Moments of Beauty

for my students

The poem was about death.
The tyger, they said, is a monster.
How, they asked, is that beautiful?

First, the tyger is beautiful in its form:
the symmetries of stripes
and fiery balance of form with function.
This monster is perfection
at thinning the herd.

And, while death is anathema,
the nemesis of the lyric form,
the presence of the lamb
is the promise of paradise,
a hope that can only be filled by…

The poem was about death.
In the end, they said, nothing changes.
How is killing beautiful if nothing improves?

Hang on, don’t diminish the frabjous joy
of the old man, the young hunter.
Things have changed in the forest,
if only a little bit:
death’s danger for a moment reduced.

It certainly hasn’t been eliminated, though.
Birds’ll still double-jub; snatches will bander and frume.
The boy likely killed the least lethal first,
so if you can’t snicker-snack,
it’s business as usual to avoid…

The poem was about death.
How in the world, they asked, is—

Let me stop you there. It isn’t.
It isn’t. There’s nothing beautiful
about war, about being gassed,
your internal organs liquefying.
War is hell, and death here is no tyger.

Still, the poem is true, and truth is?
Beauty, they said.
And the truth is: dying for your homeland
is neither sweet nor beautiful.
It’s only a horrid, ugly…

This poem has been about death.

This has been a moment of beauty.

© 2022, 2024; first appeared in print in 2023 Spring~Summer Teach. Write.: A Writing Teachers’ Literary Journal

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