Dying in her arms I’m happy

I see my reflection

through the tangles

from the window

of her eye, suppose

she’s figured out the angles

I’ve been playing,

oh but she’s the kind of femme fatale

worth saving, because lately

there’s a wall built higher than my own good

for, protection

oh but how it all comes crumbling down

the instant, she walks in

where dying in her arms I’m happy

Mural, St. Pete

How often have you judged yourself by your looks rather than how you feel? For this average white guy, countless.

If I could go back, all those years, and stand next to twelve year old me, would I have the courage and strength to tell that nervous boy watching all the other children, swimming, laughing, and running—playing shirts v.s. skins—to quit worrying and join in, that it doesn’t matter how chubby you feel, or how different you look, that as long as you love and accept yourself, no words from another can harm you, or would I just sit back and watch, still the observer unable to join the party?

It’s funny how something so simple as taking your shirt off to swim can be so detrimental to a young child’s self esteem and yet as adults we often forget what that was like or rather what external forces beyond our control led us to believe ourselves unworthy of such a simple, yet harrowing task.

As in childhood, so as in adulthood, what we allow to harm us will.

Commercials show us long, slender, sleek models who seem to effortlessly fit in to their surroundings while being rewarded with warm smiles and admiration for seeming perfect.

Television shows and movies give us well manicured, quintessential versions of ourselves that often seem more like science fiction than what actually is.

Billboard ads and magazines are placed conveniently to fill all our psyche with blemish-less detail to promote this false sense of unattainable beauty that even when met, there’s ultimately an even whiter teeth formula, or wax to whisk away our imperfection.

It’s a cycle that even before the mind has time to develop, stunts it’s growth and like a cavity begins to decay all sense of self worth.

How often have you judged yourself by your looks rather than how you feel?

For this average white guy, countless.

But it’s taken all those countless times to figure out that it doesn’t matter in the slightest, especially as a child who’s developing.

So would I tell that twelve year old me to take his shirt off and go swimming with the rest of the lot?

I don’t think there is a clear answer other than that instead of telling him what he should or shouldn’t do like all the rest of the world, I’d allow him the opportunity to listen to my story and decide for himself.

But I would say this. Chances are that boy or girl over there thinks there nose is too big or there ears are too small. Chances are that kid who cringes to put on his glasses everyday feels just like you do now, wondering what others will think of what makes him human.

Perhaps I’d reassure him that everybody has stretch marks, even the biggest, strongest athletes. Even his mother, and what could be more beautiful than sacrificing your physical form to grant another life?

But we all figure it out in our own time.

I know he did.

Clearwater Beach Florida

Portrait of my own Unique Beauty

If what you see in the mirror is ugly, then consider this: chances are you’re comparing your own unique beauty to what, for your entire life, you’ve been programmed to believe is beautiful.

And what is beauty anyways?

Margaret Wolfe Hungerford said, “beauty is in the eye of the beholder.”

And isn’t that true? Yes or no, in more instances than not beauty is subjective. In fact, I’d go even further to say that beauty manifests itself in infinite ways other than what the eye can see.

As a photographer with a fond admiration for women and men alike I can honestly say that I have taken countless photographs and manipulated them to appeal to the mass collective of what is to be considered quote on quote “beautiful.”

Hypocrite. No, I think not. I never claimed they were beautiful but simply did my job in a way that my superior agreed was aesthetically pleasing.

A wrinkle here, a crows foot there, deleted.

Nobody has ever died from a portrayal of beauty, right?

Wrong. Though I’m not an extremist so there are many factors to consider, all of which yes, I agree, may seem like a bit of a cop out or excuse not to hold oneself accountable for taking what is and transforming it into something less natural.

But this isn’t about my career choice or eye in which I behold.

This is about you and that “ugly” reflection in the mirror.

You are not ugly, you simply aren’t. You are you, and you are beautiful.

Those who claim to seek perfection, well, they’re only trying to fill a void. And it’s a bottomless pit because like beauty, perfection is ultimately subjective.

While I sit here and delve deeper into thought, I watch a mother and daughter walk by my window. The mother is flapping her arms as graceful as she can. The child looks to her mother and understands she is trying her best.

In the end all that we can do is try our best to love ourselves enough to fully accept the unique beauty of another.

Any other judgement is of which we have been programmed to believe.

It’s taken a very long while to believe in myself and I willingly admit that each day is a slow progression to further acceptance of my own unique beauty.

If someone tells you you’re not beautiful, that’s their loss.

And I hope the next mirror that you face looks back in your direction as the child looks with grace and marvels at the perfection of her mother’s love.

Portrait of my own Unique Beauty, September 8, 2020

Nonsense

I was thinking how peculiar

right before I made a U turn

It was early Sunday morning

flashing sirens without warning

Looking both ways like a child

crossing with chicken on the road

there is this man who looks me up

and down as I begin to sigh

Then I look in both direction

turn the wheel with cruel intention

In the distance there’s this woman

picket signs read save the children

I am half way home before I know

exactly what I’m doing though I

stop the car unlock the door

and let the woman in

She sits criss-cross like a virgin

while I drive off she is urgent

I don’t know what you are thinking

she speaks softly without blinking

I was waiting for the bus when you

rolled up I must confess I recognized

your eyes from times gone by

like strangers on a train

It is awkward for a second

can I interest you in breakfast

She says sure she knows a diner

while she applies her eye liner

There’s a group of old men standing

with dead babies and demanding

that a women’s right is not all right

unless they’re in control

I’ll have coffee she’ll have coffee

yes please thank you two black coffee’s

In her teeth stuck there’s a poppy

seed my breath smells quite like onion

As the man from earlier walks by

the window just in time to see

again with no expression just a

long tedious sigh

He must think of me how boring

flashing sirens without warning

I feel seasick like a sailor

hey can you do me a favor

And that’s when she asks

to take her back in time for

her divorce of course she’d

first prefer some pie

On the drive home I was thinking

how peculiar she left winking

Shut the door then started walking

while I drove off she was talking

To the man who looked familiar

from the corner of my eye though

when I looked away then back again

they both just sort of sighed

Passing by the old cathedral

doors open releasing people

From their suffering they’re smiling

shaking hands exchanging sighs and

Across the street there’s signs

that read like jokes inside my mind

there’s men and women who protest

the earth is flat next to another group

who all claim there is no God.

the Devil’s Crossroads

Beware the desperate man

though he longs for love

keep in mind he only needs

a friend. And understand

the desperate woman

though pain in her virtue

there’s much strength

in her hand. So when at

the Devil’s Crossroads

wind whipped bodies bare

man and woman tremble

with nothing left to fear.

An Exhibition of Age

She examines her shoulders
her breasts, each time
she comes exposed from the
cool chlorinated water.

She’s aged but not old, tan
but not that dirty brown leather type
lifting her arms to slick back her hair,
each gesture is strategically planned
as not to exhibit the slightest idea
of wrinkles or tear of stretched skin.

It’s important for her to feel young, almost essential.
It’s as clear as the ripples of water she leaves behind
as she folds to the comfort of a faded maroon lounger, the
heat of the sun slowly dries the beads of water
which spider like tears upon her olive thighs,
and disappear into the fading afternoon.

A momentary peace.

Quietly
seated
at rest
with desire
though
still
desirous,
he knows
better
than to
chase
the wind.

No longer
a girl
not yet
a woman
she will
find
her way,
at rest
by the
phases
of
the moon.

Together
they
are bound
by
foolish
pride
in one another,
backstroking
in tune
to the
ever-changing
tide.