Saturday, May 15, 2010

What will be done

I really look forward to receiving the daily emails from The Writer's Almanac. Not just for the poems, because sometimes I'm not that taken with the choice, but also for the news items. If you don't subscribe then you might want to.

The second prompt of the month is in response to Betsy Johnson-Miller's poem, 'What a mouth will do', that arrived this morning:

What a mouth will do

the impossible hope that love
will last. An end to looking
as if for one glove.

Swallow the sweet
lust of fruit—one way a body

can be pleased.

Tell others why.

Tell others nothing.

Feel the tongue and how
and mercy can flow
like a river from the north

or how it can rage as only rage can

and know there isn't much to say
after that.

Betsy Johnson-Miller
from Rain When You Want Rain
© Mayapple Press, 2010

My prompt it to write about 'Hands'. You might want to use a similar title. 'What hands will do', or you might choose your own direction and title.

Here's a poem of mine that explores 'hands' but, for me, acts as an extended metaphor for trying to rid myself of something.

Letting The Side Down

I am making a map of my left hand –
drawing a line past my wrist, around
the starburst of thumb and fingers.
I circle in nails, mark the flex of tendons,
folds of knuckles, each freckle and vein.

I want to have something to remember it by –
this useless hand that cannot write, or eat
alone, or catch a ball, this hand that shrinks
from meeting people, that sometimes hides
beneath tables and curls to a limp fist.

It is less than my left foot, my left eye;
at least they have a go at competing
with the right; this hand doesn’t even try,
it trembles with the grip of scissors,
fumbles at doors, a full cup.

Stupid hand - I’ll be better off without it.
Look how confidently the right grips
a knife, not a tremor, not even when
steel breaks skin; how unselfishly
it wraps itself around the stump.

Lynne Rees
from Learning How to Fall

Write well.
L x


Helen said...

Sorry lynne can I add this post rather than my last one. the poem's tense needed tweaking !
thanks, helen


The last time she saw him,
She tried to negate him part by part.
Red socks absurd;
Glasses too far down his nose;
Small feet in tightly tied orthopaedia;
Arse unspectacular in those jeans.

His hands were around a glass.
She kept them blurred in her edge of sight,
Knowing if she studied them,
Something inside her
Would spasm and gasp,
One whorled fingerprint at a time.

Keith Wallis said...


I hold fate
the embrace or slap
the tender touch and painful poke.
I guide the pen that writes
the peace treaty
the cheque that buys guns
the poem of love
the poison of libel.
I grip the hand of a troubled friend
or push the back of foe.
I have what I hold
or give what I have,
retain or release.
I am the forked tongue
of a snake
in the grass
of everyday.
I leave guilty prints
in each life I touch.

martin cordrey said...


Three little ducks on a digital clock
the hour of grey-matter;

I stretch my index finger, touch
the distant moon, wiggle two bunny ears,

its body evolves into a dinosaur, no
a rabbit, I wave hello, goodbye

come here!, yes you! I point, victory?
A beating heart; flexing in, out,

in, out, as tension curdles my blood.
I shake a fist at insomnia.

Thumbs up to an idea forgotten
by morning. Thumbs down to my executioner.

Two hands become a winged bird taking flight
into drab curtains - my soul mingles

with the universe, with the atoms of dawn.
At last, sleep.

Lu said...

What a tall hat will do

Sit, on your head to display
the power, unsecured, as only
a king or queen would.

Bear the glances of admiration
like a model catwalks on the stage
under cheering spotlight.

Feel the pain, the weight and how
migraine pulsates, or how the shoulders

sag, and cervical vertebra throbs
as each ounce and inch add to the hat.

Glenn Buttkus said...

Hands On

Michelangelo loved to sketch, sculpt
and paint hands, for he understood
that even his own genius
never would have surfaced
without those opposable thumbs.

Picasso transferred his cubist perspectives
from cortex to canvas
with big-knuckled peasant hands.

What a marvel of engineering
we dangle unceremoniously
at the bony end of our wrists;
built the pyramids,
planted an American flag on the moon,
thrust skyscrapers into the clouds,
cared for poppy fields and bonsai trees,
clear cut trees and then reforested them,
demolished much of history
and then reconfigured it—
but what if we had been fashioned
like the dolphins, with intellect and soul
to spare, but with no hands
to change the world we inhabit;
living by grace alone,
by the charity of nature
or its capriciousness?

