At Seventeen, 55 South Eighth Street
by Jeannie E. Roberts

     “Like wildflowers you must allow yourself to grow in all the places
     people thought you never would.” ―

Can a plant nurtured for its blossom, shaped and refined,
cultivated for the sake of appearance, become anything more
than an ornament?

Are the hollow gardeners, those who praise and pay tribute
to the ephemeral qualities of physical beauty detrimental
to one’s character and internal growth?

Before college, I was enrolled in Estelle Compton Models
Institute and Career School, where girls were groomed
for print, runway, and commercial modeling work.

Though I excelled in most of my classes, I failed miserably
at weekly weigh-ins. The presence of scales and tape
measures, accompanied by the harangue of reprimands,

weighed heavily on my mind. Like squads of creeping
marauders, weeds rooted where wildflowers once rose.
Oh, but for guidance and redirection! Below the noise

and thicket of self-reproach, an ancestral well echoed,
punctuated, over and over, again and again, You’ve been
planted in the wrong garden! Uproot. Unearth. Reveal

your golden center. Having led a hybrid life, pivoting
from cosmetic orbits, where illusory bouquets withered
and fragrance faded on severed stems, my wisdom grew.

Advancing inward, tilling and turning, digging deeper,
my interior ground awakened to a bright-eyed field
of blooming abundance.

So, how does the unseen become seen? Can the invisible
become evident if the visible remains in focus? Is it possible
for society to release the stigma placed upon human beings
who’ve been labeled “beautiful”?

AUTHOR’S PHOTO CAPTION: Me, posing at the Estelle Compton Models Institute and Career School (Minneapolis, Minneapolis, summer 1974).

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: As with most experiences, there are positive aspects. That said, I’m grateful to have attended one of the premiere modeling schools in Minneapolis, and to have learned about the fashion industry. My classmates were kind and I’ve often wondered about their career paths, if they remained in fashion, or if they decided to follow other creative or more intellectual pursuits.


Jeannie E. Roberts 
writes, draws and paints, and often photographs her natural surroundings. Her fifth book, The Wingspan of Things, a poetry chapbook, is forthcoming from Dancing Girl Press. Romp and Ceremony, a full-length poetry collection, is also forthcoming from Finishing Line Press. She is the author of Beyond Bulrush, a full-length poetry collection (Lit Fest Press, 2015), Nature of it All, a poetry chapbook (Finishing Line Press, 2013), and the author and illustrator of Let’s Make Faces!, a children’s book (2009). An award-winning poet, her poems appear in online magazines, print journals, and anthologies. She holds a bachelor of science degree in secondary education and a master of arts degree in arts and cultural management. Born in Minneapolis, she divides her time between Minnesota and Wisconsin’s Chippewa Valley area. Learn more about her at