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there are three times i am beautiful
(autobiographical no. 4)

there are three times when i am beautiful -
only three times when i am not awakened before dawn
by the fetid stench of what is my soul
to read in the morning paper how those
more deserving of life in their loveliness
and their ability to be loved
men and women, young and old -
did not make it through the night -
cut down by man.
or taken by God.
then i curse the heavens that i am still
taking up space on this planet,
using up the precious air.
but there are three times i am beautiful -

late in the night -
or very early in the morning
when it is too dark for eyes to see
the ugliness of my face and form
and all the children have gone to sleep
so that I cannot frighten them
with the growl of my voice
or the squawking of filthy birds
whom I am often convinced are my only friends -
when my fingers, my mind,
what passes for my heart
all dance across space and time
and nearly worn out ivory -
the trembling air filled
is filled with praises
to my Creator
whom at that moment
i am convinced
did not make a terrible mistake.

or when my words
typed neatly on a clean white page
reach some heart who cannot see
or else has grace
to momentarily forget the ungainliness
of the work stained hands that wrought them,
the poverty of my being
the squalor of my history,
then too, i am beautiful.

at last, too
when i look into your eyes
and see there love reflected
even refracted -
though i am filled with deepest astonishment
that borders on unbelief,
then too, i know
i am beautiful.