It wasn’t beauty radiating in the 2am strobe lights where darkness lives a half life. It wasn’t the youthful potential of generals and maidens lining up with mugshots, front and center, waiting for discovery of greatness. It was the great trawling of hopeless souls into one net where drink, madness, and syringes punctured each other relentlessly. It wasn’t beauty that drove souls to the last bus on 7th and Market where the homeless rub wooden beads obsessively before handing them to strangers for luck.
It wasn’t about beauty, and it wasn’t about hope either. In a soup of crying and gutting skin there was so little hope that the hallways buzzed cold florescent and bore witness to more than one assault. The grimy dark carpet resonated with a thousand Bukowskian nights gone wrong, gone sideways into one kind of prostitution or another. It was witness to the shy building blocks of dreams come riding through impossible dust, across a desert of silence, from as far as the terrible Dakotas to the Barbary coast of ghosts.
No need to call home. It wasn’t about who you left behind, it was about who you saw dying in the cold stone church corners, godless and shoeless near the curb. No one asked who your mother was but everyone wanted to know where you found your stones of faith and where you bought your suicide knife, because we were all waiting for it.
No one asked who hit you. No one asked who molested you. No one asked who attacked you under your skin and tore your arteries to useless ribbons. They all waited to see your blood under the bridge. They all waited to see you bleed again because people like them, people like us, it’s what we do. Wait long enough and it will come like a flood down scarred skin. Under the bridge or in the derelict parking lot against broken windshields and excavated tires, this Jesus of your imagination is the one holding a knife to the fragile throats of tomorrow’s poets and artists.
It wasn’t beauty running in rivulets onto asphalt; oiling and coagulating simultaneously. It wasn’t beauty ringing bells for the 2am club of future saints. Beauty doesn’t sit on Polk Street begging money for forty ouncers of Olde English. Beauty doesn’t cling to a Byron-esque dissipation without taking, first, pledges for complete ruin.
It wasn’t conventional beauty, it was something more magnificent and fragile. It was about seeing underneath the skin of people. It was about never letting go of the wooden homeless man’s gift of beads at 2am in San Francisco because he thought you needed them more than him: a man with nothing else on earth to give. There is no memory of his skin, of his origin, of his mother, of his sexual predilections, there was only his ability to see right through skin to the heart and his ability to give away the only thing he had of value to a gutted poet who was old at seventeen and half dead already.
It wasn’t about beauty. It was about something more powerful than beauty.
It was about love.