Years ago now- a breezy, bygone day,
walking a city street, my hair tossing,
feeling the beauty of my young body,
that animal friskiness triggered by spring,
I glanced admiringly at my reflection
in a storefront window, tossing my head
to watch that mirrored waving of a mane
I thought my best feature- when a young man
coming in my direction barred my way.
With great disgust, he uttered, “Vanity!”
And I was stopped in my mindless moment
of physical joy, shamed to associate
that deadly sin with the upsurge of life
and self-love I’d been feeling, never doubting
my urban prophet had been right. Vanity-
so this was what that ugly sin felt like!
In his disgust, I heard the click of keys
in convents, harems, attics, marriages,
down the generations, doors closing on
bodies that could give both pleasure and life.
Now that the years have granted me release
from such vain doubts, I’d like to post myself
at slumber parties, bathrooms, dressing rooms,
wherever young girls gather, frowning at
their wrong-size figures, blah hair, blemished skin-
already taught to find fault or disguise
joy in their bodies. I’d like to be the voice
that drowns out their self-doubt, singing in praise
of what I couldn’t see when I was young:
we’re simply beautiful, just as we are.
– Julia Alvarez