Post Road Magazine #20

Letters on Space and Hands

Adam Day

The index finger is not the finger for pointing, something
which is dangerous, like the odor of raisins drying
on a wicker tray. But it is the finger for tasting
sauces and sucking; it is the finger for eating. The only piece

of furniture for which Carre-Benoit felt real affection was his solid
oak filing cabinet, which he contemplated with intestinal

satisfaction whenever he passed it, especially after he found the maid
used it to store mustard, fruit salts and redcurrants, tins

of dried onions, parsnips, coffee and lentils. In time of mourning
men make their salutations as though they were women, presenting
the right hand which covers and conceals the left, and burial
grounds are scattered with snail shells—an allegory

of a grave in which man will awaken, everything breathe again, the tablecloths
whiten.
When one is to be punished like the miller, the wind thief,
making flour from storms and knots of manure, one uncovers the right
shoulder, revealing its odd constitution of freckles, and when one

attends a joyful ceremony, the stove roaring in evening stillness below
the attic's bare rafters, and the linnet's nest of eight pinkish-gray eggs
,
one uncovers the left shoulder. It is by giving the leash
that possession is transferred, so goats, horses, dogs, and prisoners

of war must be presented on one while you force yourself not to
be too much attracted to the out-of-doors
. The goat and horse
are inoffensive so may be given with the right hand after
it has picked the dust from the cracks in the floor with a pin. The dog

or prisoner (whose left ear must be taken) may attack, so the leash
is given—behind dark curtains or within the clotted darkness
of the cellar's buried walls—with the left hand to keep the right
hand ready for defense. On the other hand, when swearing

an oath, a bit of blood must be taken from close
to the left ear of the oath-taker, listening to red sleeves wear out
their color
, and used to anoint the lips and sniffed.


*This poem owes a great deal to Marcel Granet and Gaston Bachelard.

Hamal


Al-Shati

Adam Day
when he was born he opened his eyes
and ass to the sea;

pares nails; pumps the priming
button on the outboard

Ibn Il-Kelb: son of a bitch; so often
his own tongue teaches him new things

he rinses his arms, feet and face
with seawater; pocketful of almonds

shrimp trawlers spew black plumes,
cantilevers clanking on the chop and swell

here if you break a bone you're done;
those aren't quite hands the bats have

the fish are beautiful; moonlight spills
a rainbow across their silver skin



we walk through green wetwhite goose
shit, pass butchers' racks: lamb flanks, hog's heads

a small shack humid with horse piss
and fish; dirty fingernails of dirty hands

I wear another man's clothes in
another man's country

offshore freighters ride at anchor
he washes his wrinkled feet, and I mine
picks small pieces of fish off the bone for me
as if I were an uncle; we wipe our lips with torn paper



gunwaled again, nets cast, tea drunk under
the Hyades; I realized people are not stones

I am uncomfortable with what I know
honestly I am uncomfortable with his teeth

and the dread of the books on my shelves
at home; what they're capable of, Hamal

a long time he's wondered how he might do it:
unhinge the wrist where it wrinkles and let go

on the wet bank the not old dog's body, sandwich
wrappers, green glass bottles throbbing in sunlight


*This poem owes a debt of gratitude to Elliott D. Woods.

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