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Is the beauty that inhabits grasses, a country path,

or a stand of grain more potent than the beauty

that abides in a broken staff that a blond-haired boy

is leaning over, or in straw that pokes out of a thatched roof?

A mountain stream, grown sluggish from the sun, spilling

into tall rubber boots--can it be superior to the pleat of a rusty skirt

that flashes for a moment between park benches?

Perhaps it is not beauty that compels our glances

with which we draw in slippery rocks and swift bicycles,

the arches of bridges, and children's collarbones so delicate to

the touch?

Perhaps it is not beauty that prompts desire, consent

or the will to overstep boundaries, but rather the secret of being,

being itself, in effect; the fact that a clock's ticking

next to the sublimity of a common currant, the vapor from a teapot,

and a die tossed high in the air all evoke in us the fear

of inferiority? I could answer, though without being certain

that I'm not in error, that each tiny hair, each gust

of the universe is the conjunction of loss and expense,

of the assent to an individual, unchosen life. Beauty is born

and dies in a similar harmony, in the same infinite

din of seasons and days, subjected to the pressure of the dark,

of blindness, and of a tongue torn out, in constant flight

from the travesty of circles, squares,

and shrill lines that circumscribe with their radii

our entire globe flung into the bitter spume of the cosmos.

* Born in Gliwice in 1946, Julian Kornhauser is a central figure of the "New Wave" generation. In addition to writing poetry, novels, and literary criticism, he is also an accomplished translator of Serbo-Croatian literature. His most recent collection of poetry is Kamyk i cien (Pebble and shadow, 1996).
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Publication:Chicago Review
Article Type:Poem
Date:Jun 22, 2000
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