The Sunday Poem: Aileen O'Catherine… Snapshot of a Young Girl at a Harvest Festival

It might be a scene in Corrales, Los Ranchos, Belen, or near the poet's home in Peralta.  In any case the sharp eyes of Aileen O'Catherine see beyond the straw and corn husks, and peer into the future of a youngster making a scarecrow.  In this one moment, autumn seems a lot like spring.

O'Catherine is writes for Albuquerque

Snapshot of a Young Girl at a Harvest Festival

She has no idea of her beauty.
She is 12, maybe 13, a tall girl with glasses
cutting a strip of cloth as she makes a scarecrow woman
at a harvest fair. Her long brown hair is drawn back
to a tail. She has outgrown the girl underneath,
her chest has started to form and her hips
are no longer those of a child. Yet
she has no idea of her beauty, she looks
in the mirror and sees a nose larger than most,
receding chin, outturned ears. She doesn’t see
her intense determination, her grasping focus, the way
she filters out the younger children clambering around her
while she works to stuff the scarecrow woman with straw.
A girl meanders through her teens and knows
what she wants, feels the pulse of it inside her
like an underground river seething through rock, yet
she doesn’t see it. She sees only the imperfect face,
the gangly arms, the bookish personality
that doesn’t win her friends. She sees the magazine
models, not what I see in this moment: her steady focus, her competent hands,
her burning intelligence and purpose, her magnificent inner drive.
Forget that other kind of beauty, I want to tell her, it has a place,
but it is not yours. Keep who you are, grow
with its light as you move toward a darkening age
because it will guide you, lend you its capable hands
as you wash the table and fix the window,
steady you to become the surgeon or mechanic or mother,
carry you until you have aged, a place right now
you never imagine you will be.
And when you are surrounded by grandchildren, and you pull out
scissors to cut the cloth to show them how when you were a girl
you made a scarecrow and she had a skirt and wore a bonnet
and you helped the children make her,
you will help them stuff her and shape her and tell them
how you placed the scarecrow woman in an autumning field.
And they will see your beauty, your grandchildren, the way
your hands move to fill the burlap bag with straw, the way you do things,
they will be drawn to you, the same way a stranger
was drawn to you on a bright clear day one October,
completely overtaken by your shine.

    --Aileen O'Catherine

Poetry submissions are welcome.  Email

Views: 145

Comment by Margaret Randall on October 21, 2012 at 8:18am

This is such a beautiful and true poem. It brings us all back, to when we were too young or too swayed by others' opinions to know our own beauty, and it brings many of us forward to such conversations with our children and grandchildren. A perfect beginning to a Sunday morning. Thank you!

Comment by cathyray on October 21, 2012 at 11:02am

love this! It really is too bad that we are so influenced by the media's visions of beauty & sometimes miss the true beauty of individuality.

Comment by Izquierdo on October 29, 2012 at 9:07pm

Like it. Sounds like her nose is headed in the right direction.


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