Is beauty the product or the process? At one time in my life, I would have emphasized the beautiful object. While the circumstances that produce a work of art may be anything but beautiful, it makes no difference to the end result. I still believe this, but as I have gotten older, I find myself increasingly drawn to the beauty of the process.
Poets are archaeologists, charged with excavating beauty from ruins. We are watchkeepers of human frailty and catastrophes, the infirmities of age, the inevitability of death. We point to the hidden tenderness of a rusted Edsel wedged in fields of yarrow, an apple made more beautiful by a spreading bruise. We dare ask, again and again, why we don’t understand what beauty is, but are compelled to seek out its most unexpected, least obvious arising.
Drunk as Adam and Eve, hornets
and bees gorge on the cider of bruised apples
at Fall’s bar even as the purpled dusk calls
out closing time, oblivious of the flight
home’s erratic traffic and nighthawk patrols.
Beauty smelled of tannin and it looked like the Hiwassee River and it sounded like Lucinda Williams singing “Car Wheels on a Gravel Road.” Beauty is a real place I can touch in this world.
We are here, they said. In the future, we’ll be gone and there will be other students but we’re glad we’re on the planet at the same time that you are. Music has times and measures but we won’t think about the transience of all that exists for these few minutes. That is what beauty is and I experienced it tonight.