Meditation in Middle Age
Beauty is youth, youth beauty; that is all—
A truth that you can straight-arm or embrace
When eyes slide past you, and your mother’s face
Peers from the mirror, mirror on the wall.
With or without knives, needles, lasers, dyes,
You’ll lose this war. But losses can be freeing,
And there were things you missed while locked in seeing
Yourself, in your mind’s eye, through others’ eyes.
Farsighted now, you’re startled by the shimmer
Of stars and landscapes swimming from a blur
Of burned-off fog. And you’re the child you were,
Alert and self-forgetful. See her curled
Unnoticed on a window seat in summer,
Lost in the dew-sharp garden of the world.
First published in The Beautiful Anthology, edited by Elizabeth Collins (TNB Books, 2012).
Catherine Tufariello is the author of two poetry chapbooks and a full-length collection, Keeping My Name (Texas Tech UP), which won the 2006 Poets’ Prize and can be ordered here . Her poems have appeared widely in journals and anthologies, including Irresistible Sonnets, Measure for Measure, Monster Verse, and The Seagull Reader. After working for many years as a college English instructor and administrator, she recently completed a midlife career change to nursing, graduating from an accelerated BSN program in August 2016. A native of Buffalo, New York, she lives with her husband and daughter in Valparaiso, Indiana, where she is a community mental health nurse.
This poem came to be when I was invited by the editors of The Nervous Breakdown , an online magazine in which I’d been featured, to contribute to a forthcoming anthology of contemporary writing about beauty. I found myself pondering poems on the theme, including the famous final lines of “Ode on a Grecian Urn.” Keats’ equation of beauty with truth led me to the rhyme with youth and the opening line of “Mediation in Middle Age.” The sonnet, historically used by male poets to extol female beauty, seemed like an apt form for exploring what beauty means for women as we age.