Matter & Beauty
This thing with beauty: Beauty & order: Harmony: Balance: Proportion: Power: Jealousy.
A study by Stephen Jay Gould in 1978 of the evolution of Mickey Mouse1 from the rat-faced hero of “Steamboat Willie” to the cloying round-faced spokesmouse of a conservative corporation demonstrated how Mickey’s decades in the making pen and ink sculpting to juvenile roundness engineered by his creators greatly enhanced the squeaky hero’s appeal to the masses while furthering the materialist argument that round (the primal O, zero, featureless, a priori of form, for even a point is round) is the archetypically preferred shape (maybe even funny,)2 unless one is an abstractly round spider (o the cruelty of concrete critics, spiraling pleasure makes the materialist world go round). Or to quote from Huxley’s Brave New World: Beauty’s attractive, and we don’t want people to be attracted by old things. We want them to like the new ones.
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(how lovely, the asterisk: ass, star, risk & the ter of terra firma or the terrere foundation of terroras in to shake or tremble: all beautiful things (o the risk when you shake yer booty))
All babies are beautiful. – from Joel and Ethan Coen’s film Raising Arizona
All matter is beautiful; if one has the eye for it the hands the tongue the ear the nose for it!
Yet battles over the nature of beauty, over the terms & conditions, over who is the arbiter of Beauty as a singularity, as a monolithic essence—archetypal gestures are reduced to having some pipsqueak attendant sally forth before them piping “THE!” every time she makes an appearance with or without her Keatsian brother Truth (she/he/it; i am loathe to gender, though it is disingenuous not to—are as pitched if not as bloody (o, there’s a debate, my Helen) as any Arian endeavor.
The Beauty The Truth The Savior The Book The Love
the the the the the—o the prick of The(o)—god god god god god.
Would it be a practical thing to kill the beautiful? No Helen, no thousand ships. Is the burka then a less draconian answer to the problem of beauty? Men fight for cattle (oil, gold, etc.), land (water rights, a place to hold the cattle, gold, oil), and women. Nuke the land? Slaughter the cattle? Jehovah asked that all enemies be destroyed (Greek Fire, Poison Arrows, and Scorpion Bombs, p. 34 by Adrienne Mayor). Save the women, children, & orchards (o, apple of my eye!) Is this a precursor to the call for apocalypse? The failure of matter to be perfect (beautiful & true or at least exploitable) calls for utter annihilation. Talk about beauty parlors on Desolation Row! Destroy even the sun! New Jerusalem needs no sun or moon! (Revelation 21) What ideal light for an ideal beauty! Yet, the souls will be clothed in bodies? Will they all look alike? What measure of perfection will be used? Ah! All in the image of god! Back to Adam & Eve before they fell from grace? Naked? O, my. What a conundrum.
Monotheism with its mono-visionistic proclivities would find itself siding with a monolithic idea of what constitutes beauty, would idealize a template of beauty & truth & all things. Plato’s ideal form as the metaphysical gauge by which all physical copies (already we have inferiority inherent in the philosophy) are judged as lesser efforts creates in the believer of such a philosophy a ready weapon that can be wielded in worlds as seemingly disparate as fashion and eugenics. (O world beware! O creative designer genes!) Always inadequate! Buy a better toothpaste! Liposuction! Maserati! Armor yourself with material goods! There’s the matter in beauty’s arsenal! Go shopping! Give Aphrodite her due & yet & yet always short (buy longer legs;4 or will we get there yet?), always lesser in time’s moving eye. O, how young women suffer comparing themselves with the genetically gifted, the Photoshop-enhanced, the eternal one eye of Nefertiti. Yet, practically they must compete! It is realpolitick! Beauty wants results. To die for. If lipstick on a pig works, then pucker up! (Then again, this is all about sex-appeal. The question of intimacy & beauty is another fish. Or is it? Fear, o fear, the wide-tentacles of the fearsome antagonist Ursula in the 1989 Disney film The Little Mermaid and the issues of familiar entanglement: issues of power & identity, having matching body parts!) The burka protects & the burka betrays. Who is served in display? Why in 1989 did a jury in Florida allowed a rapist to go free because his victim wore no underwear? Is display an invitation to abuse? Does beauty of itself call forth the violence of Ares? The violence of the iconoclasts? Is it true that beautiful women make men stupid?5
* * *
There will come a time when you won’t even be ashamed if you are fat! Wah wah wah wah. –Frank Zappa from “Take Your Clothes Off When You Dance” on the album We’re Only in it for the Money
the matter of beauty: beauty matters: what is the matter with beauty: which beauty matters: beauty exists beyond the eyes: why do the faithful not ban the sweetness of roasted meat, the perfume of frankincense, the shine of polished gold, the taste of ripe persimmons, the plump skin of young humans; beauty is that sense perfect expression of full engagement with being integrated with the underlying knowledge that it will pass, yet why does the eye carry the heaviest burden of jealousy? beauty in the eye (why one eye & not eyes? one eye, one god, one way, one time, one universe, one beauty) of the beholder, indeed, & if the objective eye of the psyche makes all subject to its objectification, then this bodiless eye inverts the jealousy of the body for immortality & thus a projected jealousy of the mortal falls back on the mortal itself
Does the soul have a form? Is it less than the ideal? Would soul simply melt in the presence of the judge? Is the no there there the essential beauty? Nothing is beautiful in its not being?
