my sister was pretty
but my eyes, nose and lips were bland,
so, after examining my face and discovering
no feature that they could label beautiful,
those who did not simply give up, saying,
you must be the one with the brains,
lit upon my golden hair,
faking admiration, exclaiming over my crowning glory,
plucking, examining it, asking me
what do you call this colour, is it strawberry blonde?
as if I would know; I didn’t get it out of a bottle.
I was not born with the inate ability to name
the colours that grow out of my scalp,
and what is a name, anyway?
when I looked in a mirror I saw the reflection
of those well-meaning descriptions and omissions
given to me by foolish adult aquaintances.
the only answer for this plain girl
with a pretty sister
was to hide behind my glowing tresses
so gloriously highlighted with the hint
of blushing roses in a hundred summer shades.
I grew up behind that curtain,
presenting a pretentious air of mystery
which fooled all of the boys, and even fooled me,
a quiet child when in company, but wild among the trees,
seething with rage against my errant genes
which hadn’t deigned to make me pretty,
while pretending not to care.
even when they clammered to be with me
I believed I had them fooled with the cunning trick
of concealing the perceived ugliness behind my hair,
and hiding the dullness beneath an air of devil-may-care.
I didn’t know that I had grown beautiful.
I went with a boy to the woods,
and in that familiar homeland, forgot to hide.
as I climbed the boughs, the drapery fell back from my face,
revealing my eyes, my smile, my vitality,
those features and flaws which are the source of all reachable beauty.
He instantly wanted pull me from the leafy branches,
drag me to the ground,
and possess my body.
though I fearfully denied him his desire,
his interest fed my hungry ego.
over the months that followed I climbed trees
in the company of at least one Simon,
two Daves, a Chris and a Steve.
each one returned home aching for my virginity,
believing he had seen all that was hidden
behind my crowning glory.
the first time I saw Him, all fakery dropped away.
he was a stranger, and I thought I was out of his range of interest,
but I had dropped every hint of disguise
and he had seen me.
when he held my hand gently held in his
I realised it was not my crowning glory which had concealed me,
but all the layers beneath.
©Jane Paterson Basil