Carmen Giménez Smith is the author of a memoir, Bringing Down the Little Birds, and four poetry collections, including Milk and Filth, a finalist for the 2013 National Book Critics Circle award in poetry. She most recently co-edited Angels of the Americlypse: New Latin@ Writing, an anthology of contemporary Latino writing (Counterpath Press, 2014). She serves as the publisher of Noemi Press. This poem is from a forthcoming volume in the City Lights Spotlight Series.
What is beauty I had been
asking since someone told me
I was/I was not beautiful,
since before body hair and even
before masturbation, which required
no beauty, just the creature
desire for gratification.
I think it was Cleopatra who once
said beauty was the element
of surprise, or perhaps
the rare beauty in my heart
said it because she’s chatty,
that one. Beauty is top five
obsession even late in my day.
I pluck stray hairs from my
beauty to assert control
over my beauty. I measure out
what I have left. It is an aftermath,
a chariot, a tax we all pay. I mean
physical beauty, and I also mean
the xenophobic ideals that exempt me.
Traces of rage fill my face
with truth borne out as beauty.
That was a recent revolution.
The moral of the story reads
On the day she realized
she was truly beautiful, she died.