poem: hands

To the Pair of Hands on the 1993 Rolling Stone Cover, the Hands That Cupped Janet Jackson’s Breasts; or, Letters From Six Pairs of Slightly Bitter Hands

From a Hairdresser’s

We could’ve told you what it’s like to hold a mouthful of history.
We specialize in curls that will not submit to a comb. We shave
and we twist, and we braid. Each head of hair offers itself
as its own beauty, a willingness to work with exactly what it’s got.

From John Hinckley, Jr.’s

Tell us what it’s like to be remembered with anything but laughter.
We tried to tell him Jodie would never call, told him we’d have rather
taken out DeNiro before he could make such shitty movies.
When they threw us in the crazy house, we bit into his skull, told him,
we were wasted on you; Reagan didn’t even die.

From John Henry’s

We could’ve told you what it’s like to hold a fistful of regret.
We tried to tell him: they got machines now, they don’t need this hammer.
They don’t need you to drop dead from a tornado of pride.
No one knew, but six hours before facing the machine, he spent the night crying.
He always thought he’d have time to slowly ravish a woman,
time to cup her as gently as you.

From a Police Witness in Houston’s

Watching the police stomp a handcuffed boy,
we could’ve told you there’s more than one way
to commit a theft. Of all the people that bought that magazine, how many wish their hands were you? How many girlfriends were
implicitly told they’d never measure up?
The only props we will give you was how still you could be.
Watching that beating, we could not stop them. All we could do was tape it,
hold that camera still with everything we had.

From Muhammad Ali’s

There’s no reason that your knuckles should look rougher than ours.
We hated gloves;
no jaw could appreciate how hard we were.

But what we never told him, was sometimes we got tired
of being so hard. We wanted to know what it could feel like to tremble.

And we know you were not some lucky intern’s hands, but her husband’s,
and we know there was a night you trembled while holding her for the very first time. But the beauty is this time, in front of a crowd
of millions, he had to get on his knees to do it.

From Janet’s Hands

When we were on Good Times, eleven years old,
they strapped down her chest. Her brothers
gave her pet names: horse, pig, cow, slaughter-hog.
If Mike had known what their jokes had done,
he’d have shredded the magazine,
removed your hands himself.
No one can love you like you, he’d say.
she’d have replied: in a way,

she married him for his hands.
They would always listen when she asked them to stop.


One thought on “poem: hands

  1. Laura says:

    Nicely done, Khary.

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