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    Run For Your Life, Black Hockey Jesus!
    « The Trick Is, Of Couse, How To Vomit On The Sidewalk And Still Love It All | Main | Neil »

    Poor Beauty

    I just ended a quick 3 month relationship with a woman I met in my apartment’s gym. There was a lot of sneaky eyeballing, by both of us, so when she stopped her treadmill just seconds after I stopped mine, I knew I could take the risk. “I just moved in a couple days ago.” I said, “You wanna see my new place?” “Yeah,” she nodded, “Okay.” We fought and struggled into becoming one thing. We didn’t even shower but it was still really awesome. You should’ve been there.

    Also, she was married.

    But I don’t want to talk about all that. More later. What’s most interesting me right now is her reaction to getting a little 6 line poem I wrote about her neck and collarbone and shadows and light. She just collapsed in my arms, crying, and I told her—hey—it was only a first draft; I could give it another go. “No one’s ever written me a poem.” she cried. “No one’s ever written me anything. I don’t even think my husband’s ever seen my collarbone.”

    Are you seen and heard? Who’s your witness?

    I know enough about stories to know that this particular one either ends with me getting shot, dying in a puddle of my own lovely blood, or with me slipping out the backdoor, so I chose the latter. When I emailed a friend about it she replied “Poor her. Poor you. Poor fucking little bit of beauty. It’s hard to live for beauty.”

    And it is. It’s hard to live for beauty. But somebody’s gotta do it. Someone needs to see all those hungry collarbones.

    Reader Comments (79)

    I love this tumblr by an intelligent, beautiful, funny 23 year old guy. He writes well and it's all very sexy, but really, the thing I think about is his friends comment that when they meet, he gives her great hugs and kisses on the forehead. I think if I had the choice between the great cunnilingus and the kisses on the forehead right now, I'd go for the latter.

    April 14, 2011 at 6:45 AM | Unregistered CommenterJo

    poetry as a cure for love-famine.

    that'd work.

    April 14, 2011 at 6:51 AM | Unregistered Commentera work in progress

    I get it.
    Never underestimate the importance of feeling known.

    April 14, 2011 at 7:16 AM | Unregistered Commentersmacksy

    this almost happened in my life. It ended before it began. What is it about the collarbone that cries out to be heard?

    April 14, 2011 at 7:22 AM | Unregistered Commenterunknown

    I imagine it was nothing short of magical to her. The power of beautifully written words and shared feelings is enough to turn most of us in to a pile of goo.

    April 14, 2011 at 7:29 AM | Unregistered CommenterStacey

    OK, this post is going to haunt me for a long time.

    April 14, 2011 at 7:35 AM | Unregistered CommenterTwenty Four At Heart

    as a woman who was in such a relationship: married, forgotten, noticed, awoken...i love this story.

    thank you for being a man deserving.

    and yes, i wish i could've been there. sweaty sex is dirty. i think i might be slightly turned on.


    April 14, 2011 at 8:12 AM | Unregistered Commenterandrea

    I am seen and heard, and see & hear right back - completely. What lovely imagery, J.

    April 14, 2011 at 8:16 AM | Unregistered CommenterKaren Sugarpants

    To be seen is something. To be seen and seen as beauty is disarming and powerful. To be seen, seen as beauty, and to be understood and respected...well, that is a recipe for ultimate vulnerability and an open door for Big Love. I hope you are seen. Soon.

    April 14, 2011 at 8:34 AM | Unregistered CommenterLisa

    This is perfect for me today. It's so hard to be not seen. Wonderful, as always.

    April 14, 2011 at 8:53 AM | Unregistered CommenterAmanda

    Somewhere there is an unattached collar bone just meant for you! (Of course, it's not literally unattached... that would be gross. And painful, I assume). Rest assured BHJ, there are bones just waiting to become odes...

    April 14, 2011 at 9:36 AM | Unregistered CommenterMYSUESTORIES

    a scene in The English Patient comes to mind as does another time, another life --

    April 14, 2011 at 9:50 AM | Unregistered CommenterElizabeth

    The other day at church, we had a workshop solely for the purpose of truly listening to each other. When I spoke and 30 people sat there trying their best to listen and be present and not judge, I got higher than I have ever been. Not in an egotistical "Hey look at me" way. In a "the energy of the universe is pouring into the top of my head and lifting me 8 inches off my seat" kind of way. It was utterly bizarre and utterly thrilling. I wonder what that was all about, because I don't know.

