The Banning of Beauty

The Banning of Beauty

Lock the gates against splendor,
black out every luxury and pleasure—
tear from the country's lexicon the word lovely.

Call beauty an infection,
and it only spreads,
roots deeper in the earth.

In the uniform streets, people on bicycles
pedal out whole dynasties of verse,
each downward foot a poem's stressed syllable
pumping forward through silence.

In the oil and steam of the factories,
workers compose love songs for bells and drums,
make of the mind a rebel orchestra pit.

No silk threads embroidering their slippers
with phoenix, lotus, a dragon's fire, the women
find other ways to shine. Behind the drawn curtains
of their shadowed houses, they hang
polished teaspoons from the ceiling,
catch what light they can
from the candles' glow.

Children, knowing the laws by which they are governed,
hide marbles under loose floorboards,
cover the glass bowls of goldfish with dark cloth
and slide them under the beds.
While they sleep, scales flicker beneath,
stowaway cells of a dreamworld waiting
to be woken and entered.

Under the muted palette of night,
across the grey city and in another room,
a man's hand traces the body of his beloved,
his finger a brush that paints her skin
with the calligraphy of bamboo and plum,
all the flesh alive, a hundred flowers blooming.

- - - Carla Funk