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the way back

In the crannies of the secret valley
butterflies are as big as birds
and dead ants are floating on the clear pond

sand swallows insects and trees drip tear drops
name means nothing
when bloated frogs grin with wide smiles.

is an honorable past-time
you can catch blind trout
with sick worms

and chase songs that unwind.
dreams hide in shadows
and cherry blossoms creep on trees

you can see this place is
twilight's Utopia
words tumble and poetry grows
in bunches of stanzas

twisting of feet
unable to breathe
you follow the arc
of the silence of memory


I saw him
sitting so low
in the dusk of the evening
on my doorstep.
Soft blue white sheets over my arms
and I can remember the sun-
sweetened smell of the air
lanced with dustmotes in the
dimming of the sun's smile.
I must have dropped those sheets
smelled like Downy fabric softener
and walked to the doorway that
framed the scenery outside
like an Impressionist painting.
I smooth my fingers through the
golden fur of his floppy ears.
Him, his nose so cold to the hard
Me, sitting ever so low in the autumn
of the evening
on my doorstep.


My secretary pops her long-auburn-haired head around my doorway and looks at me with
Scarlett O'Hara green eyes specked with gold. She stares at me and tries to catch my
attention. It is six o'clock at night, and the city lights shine like scattered stars
stuck in black velvet night. It wraps itself around my office, and it seems like we are
floating in a celestial city. The four walls of my office are huge glistening windows.
She yawns, stretches. "Closing time." She grins.

"Oh God." I rub my temples with tired fingers.

"You work too hard." She sinks into the wine-dark strawberry stained sofa. Props her
feet on the armrest. "Do you know how many people are coming in since the passage of
that new law--Everything is Beautiful? Business is booming."

"Mmmm." I groan out.

"You really are working too hard." A frown mars her smooth perfect brow. "You
appointment book really is brimming." Another yawn, longer stretch.

"You know what really amazes me?" I wonder out loud to her. I can see the gold glint of
my name plate on desk, slightly askew. My name, then the inscription: Premier
Dermatologist, Plastic and Cosmetic Surgeon. "That nobody protests this law. Not that
I'm complaining," I say hastily, since I am getting very rich, "but people just meekly
accept this. People come in here, wanting me to remove this blemish, fix their noses,
peel their faces, and enlarge certain, uh, parts of their bodies, and it's driving
me crazy."

She nods, as if to say, I empathize.

"And this just totally explodes the myth that only women care for beauty. Men do too.
You know how many hair grafts I did on how many men?" I roll my eyes. She shrugs
those slender shoulders, and scrunches the nose had patiently sculpted for her.

I lapse back into silence and study her. She is my masterpiece, the owrk that has
launched me into the top of my profession and made me a pop icon. The creamy skin that
emerged under the onslaught of burning acids, legs without a hint of cellulite, the
upward tilt to her eyes, all this I did.

The door to my medical room is ajar. The supercomputer where I design new faces for my
patients and steel torture-like instruments are neatly placed among huge liquid-filled
jars securely guarded. I turn my gaze to the side window. The Brooklyn Bridge is a
string of beaded lights. The red rear lights of moving shadows constantly recede into
the distance.

What, I wonder, is it about people's fascination with beauty that compels them to offer
themselves like sacrificial lambs to the sharp edges of knives, lasers, and acids to
achieve that ever-elusive "perfect look"? The process of becoming beautiful isn't a
pretty one. I forcibly suck out fat with little tubes, insert potentially harmful and
dangerous substances into their bodies, and lift and slide the skin off their faces. I
do such traumatic things to their bodies, and for what? To have Audrey Hepburn's gamin
look in "Breakfast at Tiffany's" or George Clooney's air of confidence and sensuality
that comes from having amazingly good looks?

There is a sudden muted honking, and the indistinct babble of voices, rising in anger,
coming from somewhere down in the shapeless dark. I stare at my hands, long pale
surgeon's hands, hands that cut and scrape and sew. I have been working with these hands
for years, and have taken as much care with them as a pianist would do for his hands.
Many people have walked out of my office with new lives and new bodies. Iused to have
such a feeling of accomplishment, seeing all these beautiful people walk out of my
office, knowing I did this. But now I'm beginning not to care. I'm beginning to be
indifferent to beauty. After watching all the newly-made Cindy Crawford, Kate Moss, Tom
Cruise lookalikes walk out of my office, beauty becomes ordinary and commonplace. I
don't know what beauty is anymore.

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