Originally published October 20, 2013
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
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,
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 out insect carapice,
and perhaps a tear or two.
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.