* * *
And he wrote a book in which he took away the palm of beauty from Argive Helen and handed it to poor Penelope. Poor Penelope. Penelope Rich. –James Joyce, from Ulysses, p. 149, speaking of Antisthenes 6
& what of the transfer from goddess to human of the great burden of beauty? What Platonic ideal can be borne by any creature? What perfect blue horse? What perfect smile? What form does beauty take, idealized & what does truth look like; what quality cuts the finest figure of faithfulness, courage, honor, good-humor? What object can personify an abstract trait? & yet . . .
The iconoclasts once smashed beautiful things, struck off the noses: image as e/veil.
Or what of the jealousy of a god who destroys 10,000 who seemingly spurn him for a dance before a golden calf?
this jealousy this envy of a perfection of harmony of an ideal that says physical manifestations of ideal forms (dreams/thoughts being physical but usually not visible to others independent of an interior recognition as generated by dream thought or word as in conversations or reading can generate a vision of a thingishness but that thing is not a classical physical manifestation
So what feminine goddesses are opposed to Aphroditic beauty; who prompts or countenances the acid in the face of beauty: Athena, Hera? (Recent research shows “[W]omen actually penalized female applicants for beauty.” Psychology Today, November/December 2010, “Can You Be Too Beautiful? p. 58) Are the polis & matrimony opposed to beauty & if beauty is ousted from the polis and the marriage bed, what then the measure, where the judges to fashion our sense of decorum? See how Aphrodite was caught in the bed of Ares by the maker of objects (again Hephaestus serving others’ needs, crippled as he is, the one thing he makes for himself, a net to serve his jealousy). How Aphrodite clues Hera how to keep Zeus in the marriage bed, how James Hillman speaks of the ugliness of the modern polis in his City and Soul. Does Athena herself countenance graffiti? Hera the acid in the face? Once deprived of beauty does the poor girl just enjoy the riches of motherhood & wife, the veil of the servant? The richness of a bloodbath defending her chattel status? Athena whispering in Odysseus’ ear how to abandon cleverness to brute force. When you bleed what is fructified? The gods want blood. The beauty of power pressing a wyrm under its heel. Bleed woman! Bleed man into earth, o beautiful blood of breeding, see my face? How wrenching the smile of pleasure when I come to you! O petite mort! O gushing display in the dark womb in the caves of Lascaux in the motel room. How brazenly Yahweh shows his ass to shame! How wondrously Aphrodite her own to entice!
o what the shade
What the shade: a psychologist claims the beauty of deeply dwelling fish proves the soul of beauty: Why else such invisible displays & the poet says why not & what else a rub between the moving of invisible skins: Psyche’s candle wax: Is all this iconoclasm & veiling simply caligynephobia or cacophobia? Are we afraid the beautiful will become ugly? The beautiful body with the skull face? O the matter of warts. A mole on the cheek so lovely, on the eyelid hideous.
* * *
He remembers a paper he wrote on the pitilessness of beauty: One reviewer hated it, another didn’t: thus his proposition was proved incorrect.