    April 14, 2011 at 10:56 AM | Unregistered CommenterSuebob

    Wow. Yes.

    April 14, 2011 at 11:10 AM | Unregistered Commentererin

    i am. or i am with the person who saw me, once, a long time ago when we were both married and i thought he was my little brother. and then i didn't. luckily we lived on different continents.

    there was almost a year of great distance and sturm and drang and pain. then, shockingly, unexpectedly, there we were, both free. and it was better than i could ever have imagined.

    and we paid nonetheless for our little fucking bit of beauty. we paid and we used a lot of it up, and then we ended up back here together and we nearly broke first on the shoals of tragedy and then on the shoals of mundanity and our fundamental differences.

    yet here we are, we two who have witnessed each other's collarbones. thank you for reminding me.

    so...hard, yes. but as much in the long run as in the drama.

    April 14, 2011 at 11:59 AM | Unregistered CommenterBon


    April 14, 2011 at 1:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterAmelia

    I am such a voyeur. I want to read the poem.

    April 14, 2011 at 2:40 PM | Unregistered CommenterJuli

    I write and give secret love poems to friends who have crooked grins and broken collarbones, and I worry that I will pay for the beauty, but that just makes it all the more urgent. Don't stop writing your love poems. I won't either.

    April 14, 2011 at 2:56 PM | Unregistered Commentermmrilla

    I live for the day that someone might notice my hungry collarbone. Poetry (and hot sex) feed the soul unlike anything else can. It's hard to not feel hungry for that at times. I hope the next collarbone you notice is dangerous enough to entice you but safe enough to spend the night.

    April 14, 2011 at 3:18 PM | Unregistered CommenterNatalie

    100 days/ 100 nights to know a man's heart.
    Mine had less poetry, more painting big canvas's and mix tapes.
    I melt into tears here, once again...

    April 14, 2011 at 3:56 PM | Unregistered Commentersara

    I hope you don't get shot. But if you do, can I have your gym membership?

    April 14, 2011 at 4:48 PM | Unregistered Commenterout-numbered

    you remind me again of why I love Virginia Woolf,
    why female writers & men as good as you
    are necessary
    for she/they/we must shine a bit of light on the collarbones
    of so many women
    trying to square their ordinary/splendid/mundane/beautiful shoulders
    with dignity

    April 14, 2011 at 4:59 PM | Unregistered CommenterEarnestGirl

    I've been the married woman and deep in a box in my closet is a CD full of beautiful sexy poetry about my hip bones, the smell of my hair, and the joy of watching me dance. I'm still married and he let go, but I won't ever forget what it felt like to be known that way and I'll never stop missing him and wanting to feel it again. Beautiful post.

    April 14, 2011 at 8:02 PM | Unregistered CommenterJ

    Oh no why'd you let him get away?

    April 14, 2011 at 8:05 PM | Unregistered CommenterBHJ

    because I was afraid. My sadness over the choice I had to make was too big for us. One of the hardest parts of the whole deal is that I have no one to tell my story to. You can argue all you want that it was wrong, that it was a mistake...but it wasn't. It was a love affair like no other. The kind of love and joy and passion I want for my own daughters someday. It was perfect and beautiful and big and real and no one wants to hear about that because I was married...there is a hole in my soul without him. Sounds melodramatic I know but that's the best way to describe it. A deep dark hole, a sadness that will never go away. I run, I meditate, I write, I's always there. What do you do with that?

    April 14, 2011 at 8:52 PM | Unregistered CommenterJ

    J. Thank you for telling it here. You are not alone, and since platitudes make me homicidal I won't tell you that I hurt less knowing that you're out there with a matching hole to mine. But Motherfucker, I wasn't aware there were so many of us. They say your heart cannot be split in two but that's a lie and the choice to stay seems impossible. But that's the one I made, too. No matter how far or how fast I can't outrun it.

