually rainy Portland, she had to be rocking a crap load of product in those curls. This girl was full on made up at 8:30 am on a Sunday! Who has the time and motivation for that? And as she continued reading her book, my visions of her life changed. I had imagined her waking up, dewy and fresh, walking over to her window and throwing open her drapes to reveal a sunny morning each and every day, taking a deep breath in, and then beginning her perfect day. Now, I knew she woke up at 7am even on Sunday, showered, took an hour with a diffuser while fretting over the humid day and how it would ruin her coif, blotted concealer on her tiny blemishes, and plucked her eyebrows into tiny arches to emphasize the MAC eyeshadow she spent 15 bucks on last week. On an early Sunday morning. Just so she could sit outside and read.

Suddenly I didn't want to ask her about the mysteries of life, or pledge my eternal love (I would've still made out with her, though.) Just the thought of what it took to make this magnificent creature so magnificent wore me out. It wasn't the first time I've mistaken physical perfection for other kinds of integrity. But strangely, I only this do with women. I think it has to do with how I perceive my own shortcomings, physically and otherwise. But I also think women are guilty of this far more men: when men see someone they think is beautiful, their first thought is how to have sex with them. It's purely physical. Women tend to go to the other end, the immediate emotional attachment.

Anyway, I guess the point I'm trying to make is that, had the woman approached the goddess in the grocery store, she probably would have found out that she's a scientoligist or a strict, preachy vegan or even one of those people who doesn't have a TV because they think they're so above it. Her beautiful braids are probably just what she does when she hasn't washed her hair, and her air of peace might have had something to do with the Xanax she swallowed before braving the Saturday afternoon hoards at her local Whole Foods.

(And by the way, "I love your hair" is exactly what I ended up saying to my girl on my way out of the coffee shop. And as she graced me with her dimpled smile, suddenly I didn't care how much makeup and product she needed to look so great.)
2:35 AM :: ::
2 Comments:
  • I read that poem the first time on a TriMet bus in Portland as well. It's interesting, though. After reading about your experience, I don't think you and the author of the poem had the "exact same" experience at all. I don't think the poet's experience had anything to do with the woman's looks.

    By Blogger Korry, at 3:01 AM  
  • Perhaps I should expand on that a little. The difference I detect is in self-knowledge. The poet knows she's projecting. As anyone reading the poem would. She doesn't seem to need reduce it to a superior/inferior comparative analysis, in order to deal with her feelings about it.

    By Blogger Korry, at 5:11 AM  
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