Glenn Buttkus May 2010

Glenn Buttkus said...

Hands Are

Hands are capable
of the most tender touch
or the jarring impact of a fist;
of garrulous greetings
or grievous good-byes,
of marvelous medicine
or Machiavellian murder,
of pious prayer
or predatory pedophilia,
of love or larceny,
of rejoicing or rejection,
of praiseworthy Art
or its populist substitutes,
of releasing figures from stone
or bashing men to death with rocks,
of giving man wings for flying,
or tearing them off angels.

Simians have hands too,
but the gods denied them
the blessed cognition necessary
to drive race cars
and use Glocks.

Glenn Buttkus May 2010

Glenn Buttkus said...

Hand Jive

Blind Bob:

Twitchy bee-bop, finger-snap, sheebam;
lookey here, Dude—
don’t give me no gang-jive,
or that flying bird one-finger salute,
or mystic palm readings
or even clever Ameslan—
no, no, no—
for right now, right here
I really need the full doctor talk
all about my carpels and tunnels
nails and quicks, creases and joints,
cuz my hands don’t strum
those six-bitch strings,
or work that metal slide
like they supposed to, man.

Doctor Roberts:

No problem, sir, I can spout that
terminology to your complete
and bluest satisfaction—guaranteed.

Blind Bob:

Dig it, Doc, four to the bar,
knock my chapeau off,
blow my argyles down,
fry my brain and plunge my drain,
and lay it down hard,
oh yeah!

Doctor Roberts:

I promise to check out both
the radial and ulmar borders,
massage your distal, proximal
and palmar phalanx, not disrespecting
those tender interphalangeals,
while gently stroking the Thenar.

Blind Bob:

Oopamow-wow, Bones, you got
my fingers walking
and my wrists jumping
into supination one,
or pronation too.

Doctor Roberts:

Talking ‘bout bones, Bob,
we gonna connect that pisiform
to the hamate, that triquetrun
to the capitates, that lunate
to the trapezoid, that scaphoid
to the trapezium, and then cap
it with a mighty melding of
the metacarpais to the phalanges!

Blind Bob:

You’re the coolest, man—
I feel better already.

Glenn Buttkus May 2010

Glenn Buttkus said...


The Tacoma News Tribune
had some kind of a journalistic
brain fart, creating a new kind
of puzzle the other day:
___in marriage, ___shake, ___writing,
clock___, ____y, ___of cards, first____,
second____, bite the ____, ____out,
force one’s ___, ___ to mouth, ___down,
___over, ___out, lay ___s on, upper ___,
high ___, heavy ___, ___bag, ___ball,
___bill, ___book, ___cart, ___cuffs,
George Frederick ____el, ___ful,
___ grenade, ___ grip, ___icap, ___icraft,
___kerchief, ___le, ___bar, ___-made,
___-me-down, ___rail, ___saw, ___set,
___some, ___spike, ___-to-mouth,
Jesus, I will just make a bunch of
___labels, and fill in all these blanks.

Glenn Buttkus May 2010

martin cordrey said...

Severed hand

It was your fault for possessing
a wood saw, for leaving,
suddenly. It was my fault I guess
for owning a freezer,

a microwave, but is it?
You’ll never know
how much I enjoy your hands brush
across my face, moving hair from eyes,

the reassuring weight on my shoulder,
how I long for your caress
of my knee, my thigh,
or how I love to fall asleep, your hand

in mine, making me believe
i’m still wanted.

Erin Lee Ware said...


Dry, cracked hands
looking smaller everyday.
Fingers like
spiders across the keyboard,
curling into themselves,
a gold band loose between knuckles.

The cool of an empty pillow,
palm imagining the rough of a beard,
a skin’s heat.

Old is how they look. Tired.

Hands, mine,
wear your absence.

Mary Rose said...

With a mind of their own.

I love walking, my feet
are my favourite mode of transport.
But recently they’ve shown signs of revolt,
omens, seed corns under their soles.

Of course I concede they do a fantastic job,
enabling me to enjoy life, as much as I can alone.
Their latest ploy is hard lumps on each
big toe joint, some kind of joke perhaps?

Now they have become decidedly deceitful.
I find them where I don’t expect them, they send me
sprawling. They make me take wrong turnings,
pay no attention to hazards, leaving them to me.