    BHJ You might have just created a postsecret

    April 14, 2011 at 9:42 PM | Unregistered Commenterunknown

    Are you pleased with your decisions or do you feel like your whole life has been trapped in the station because you missed the train?

    i mean. Certainly there's been joy in your life. But let's say you get to go back in time and make the decision again. What do you do? Why?

    April 14, 2011 at 11:15 PM | Unregistered CommenterBHJ

    I'm not seen or heard. Your beautiful post made me weep with loneliness, all the things I cannot have.

    April 15, 2011 at 2:21 AM | Unregistered Commenterel

    tears that are hidden.. no one knows your grief.. the ending is an ordeal that you cannot share.. but you didn't share the sweetness.... it is the price you pay for someone loving your collarbones....your knees.. your bluer then blue eyes.. how i wish.. how i wish....

    April 15, 2011 at 4:18 AM | Unregistered Commentere

    Did you love her? Did she love you? If you answer yes, you should go back through the door. Even if it kills you. But what do I know....I have never been in love, and that is okay because I'm learning to be my own witness. When I read this, I think so much about the wife. I hope feverishly that she will be okay.

    April 15, 2011 at 7:09 AM | Unregistered CommenterKelly

    Yes and yes and there's no going back for what won't be had.

    April 15, 2011 at 7:28 AM | Unregistered CommenterBHJ

    The wife won't be okay ever again. But she won't be okay if you go back either. There is no happy ending here. You ask if I could go back would I change anything? No. I still couldn't break up my family, that would leave a hole in my soul as well. Would I still have the affair? Absolutely positively yes. The pain is worth it for that little bit of beauty. I hope to have it again someday...
    Does it make me feel better that there are others with stories as heartbreakingly beautiful as mine, with their own wounds that will never heal, no. I wouldn't wish a sadness like this on anyone. But I will tell you that for the first time I feel like maybe I'm not as crazy or as delusional as I thought I was. I thought there must be something wrong with me to believe in my love story and not just see it as a mistake or a symptom of a bigger problem in my marriage. I don't think I can adequately tell you with words what this post means to me. It may be added to that cd of sexy poetry buried deep in my closet, to be read on another day when I start to forget that I'm more than a wife and mother, that I'm a woman who was loved once for mybeautiful smile, that he noticed the way I get embarrassed and look down when he stares at me too long, and who truly made love to a man with complete abandon and couldn't get enough of the deep kisses, his sweat dripping on my back, the smell of his neck or the feel of our feet tangled up under the covers because we couldn't ever be close enough to one another...
    Thank you for sharing your little bit of beauty...completely perfect...J

    April 15, 2011 at 7:58 AM | Unregistered CommenterJ

    What about your lover's soul?

    April 15, 2011 at 8:04 AM | Unregistered CommenterBHJ

    BHJ and've made me weep with recognition.

    I am currently living within this dichotomy. My life belongs to my family yet my soul and my collarbone belong to my lover. For a few fleetings hours each week...I am lit from within and alive in a way that I never thought was possible.

    These two halfs will never reconcile and both of us know this will end badly...but we somehow still can't stay away. I feel the hurt coming from a thousand miles...yet I cannot avert my eyes or nor shield my body.

    April 15, 2011 at 8:51 AM | Unregistered CommenterN

    Until someone reminds you that you need to be seen and heard, and that you are capable of doing that for someone else, it is far too easy to forget. It fades to the gray background and seems unimportant. Until it becomes the only thing that is important. The amazement and joy of open eyes and beauty is worth every second of paralyzing pain. I stayed. But my perspective fundamentally shifted. Some things in life have become nonnegotiable. Wonderful post.

    April 15, 2011 at 9:05 AM | Unregistered CommenterHR

    Beginning to sound like getting all lit up by another man and staying in bad marriages (this is implied by getting all lit up by another man) is the norm. Maybe I'm not so unique. Wondering, now, if there's a community somewhere of Other Men I might find. We could meet in dark bars, write poems, pine over women who steal our fire and take it home to suffer with their families made of camera tricks.

    April 15, 2011 at 9:20 AM | Unregistered CommenterBHJ

    Sometimes I avoid your website because it's truth makes me uncomfortable. its hard to stare at your own truth sometimes....and simply blink back. Camera tricks lie.

