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The Future Of Hands

All

The trees held up their silent

As if they mattered.

But on one main street of bars and lights,

I watched a woman who had begged for

Throw all the coins back, insulted,

Into the crowd,

And then each cheap stone on her necklace,

As if they were

At a bitter wedding,

And then her stained blouse.

I smiled, then, at her dignity.

But when the night

With only its usual stars to show,

She was applauded and spat on,

Or those passing stepped around her,

Avoiding her

As if it had become private, or pure.

When the police arrived,

Sniveling about the cold day she had

To strip,

Her face was a brown jewel,

And I knew the hands Of the police would have to close now,

On this body abandoned to wind,

Just as her hands closed, finally,

On wind that would have

To do with her,

And never had.*I know that

Had nothing to do with longing.

I have seen that, even in the

Of girls across a lunch counter--A desire to be anywhere that

Texas, and waiting on tables--Their eyes making a

With the standing, staring

About to be turned back into the black

That spreads everywhere when no one is watching.

And writing this,

I stare at my hands,

Which are the chroniclers of my death,

Which pull me into this

Each night, as onto a bed of silk sheets,

And the woman gone.

After two hours of work,

I do not know if there ever was a woman.

I watch the flies buzz at the sill.*Or, if I sleep,

I must choose between two dreams.

In one of them, my hands move

Over a woman's waist, or

In speech the way birds rise or

Over a marsh, over nesting places.

In the other dream,

There are no nesting places,

The birds are white, and scavenging.

They lift negligently over the town in wind,

Like paper, like the death of paper.

They dip and

As if there had never been a heaven.

Beneath them, it is summer.

It is the same town I was born in.

And in its one

The man selling illegal human hair from Mexico,

The hair of brides

With the hair of the dead,

Argues all day over the price.

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Larry Levis

Larry Patrick Levis (September 30, 1946 – May 8, 1996) was an American poet.

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