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What is Beautiful, Revisited

The Matisse Window, Mainz, Germany
The date is perfect in symmetry and resonance - 02/14/2014 - Valentine's Day. Doesn't the day express itself uniquely? Long ago my loved ones and I bailed on commercial expressions of the holiday, but we do celebrate the ancient Roman's message of love. Confections are baked, wine toasted at a candlelit dinner table, a handmade poem or card...

As my children have grown and moved on through college, and then to medical and graduate schools, I find the process of mailing them my "I Love You" conjures both joy and an echo of the poignant. How well I remember the sticky-glue hearts that came home from grade school, the heart cake that caved in the middle under the weight of a ton of chocolate frosting - the snow bear's story and "Amanda the Rocket Girl" scribbled in crooked handwriting. These days I write them simple notes and stick in a cafe gift card or bookstore gift certificate. And off it goes, my love in the mail. Catching each remembrance, they call, blowing back a kiss. I like to think that if I have been able to teach my children anything well, it is how to love.

So however you celebrate St. Valentine's Day, enjoy the love. I am re-posting an older essay below - the poem by Billy Collins reminds me of the day my beloved wrote me the rare and remarkable poem. Enjoy:
To all you Romantics...
Hold on to this one, friends. Let this poem resonate, listen. Close your eyes.
"A dark voice can curl around the concepts on love, beauty, and foolishness..."

by Billy Collins

You are so beautiful and I am a fool
to be in love with you
is a theme that keeps coming up
in songs and poems.
There seems to be no room for variation.
I have never heard anyone sing
I am so beautiful
and you are a fool to be in love with me,
even though this notion has surely
crossed the minds of women and men alike.
You are so beautiful, too bad you are a fool
is another one you don't hear.
Or, you are a fool to consider me beautiful.
That one you will never hear, guaranteed.

For no particular reason this afternoon
I am listening to Johnny Hartman
whose dark voice can curl around
the concepts on love, beauty, and foolishness
like no one else's can.
It feels like smoke curling up from a cigarette
someone left burning on a baby grand piano
around three o'clock in the morning;
smoke that billows up into the bright lights
while out there in the darkness
some of the beautiful fools have gathered
around little tables to listen,
some with their eyes closed,
others leaning forward into the music
as if it were holding them up,
or twirling the loose ice in a glass,
slipping by degrees into a rhythmic dream.

Yes, there is all this foolish beauty,
borne beyond midnight,
that has no desire to go home,
especially now when everyone in the room
is watching the large man with the tenor sax
that hangs from his neck like a golden fish.
He moves forward to the edge of the stage
and hands the instrument down to me
and nods that I should play.
So I put the mouthpiece to my lips
and blow into it with all my living breath.
We are all so foolish,
my long bebop solo begins by saying,
so damn foolish
we have become beautiful without even knowing it.
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