Poetry Wednesday, Vol. 75

Beauty, Too, Seeks Surrender

Jessica Powers

Love writes surrender as its due,
but how is beauty actor?
The heart remembers wound and loss
While mind sings benefactor.

God takes by love what yields to love,
Then pours a glowing allness
Past the demolished walls and towers
Into the spirit’s smallness.

God’s beauty, too, surrender seeks,
And takes, in the will’s lull,
Whatever lets itself be changed
Into the beautiful.

And so, as Michelangelo
Has marked it out to be,
Since beauty is the purging of
All superfluity,

The yielded soul that lifts its gaze
To charms past nature’s claim
Expects to have experience
Of blade and file and flame.


I have a new book, Joyce Kilmer’s Anthology of Catholic Poets. Some poems are quite good, some are so overly pious as to make one a bit nauseated. I don’t know if the poem above would fall all together in the category of a well written poem, but I liked it quite a bit. And isn’t this what Poetry Wed is for, to share the poems we like?

As I struggle a bit with my outward beauty, see here, there is an ever present rasp being applied to my inward beauty. Now I’m not claiming to be inwardly beautiful, just that someday I would like to be. It is daunting to think that one must endure the “blade and file and flame” to become more like God. But it is also a bit hopeful, I think. If I know it’s going to happen, I can take comfort in the fact that it is uncomfortable and maybe even painful to change my inner self, not just because my inner self is so ugly, but because the tools being used are in themselves meant to cut and scrape away that which is ugly.

I was trying to explain the pain of a bullet wound to Josie (I don’t know why she asked, maybe it’s cause they were playing with guns upstairs) (Kidding!), and asked her to think about how much a scrape on the knee hurts, or the quick pain of a paper cut. She cringed and we talked about how much worse it would feel to have a foreign object drive itself through your body, maybe out the other side, maybe not.

I think that is the comparison of God’s beautifying and our beautifying. Our attempts at inner beauty are like scraped knees, painful, with some tears, but once the skin heals you can see no real change. God’s beauty is like a bullet, shoving through, immensely painful and the effects are long lasting. There is no way to come out without some change. If we fight it and rip and tear at the process we only make it worse. If we embrace this enormous pain and tend it, learning from it, the wound heals and we are better, more lovely inside than we began.