* * *
Hermione was Helen’s only surviving child. She became the wife of Orestes. Helen’s children with Paris did not survive. (Beauty is sufficient onto itself, is singular. Love not serving a larger audience is fruitless, has its own form of jealousy, will not share, is not, in a sense, promiscuous: thus the faithfulness of Penelope becomes analogous to the singularity of Aphrodite but accessible to humans) thus beauty enters the bedroom & the polis? A marriage of the three goddesses in Penelope? Where then goes the acid? Who is acid-tongued? Who will speak of bitter jealousy? Clytemnestra is the unfaithful counterpart to Penelope. She is murdered by Orestes. The son offended as much by his mother’s promiscuity as her murder of his father? Orestes believes that he is the snake in his mother’s dream. He is aided by Apollo, a most misogynous god & considered the god of male beauty (cold, powerful). Aphrodite was the goddess of love, beauty and procreation. Alongside Zeus and Hera, she was also the leader of the Theoi Gamelioi or gods of marriage. Apollo ... the whole ethic of Hellenic beauty was with him.
One more thing: Hermione is associated with Persephone, thus the beauty of death is nestled in Aphrodite’s bosom. What else is it when Orpheus (son of Apollo) looks back into the dark? Has the beauty of Eurydice (daughter of Apollo!) changed? Will she still have those same cheeks having been touched by death? What is the depth of an attractive beauty? Where is the mirror of Theseus? The mirror, mirror of Hathor? Mirror, mirror on the wall, ever my youth is headed for the fall! As if the poison apple weren’t in the mouth of the babe from the start. O serpent of Eden! Knowledge shames the body. Apollo became Apollo when he killed the Python. Are the crazed music lovers clawing at the flesh to get to the essence of Orphean genius? The light hidden in the invisible? Some music behind the music? Again, the seeds of terror, of horror, wound in the DNA of beauty? These dualistic spiralings inherent in the myths & in the wisdom of the artists who see the beauty of a black empty plastic bag tumbled & tossed about in eddies of air circling as a mini-maelstrom in the driveway of a suburban home as videotaped by the son of a dogmatic cultural warrior in the film American Beauty. (Note the Marine closeted homosexual that brings death in this film. Note also the Hera Ganymede connection. Is it a question of anima/animus projection? Is the dry, male misogyny of the brilliant homosexualized Greek consciousness the cause for the arrogance of beauty? Is this jealousy, this idealization, not of beauty herself, but rather beauty in the mirror of male creative jealousy? Are the women who mistreat beautiful women really just serving the male oppressors? “Apollodorus argued that this myth emphasized the victory of patriarchy over matriarchy. This showed that men did not need women to exist, therefore they did not need the attentions of women. The philosopher Plato used this myth to justify his sexual feelings towards male pupils.”)7 The hidden light. The hidden beauty. See her flee! O true lover to keep the light from her! Thus the veil. Thus the injunction against the image. If there is an image it can be unveiled. If unveiled, what secret shame will be revealed? The emptiness of not just the image but of what does not lie beyond the imaged?
Note the phantom beauty Hera arranges in Euripides’ Helen: “But Hera, indignant at not defeating the goddesses, brought to naught my marriage with Paris, and gave to Priam’s princely son not Helen, but a phantom endowed with life, that she made in my image out of the breath of heaven; and Paris thought that I was his, although I never was, an idle fancy! So I was set up as a prize for all the chivalry of Hellas, to test the might of Phrygia, yet not I, but my name alone.”8 O, a rose by any other name. O distracting beauty. We keep moving. Never too deep, never staying long.
* * *
. . . mercy of beauty . . . –James Joyce, from Ulysses, p. 274
we collapse—caught in her gravity—filled—o’erflowing—our senses exhausted—
* * *
A terrible beauty is born. –William Butler Yeats, “Easter, 1916”
(an ore of) holes gaps emptiness in breath in art memory constellations & (there!) the impulse (both) to fill them & leave them to their (blackness—the residue of processing gold) ore (o re o white cream between two circles of void sun o sheen a void) or how, panicked, we break broken shards (pots of absent mothers spinning (faster now the being here & not in th’ere) arms of negating light) in our (the hour of spiders the cave mouth closed) brazen hair nests of tangled angels shattered glass a loneliness of unmarked shores to find the place that first wounds that gouges a hell as a hunger as it empties itself of its last want or how her eyes blind mountains to what a heaven costs
* * *
Hiesos Kristos the magician of the beautiful, the Logos who suffers in us at every moment.
