10: The Last Home of Beauty

I posted a photo on Instagram recently that my friend ej replied to and said, The lighting in this photo looks so much like you.

ej is always saying things like that. Perfect things, romantic things, lively things. ej and I met and they told me about angel numbers and the bus ride from Montréal and I felt like we were best friends before the party was done. Some people are easy to love, and quick. I met my oldest friend (Errol, 85)⁠—who is also my boss, kind of⁠—in person for the first time the other day and he said, after our meeting, “I could love you very easily.” He liked my smile. Lily wrote in their journal, about the first time we met, “I loved her already.” Years ago, on their birthday, I wrote them a letter and admitted to having a crush. I did that with Harry too. What a miracle, what a surprise, to not realize you are alone in a feeling. To be as beautiful to them as they are to you.

and this is my secret work, to be worthy
of you both and this infinite discourse
where everything is interesting because you
point it out and say, Isn’t that interesting?

Ada Limón, “Blowing on the wheel”

I’m realizing, these days, that I am beautiful.

It’s a deep realization—a realization that rises deeply out of me. An embodied knowledge and I’m learning to embody it. So much of healing is practice. I start with letting go of the idea that anything I think is true. Brains are so tiny, so small and tangible and limited by our thick skulls, cloudy with shame. One of my other realizations is that shame is the horror of living. Shame is what makes being alive confusing—not just confusing. It makes being alive painful. Shame is the antithesis of life, and of love. It is what I’m extracting from my living.

This all started when I attended a dance workshop months ago with Aisha Sasha John. Aisha asked us, What would it look like if we moved with the knowledge that we were divinely beautiful? What would we do if we took for granted that we were beautiful?

It makes sense, then, that I’ve been rereading Bahar. I’m not trying to propagate beauty here as an inherent value. Even in the workshop, Aisha said, well, one extreme is that we end up with inflated egos if we confuse beauty with virtue. What is beauty worth? Nothing. It’s just as messy and mild as anything else. But I revisit beauty now not to count its function, compare its utility or categorize its grace. No, I approach beauty now with the knowledge that I am inside of it. I am a part of it, in a way that I was never convinced I was before, in a way that radically shifts the beauty I know and everything else I know it in. Bodies, oceans, fragile shadows. Now they are all a part of me. And if they are a part of me, I can hold them. They can change. I can change with them.

By beauty, then, I mean slippage, I mean untetherment; I mean letting go, letting go of certainty, of expectation; I mean the notes for the poem, the poem that cannot otherwise be expressed; I mean the image reflected briefly in the mirror, in your eyes, your good brown eyes that move me, in spite of myself, into sentimentality, that embarrassing mode; I mean the image reflected in the water, ocean as artist, body as subject, tides moving to their own intuition.

Bahar Orang, Where things touch (Book*hug Press, 2020)

One of my new proposals of beauty is to leave my legs half sugared, sticky and peeling, enjoying the task of hair removal more than the removal of the hair itself. It took me…decades to get here. That’s embarrassing to admit but it’s not. I hated my skin for a long time for how it grew, how it replenished itself with keratin and, how I felt, spited me.

An affirmation I’ve been doing when I hate something normal my body does is to say, I will not resent my body for reacting to the world. A speck of dust in my eye? Of course it’ll water. A blot of oil in my skin? Acne!

Why would I punish my body for touching the world? For being touched? And touching more everyday.

Beauty, I imagine, is desire twice, is all at once, is delight, the open bracket, something asking to be touched.


This is kind of the slow realization I might take for granted. Is taking something for granted another way of saying I believe in it? I want to. I want to believe in beauty. I want to feel this slowness, like waking up from a long and tired dream. Like looking out of a window, the sunlight slanting across the sheets, the light as queer and dense as sadness.

It’s 5 a.m., and I’m looking into the eyes of a bundled newborn babe who, it seems to me, must be queer as sunlight seeking every empty space. Good morning, first morning, sweet babe. I have books heavier than you. I’ve known flowers older than you, strange bundle that you are. Most others have gone to bed, but here we are — basking in the afterwardness of the day’s events, like two sparrows studying the forest, picking broken branches after a storm.


I write a love poem after I finish reading Bahar. It is the only thing I can think to do (only a few poems of you). I always say that a book really works if it makes you want to write and I was left with a feeling after reading Bahar that couldn’t go anywhere but a poem. And so I wrote, and I shared what I wrote with my friends first and my lover later, and a few weeks later I read it quietly at a reading to a group of no more than five or six people, and someone came up to me after the reading and to say, I teared up when you wrote—and when you—touched me.

And the feeling settled in its home, curled up inside the words, the touch passed on, the last home of beauty.

You know, I’d trade my youth for this: to write a few poems of you, fewer than five even. To be sure, I’d trade my youth for less — even just for knowing the L-shape your shoulder makes with your neck. Not to say that youth is somehow the most precious, and not to say that poems of you, your body’s corners, your arms, are not the most precious. Because they are.


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