Averill Curdy

When I Was Beautiful

I was forgiven my raucous laughter.

                                                Wedding guests

                        feasting like wasps

on soft-skinned fruits and sweetened wines,

            even as a noise

                                    more appallingly intimate

than thunder shocks some foreign air

into tiers of voile.

                                    Leaves shuddering from trees;

            the body harrowed of will.

                                                                        My sister

was safe when I was beautiful.

                                          I wore departure,

a jet’s con-trail, the initiate’s reserve, a veil

                        of salt sowed over enemy orchards.


Danger drew me because I was beautiful.

                                                I thought everyone heard

the voices I could, calling my name. The dead

                                          needed me.

I’ve been so busy. So beautiful was I

                                          my dress was the desert

where the ghost of moisture prowls

                        the rooftop sleepers, where dawn is kissed

                                    without heat and cities gleam

like pearls.

                                          Jealous morning. Who stole

my dreams. Which took from me

                                                old men and families

                        strolling that unfamiliar promenade

as I calculated velocities,

                        angles, routes

                                                                          of escape, while

the truck drove into us, exploding.

                        I believed all the experts, who said

that in her own dreams

                                          the dreamer couldn’t die.

Put away the pictures—they never show the face

in the mirror. The sun was still in my eyes

                                    when I was beautiful.




“When I Was Beautiful” first appeared in The Kenyon Review, Winter 2007.