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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 
which 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 over, done, finito,
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 seem to 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 by what was happening,
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.

© Tony Hoagland