    April 15, 2011 at 11:32 AM | Unregistered CommenterN

    BHJ-here's the real shocker of the whole thing...I'm not in a bad marriage. I actually love my husband & I even really like him too on most days. I just never felt this passion for him. I chose kindness and stability and safety and consistency. The question really is whether or not one is better than the other or could I have both? As for my lover's soul, I wish I knew. I fight the urge to call him every second of every day but I'm never sure if it would make the hurt worse.

    April 15, 2011 at 12:14 PM | Unregistered CommenterJ

    Sweet tainted married woman love.My soul cries never more never more.

    April 15, 2011 at 12:15 PM | Unregistered Commenterinsane

    This is also badass. I love a good collarboner.

    April 15, 2011 at 1:58 PM | Unregistered CommenterHolmes

    lost my previous comment. it was, in short: J is singin my song. Some of our relationships are not inherently bad, and we are not unintelligent women who are bad judges of men-otherwise how could you be enticed toward our lovely collarbones to begin with?

    I will say this: no one (especially myself) will ever dictate how I allot my emotional resources, if ever I have the chance to freely give them again.

    April 15, 2011 at 2:06 PM | Unregistered Commenterunknown

    "There is no happy ending here."--->This is what ultimately caused the death of my thing.

    April 15, 2011 at 2:08 PM | Unregistered Commenterunknown

    Well, to be fair, you're only living one ending, unhappily. The other ending, because it was not risked, remains unknown.

    April 15, 2011 at 2:36 PM | Unregistered CommenterBHJ

    I try not to be seen.

    This post is very beautiful, BHJ.

    April 15, 2011 at 4:01 PM | Unregistered Commenterafteriris

    But..a relationship born out of the ashes of someone's destroyed family: how can you possibly foretell a happy ending from that? We're here talking about our souls, and the souls of the broken Others left behind.

    What of the souls of the men we go back home to? The ones who know, the ones who never know? The ones who have to forgive us in order to keep their family together, the ones who never forgive us but stay anyway? Is there room in this conversation for the man who lies in bed beside the woman who last week was sleeping with someone she is in love with, but came home to him out of obligation? What must that do to someone's soul?

    Could you build a happy ending with someone, with that kind of destruction in your (her) rear view mirror? Ultimately I could not see a way.

    April 15, 2011 at 4:37 PM | Unregistered Commenterum

    Oh my god, J. We have an initial and a story in common.

    I know it's not fair on the lovers but there is no black and white in this situation. You can't tell someone that it's right for them to leave any more than someone can tell you you have to stay. The damage and the risk might end up worth it to you and not to the other people you impose it on, the ones you made promises to, the ones you have a duty to. Especially when there is no way of knowing that any decision you might make could change things for the better. What if you break it all and then you can't put anything back together well. What if. It's so hard to explain, the agony of being torn in two and the pressure of all the different needs and responsibilities. Sometimes the reality is just that it's impossible.

    I'm so sorry. To him, for you. For all the other men.

    April 15, 2011 at 4:39 PM | Unregistered CommenterJo

    The things I believed before I fucked up my life were true. Don't get involved with married people, it's not worth it - and don't start a new relationship before you've ended the other one authentically.

    I don't have an answer to the point about staying in bad marriages. I don't believe leaving must always lead to something better. Who said there's always a happy ending?

    April 15, 2011 at 4:46 PM | Unregistered CommenterJo

    @um Well then that's just a failure of imagination.

    Speaking of imagination, let's imagine that guy. His wife was, last week, fucking someone she's in love with, but now she's back with him out of obligation. But he doesn't know. He's married to a complete fucking stranger and he can't make an informed decision about his marriage because the whole damn thing is a lie.


    This is good and fair how? Who is this GOOD for?

    April 15, 2011 at 4:51 PM | Unregistered CommenterBHJ

    BHJ-I'll give you that, I don't know for sure that we wouldn't be happy in the end, but I do know there would have been a lot of unhappy for a lot of people for a long time to get to that point. Am I a coward for not taking the risk? Is love like that always worth the cost? I wish I knew...

    April 15, 2011 at 4:53 PM | Unregistered CommenterJ

    Um, excuse me, BHJ.

    J, would you like to email? I've a blog address if you click my link. I'd love to talk.

    April 15, 2011 at 4:57 PM | Unregistered CommenterJo

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