Beauty in Ugly Places

Emily Baker

The rainbow shimmer of an oil slick,

            choking life from water with thick, poisonous fingers.

A spatter pattern of arterial spray on a white wall,

            red droplets like the rubies of a dragon’s hoard.

The sheen of a dead bird’s feathers—

            because alive it never would have let you get that close.

The grass that grows greener over shallow graves,

            nurtured by an absence it cannot feel.

The color shift of a healing bruise purple-green-yellow-gone

            blooming and vanishing in its own sped-up spring.


Ancient bone chapels that make the dead into art—

ribcage chandeliers and skull sconces brown with the weight of years.

Cracked soil, lines like scars or gaping mouths opening

            to beg for water in a drought, a roadmap of desperate thirst.

Flood-slaked streets, ordinary suburbs transformed

into Venetian canals without their permission­—roads made rivers.

The gleaming blade of a sword, sharp enough to sing

            as it slices through air or rope or flesh—a piercing melody.

A tear in a butterfly’s wing, far more interesting than mere symmetry,

            a wound as a feature, a mark, a name.

Towering infernos that paint the sky orange-warm,

            hungry pyres that insatiably consume

homes and trees and lives alike.


They say to pray for beauty to come out of ashes,

            but what if you’ve always liked the softness of the color gray?


Emily Baker is a student and writer from East Tennessee who is good at baking and less good at keeping plants alive. She specializes in poetry and short fiction, but just loves the art of a good story in any form. She wants to cultivate a lifelong love of learning in herself and others, for all manner of things from history to woodworking to languages. She believes we live in a fascinating world and wants to know and experience it as deeply as possible.