I’m looking at a generation of girls
who reject the word beautiful.
Who’d rather be pinned against a wall
by boys whose names they won’t remember.
They don’t want to remember.
Girls who are afraid of butterflies
because that kind of vibrance on an insect shouldn’t be.
Girls who rock back and forth on their feet when they speak,
and I remember
how I used to rock back and forth
in my white dress in church on Easter Sunday,
standing before the alter, while the priest
talked about deliverance,
and all I could think of was how
the stained glass windows
were tinting the light that was trying to get in.
I never liked that they put “beauty” in the dictionary,
because when you define something
you put it in a box that you toss in your car
on your road trip to California,
pretending that you’re Jack Kerouac,
but that boy you’re kissing is not Jack Kerouac,
because Kerouac understood
that “beautiful” is a mirage
in front of 7 billion individual grains of sand
that you literally have to light on fire
to get the glass that they put in church windows,
but I never wanted to burn for something I didn’t believe in.
Don’t tell me about the sublime,
until you’ve seen it outlined
in cigarette burns on a girl’s wrist,
or written in the smoke that rises
from her cherry red lips,
all the way up to where
the clouds wave palms
at people whose greatest fear is to be vulnerable.
The most beautiful thing I ever saw
was the relief in a girl’s eyes
when she realized that the hands
that had her pinned against a wall
were her own,
that if she put out the cigarette, she could say
so that she’d never have to see a Judgment Day.
Tell the priest not to turn away.
Tell him not to cover his ears
when I’m singing Hallelujah to a highway,
not to cover his eyes
when I’m reading poetry in a pew.
I’ve already read the bible.
It tried to latch onto my wrist,
but Andrea Gibson held my hand
and handed me a pen
and told me that beauty is laced into the sand.
Sometimes it flies in your face.
Sometimes it hurts,
but there is nothing warmer
than burrowing your toes into the coast line
and letting it grow you,
like the roses in your mother’s garden,
the ones your father cut his hands on
picking flowers for their anniversary.
There are some things we don’t have rights to,
like when you see a girl with sand in her hair
Saying things like, “Hey,
I swear I saw Jesus walking out of a record store the other day.”
Don’t try to tell her God isn’t in her music.
Let her be.