To Be Beautiful*

Photo Credit: Hugo Yu for The New York Times

“You could not help but see
that to be beautiful . . . 
is to be silent but as though a song
           was in you only it hasn’t
           yet been heard.”
(Mary Oliver, “The Book,” New And
Selected Poems: Volume Two
, Beacon
Press, 2005, p. 42.)

Every day: Jacob Kloot and Galinka Ehrenfest,
their sad eyes and kind smile, almost a grin
about to widen, a courageous whimsy compelling
even grownups, some, to believe in the secret door

Photo Credit: Hugo Yu for The New York Times

only children and their shepherd dogs may enter,
a pop-up picture book the size of a hand opening,
Jacob and Galinka reaching out from 1940,
invaded, occupied Netherlands, to lead

all who become as a little child to enter the kingdom
of colors, every page filled with Welcome,
be not afraid of the forty thieves loud as the drum
of black boots, their threat at the door.

Photo Credit: Hugo Yu for The New York Times

The buzz of smug insects’ clamping jaws, tentacle
antennae slipping through cracks. The bone-white
limbs of defoliated trees clutching at faeries
to-the-rescue on the backs of scissor-tailed flycatchers;

others harnessing butterflies to gather the nectar
of opening petals restoring small, fallen creatures,
then lying down to sleep in the arms of belly-soft
mamma frogs. And seamstress mice altering

the tattered dresses of pixies–thimble, needle,
thread looping balloons to children’s waists,
lifting them into spring and fruit trees, settling them
at the table of cupcakes and ice cream served by

Photo Credit: Hugo Yu for The New York Times

baker bunnies encouraging kids to make a mess,
icing smeared on hands and faces, every color
of finger paint transforming the bare walls.
And such music rising from the backdrop

of cutout scenery, the stage floodlighting the ballerina,
the hero waiting in the wings to rush in, nick of time.
Beautiful picture books, beautiful Galinka, brave Jacob.
An artful world to arrange, live happily ever after.

Photo Credit: Hugo Yu for The New York Times

*Claire Moses and Elizabeth A. Harris, “Colorful Stories for Children, With the Darkest History as Backdrop,” The New York Times, April 26, 2023:

Jacob Kloot and Galinka Ehrenfest. The New York Times, April 26, 2023,