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On Beauty


Emory University, ’19
2015 Adroit Prize for Poetry: Editors List


Earlier in the evening, your hands
encasing my face, I tell you about the year

Walt Whitman was a schoolteacher
on the shore of Long Island. We pause

to admire a daguerreotype of him
done in youth, now reproduced as a print

in one of the books we keep by the bed.
His face, you say, looks like mine

the time I lay all curled orchid, all odalisque—
as if that was long ago, as if that wasn’t just this morning.

For a moment, your face is the same marbled and ignorant beauty
from that hour, not knowing

that after the village learned of Whitman’s affair
with a man, they slicked him with tar

and seared each feather into his skin
delicately, their mouths moving

in prayer.

Nathan Blansett is an incoming freshman at Emory University, where he plans to study English and creative writing.