Perhaps they are too low for the lighted green man?
I’d be under a car if they had their way.
Yesterday I set off for my local Tescos,
ended up at the Bank in town.

I had to ask for a withdrawal
to save face as I took my turn in the queue.
Recently it’s a strong aversion to wellingtons,
preferring their favourite pair of shoes.

So I must wear them, rain or shine,
wade through puddles regardless.
But I sense their contentment and the method
in their madness.

Dear feet, I forgive you. Never desert me please.

Lynne Rees said...

Hello all - there are some astonishing poems here:

@ Helen: this is very emotionally convincing - how the narrator criticises parts of this man to avoid admitting/facing a truth. I don't get 'orthopaedia'? I keep thinking 'orthopaedic shoes' but I can't see why they're necessary to the poem.

@ Keith - tremendous energy to this. The rhythms/form control my reading as I spill down the page. And I like how the poem shifts between the positive and negative aspects of how we live our lives too.

@ Martin - this feels very fresh, original. I can't remember ever reading a poem about hand shadows. I wonder if 'I shake a fist at insomnia' could come further down in the poem, and perhaps it's too neat to close with 'at last, sleep'? I love the 'atoms of dawn'.

@ Lu - I really like the title and the idea the poem explores, but I'm not sure it's achieving what it should yet. Perhaps there's a clash of images here and there, e.g. tall hat/king & queen (I think of crowns?) But it's worth working with this idea... have you read Billy Collin's poem 'The Death of the Hat'? It's online to read. Wonderful shift from the general to the specific.

@ Glen: How do you feel about the poem starting here (with a little edit):

What a marvel
we dangle unceremoniously
at the bony end of our wrists

I think that's an astonishing opening to a poem. And perhaps you could include some detail from the Michaelangelo/Picasso section afterwards? I think the poem would appear less didactic like that.

@ Erin - There's such a strong heart to this poem that I wonder if it could sustain being surgically cut to, something like:

a gold band loose betwen knuckles
cool of an empty pillow
my hands feel your absence

I find that incredibly moving, but it's your poem, so excuse my tinkering.

@ Mary Rose - you achieve a wonderful balance between pathos and bathos here. I really like it. The syntax could perhaps be tighter here and there, but don't tinker too much with it. And you probably don't need 'with a mind of their own' at the beginning as the poem shows us that.

I'll try and get back to some second poems later.

Thanks so much for sharing your work.

Anonymous said...

What hands will do

Is this how it was meant to be-
an impossible ending
with no goodbye
no hands waving
no last minute grasp
no skin on skin
no wrap around
of can’t let go
I want to turn the clock-
one second before the beginning
to feel that spark
when you reached out to me
and I reached right back.

Eileen Carney Hulme

Anonymous said...

And here's one I did's from my first poetry collection 'Stroking The Air' it kind of fits the brief...loosely, on what hands will do!

Sleight Of Hand

You snared me
with your laughter
and jewelled tongue
adorning words
telling tales
of druids and trees

With you there were no nightmares-
only spirited streams,
bewitching woodland, your voice
which haunts me still

I picture your hands-
the slight smallness
of them,
practised in the art of juggling
pots and pans
in a bothy of a kitchen

I was your coadjutrix,
invigorated by the music,
the smells,
the ingredients

You fed me titbits
from your lissom fingers-
pleasurable morsels
of skulduggery

we danced round coffee stains
till midnight struck

Another time
another place
I will wear your shirt-
the black one with the mad flowers
and you will
unbutton each button-
I picture your hands.

Eileen Carney Hulme

Lynne Rees said...

Hi Eileen - thanks for posting your two poems. And congrats, again, on your collection.

'What hands will do' is compulsive reading. I really like the repeated 'no' and the absence of punctuation adds to the urgency. One thing I wondered about was to shorten a couple of lines towards the end:

no wrap around
of can’t let go
I want to turn
the clock - one second
before the beginning
to feel that spark
when you reached
out to me and I
reached right back.

But line breaks can be very subjective, I know. With this lineation I liked the hesitations the alternative line breaks added.

Anonymous said...

Thanks you are spot on, I'd been looking at it thinking I need to change it but hadn't quite worked it out. I am very happy with your suggestion it vastly improves it, thanks Eileen