DSQ > Spring 2008, Volume 28, No.2


for J B

The Hand

This is me. Talking.

This is me. Holding up my hand

and looking deep into it.

This is me. Closing my eyes and

listening to the voices speaking within.

Is anyone listening?

Am I listening?

My hand swims through the quick

water of daylight, through the slow

water of the night.

My hand burns during the day and

curls into brown smoke.

My hand burns at night and

crackles with electricity.

It jumps when anyone walks past.

It gasps and swallows short

breaths and stumbles over its broken teeth

when anyone asks it a question.

Is anyone listening?

Am I even listening?

I do not want to listen.

I do not want to sit and wait,

holding my hand in my hand

like a woman in the cold, a woman in the

cold and the dark cradling a dead child,

like a woman cradling nothing.

I hear the hand all day.

I hear it whispering behind walls.

Behind thin doors.

I hear it in my dreams. In my desire.

My lust is filled with the dark

blood of my hand, the dark light

that pulls, that calls, pulls

like a heavy rope at my heart.

I look at my hand and see

the scars of fires and knives.

I look at my hand and see

the calluses of stones and sticks.

I look at my hand and hear

the slow bending of bone, the curling

tongue of tissue and vein as the old words of my heart

close upon themselves like a leaf,

like the leaves of plants in dry lands

desperate to preserve the little that

remains in their veins.

I hear my hand call out and I turn my back.

I turn away from the sight of its large fingers

curled around the hole in my back,

its hard skin closing tightly like a

scar over the site of so many scalpels,

the loss of so many shoes.

The absence of feeling. Of so many feelings.

The feeling of being me, when I am so

few other things too.

This is me. Talking.

Me talking to me.

Me not talking to the one who really exists.

Who is at the still centre of the storm.

Who I have never seen. Only smelt.

The smell of lost flowers.

The smell of lost hair.

Eyes that opened once, flashed

like water under the sun,

spontaneously, and then were gone.

Beneath the black rock of fear.

This is me. Talking.

Is anyone listening?

Me talking. Because I cannot do

anything else.

Cannot run, jump, climb, skip,

hurry, walk to the end of the sky.

Barely stand without falling over.

Because it is only my hand that

holds me up, that holds me onto

the narrow path, where there are no handholds,

only deep and empty falling.

But the hand is mortal.

The hand is not God.

Nothing comes without a price.

So it must burn.

It must suffer for justifying me.

Am I listening?

Is anyone listening?

How much longer before my hand gives up?

Gives up talking, holding

on through the smoke and the flames,

hoping to hear an answer of water.

Gives up and closes

the windows to its salvation.

The Foot

My foot is a hole.

A stone.

A black stone.

A hole made by the stone

before the hole was made.

A hole that the stone cannot get out of,

no matter how black, and blacker still,

its skin goes —

Until its skin begins to crack, and

pieces flake off.

Chunks of rock falling into

the black hole that the foot grows

beneath its shadow.

My foot is a stone.

Underneath the stone is a hole

that spreads and shrinks and

spreads again as the wind blows.

The hole is called desire.

And loss.

And rot.

It smells like words left a long time

in the crevice between two teeth.

Like words that have been closed up

too long in the dark pit of the mouth.

Sweating all night. And sleepless

in the day.

My foot is a hole made by a shard

of memory.

It walked through black mud

one morning on the edge of a brown lake,

where the birds waded deep up to their cries,

up to their blue wings.

It walked through the black mud and

into the lake.

And the water was not cold,

the foot said.

Come in, the foot said. The water is warm.


And it bent and scooped up the old skin

from off the surface of the lake and

threw it up into the air.

And the flakes of water flew.

And the flakes of water fell.

And the foot came up out of the water

and it was red.

It was red where the flakes of water

had fallen upon it and cut it —

called out to it its new name.

Its new name was loss.

And rot.

And desire.

My foot is a punishment for having eyes.

A reward for perceiving.

My foot remembers the brown lake

always, and longs to return

to the warm water, to the impenetrable depths,

lurking with the voices of fishes.

It remembers the brown lake

with its long waving hair and its green eyes,

and it wants to laugh again, loudly,

the way the long grass does.

It wants to laugh again.

But there is a hole.

There is the hole made by the red stone

that does not heal. Ever.

The hole that never closes over.

Even when it seems to.

I hold my foot in my hand every night,

spit onto it.

I spit into its red hole and

mix the spit with sand and honey,

and pack it full. I pack the hole full

every night, and when I go to sleep

I dream that the hole is growing a skin over it.

That a wide bridge is falling out of the sky,

and that it lands on my foot,

and that it covers the deep distance

between the edges of the red hole.

My foot imagines that it has something to say.

It pretends that everyone —

including the fishes in the brown lake and

the birds in the air and the stones, too,

in the black desert —

that everyone wants to hear what it has to say.

That it has a message.

But it is not a particularly interesting story.

To be honest,

it has all been said before.

The Foot (the other one)

My other foot is stupid.

And small.

And not worth talking about.

The Shoulder

Fire most times.

And ice the others.

Fire when the ice has melted,

and standing is impossible.

Fire when the wind blows the night over,

when the invisible river running through the night

runs out of breath.

Fire most times.

And others a blade

like a butcher's,

a hammer, a chisel — bone and tissue

separating every day and returning

with every step.

The Foot Re-Visited

My other foot is second in-line.

It is not the cause, but the effect.

It is not the action,

but the echo that remains and waits

long after the air has returned

to stillness.

My other foot is a fish

without a backbone.

It is a pale creature from the bottom of the sea.

A desire without a shell.

Eyeless and slow.

It hears everything around it —

the whisperings and the giggles, the loud staring and

the soft pity of the eyes.

It hears everything,

but cannot see any of it.

It knows that the bottom of the sea

is not the same as the surface,

that the darkness is not the same as sunlight.

But it is unable to choose.

It's choice has already been made.

Long before the land struggled out of the water.

It can only respond.

It is a response.

But (oh!)

how it longs to be the action.

The Wrist

My wrist, the right one,

is a wrench.

My wrist, not the left, is rust.

It is red metal amongst stone.

It is brittle tin. It is clanking iron.

My wrist is unsettled.

It does not join or turn or fold or meet.

It grinds, stone against stone, mid-day

sunlight against old iron.

Cold night against cold stars.

It is a sharp moon. A blunt moon.

Made blunt on the blade of a hill.

The wrist, my wrist, my right,

is all that holds me up.

Keeps me perpendicular

to the black grave.

Anatomy was written during a residency at the Caversham Centre for Writers and Artists in January 2008.

soli deo gloria

Return to Top of Page