Or what of beauty’s pull: Beauty is a veil, the very veil—the seminal voila—of matter itself! & beauty is not a tease; she is a full frontal hammer, a fire sucking the oxygen from your white lung, the sidelong glance felling mountains, a slow melting lozenge of ambrosial Egypt: Hathor!
Like a rich jewel in an Ethiope’s ear; beauty too rich for use, for earth too dear.
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The sense of beauty leads us astray. –James Joyce, from Ulysses, p. 204
Look (look) beyond the matter of physical beauty, beyond your cultural markers to the essential beauty that lies within! Remember Chaucer’s hag in “The Wife of Bath’s Tale?” The princess & the frog? Are these tales of truly seeing beyond the hard demands of beauty, do they not bring the ugly under the deep shadow of beauty’s aegis, or do they see a value in a quality that is not measured by beauty’s touch & eye? Can any valued thing escape her grace? This is the question unanswerable & I could stop here still, the bait is looks . . . . The hag story is a faery tale. Remember how glamour was (is, ever) what bad faeries used to lure young men & women to their deaths! Behind that handsome/pretty face lurks . . . death! Think here of World War II films warning sailors, Marines, and soldiers of the dangers of syphilis. O the priests how they only want to protect us. Abstinence-only education programs have (not unsurprisingly) a less than impressive success rate at achieving their stated goal of reducing pre-marital sex & unwanted pregnancy: Beauty will not be denied her pleasure. Note too the alarming abuse of pregnant women. O Dylan: those not busy being born (beautiful) are busy dyin’ (o ugly baby fat)! Is jealousy to blame? Is the emotional psychological answer of the mono-visioned narcissist strongly implicated? Is this proposition seen by another eye of what constitutes an ethical beauty?
* * *
The sun unborn mars beauty: born, he brings pain, divides affection, increases care.
in being who you are—the golden rule—consenting
trembling the feet tap smoke music
blue clarity the road rides the boy
(beauty is nothing
(what gift wisdom
wait long enough
(& nothing is
a train of gold polished knows: to the far so close: carve new nights
& as if to want Love again the Forever Changes album
off the wall: want to answer that? the order of meaning the meaning of order or what does Schrodinger mean by that matter of factless cat? is beauty dead or alive? dare we look?
abstracted horse not blue but lines running
As if beauty cares not even if it is unseen for a thousand years: A maker’s interests mean nothing to it: Miles beneath where light may peer or hidden in deepest space it never starts at being seen no exaggerated “finally” no needy “wait” at the close of a door: Beauty is its own blind reward.
Will they wrest from us, from me the palm of beauty?
& beauty is—
Richard Lance Williams received his master’s degree in mythology with an emphasis in depth psychology from Pacifica Graduate Institute in 1998. Ric has edited the Litera listings of The Austin Chronicle since 1988. He wrote the “Poet’s Beat” column (interviews with local poets) for The Austin Light from 1987-1991. He edited for Ed Buffalo’s poetry anthologies Aileron and Vowel Movement in the late 80’s and early 90’s and was the associate editor from 1997-1999 for Alchemy on Sunday, the literary journal of Pacifica Graduate Institute. He has written and/or edited for the Austin Chronicle, Man! Magazine, and the Salt Journal. His interview with Larry McMurtry is included in Conversations with Texas Writers, published in March 2005 by UT Press.
Secret Book of God
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poetry, 104 pages, soft cover
bookstore price: $14.95
December 2007 - Robert Bonazzi, critically acclaimed author and Poetic Diversity Columnist for the San Antonio Express-News, announced Ric Williams’ the secret book of god as the best book of poetry by a living Texas poet in his 2007 Poetic Diversity Awards. These awards intend to bring recognition to significant books that have been overlooked. Previous winners of the Poetry in Texas award are Paul Christensen (Hard Country, Thorp Springs Press) and Naomi Shihab Nye (You & Yours, BOA Editions, Ltd.).
Woman In The Tower: Stories for the Wounded Child
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Fiction, 200 Pages, Hard Cover
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Richard Lance Williams reads from His novel: WOMAN IN THE TOWER
also in this issue
finches with bellies full
in the carnival of Orpheus lights dance unbowing
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