The Story of Hands

This month’s theme is “broken glass.”

When I think of broken glass, I think of bottles and how the bits can catch on flesh. I also think of Modernism–how Eliot and Wolfe and Pound make art like mosaics. Making a whole out of parts. You can see the plaster. Take, for example, “Mrs. Dalloway.” We have the story of Clarissa and  the story of Septimus, and we can’t quite pinpoint how one relates to the other–after all, they never meet–but they are important to the same whole, and it’s lonely and beautiful and sad.

When I think of broken glass, I think of how it catches light but is still an echo of what was lost.

This is the story of hands, and how they’re falling apart. (Eczema is no fun, but it’s the sexiest of all the skin diseases, I’ve always said.) This is the story of hands catching like broken glass and being alone. 




The story of hands is sad.

The story of hands is broken glass,

spoken of only as a dry whisper

under a dusty stair.


I. When I Said I Wanted my Hands to be as Eggs, This is Not What I had in Mind


I want my hands to be as eggs,

large and soft,

but, oh, the potential inside.


Think of the ostrich egg,

speckled and looming,

waiting for something rare.


I have the cracks already.

A genetic dryness on fingers.

Pink and brown like rivers through stone

or just-fall leaves.


I cannot say, this is a church,

here is the steeple,

or coax them into clever gestures.


They grasp nothing,

the world around them is

dry sticks that the egg has

nothing to do with.



II. Do Not Forsake


His hands are lonely, 

folded adult-slender 

as if he were praying to himself.


It should not surprise us 

that they’re sometimes brown or pink or yellow

because the Christ-Child came for the world all-over.


The accompanying menagerie,

however, never changes.

A camel, a sheep, a donkey.


We simply cannot have the ridiculous,

a sanctimonious panda or rhino.

The ostrich, certainly, is left at home.


We picture its great hose of a neck

plunging towards sand,

telling himself his invitation was lost in the mail.


Eyes like black moons

blinking underground,

blinking out insect carapice,

and perhaps a tear or two.


III. Ostracized


The man who wishes to hurt himself only a little

is like the castaway. My god, to be surrounded

by so much ocean. One day, he makes

a cup of his sunburt-pink hands to get

the sting of salt. He tells himself, this will

only happen once but wonders out loud

if he can drink himself to shore.


IV. Unhand Me


I am industrious.

The thumb bulldozes the index

to flatten the hills and valleys 

into virgin-pink lands.


The extraneous flesh

goes inevitably into my belly.

Conscientious, I don’t want

to make a mess.


Will this make me appallingly fat and unlovable?

Or shall I disappear altogether?


Does this not hurt?

Only a little.


You hold my hand to make it stop

and watch it curl into itself

like a bird trying to get off wax.


My eyes go big as black moons.

There is darkness in our bellies,

and we are terrified.



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