A hand is not four fingers and a thumb.
Nor is it palm and knuckles,
not ligaments or the fat's yellow pillow,
not tendons, star of the wristbone, meander of veins.
A hand is not the thick thatch of its lines
with their infinite dramas,
nor what it has written,
not on the page,
not on the ecstatic body.
Nor is the hand its meadows of holding, of shaping—
not sponge of rising yeast-bread,
not rotor pin's smoothness,
not ink.
The maple's green hands do not cup
the proliferant rain.
What empties itself falls into the place that is open.
A hand turned upward holds only a single, transparent question.
Unanswerable, humming like bees, it rises, swarms, departs.
 
From Given Sugar, Given Salt by Jane Hirshfield, published by HarperCollins. Copyright © 2001 by Jane Hirshfield. Reprinted by permission of the author.

Poems by This Author

Each Moment a White Bull by Jane Hirshfield
First Light Edging Cirrus by Jane Hirshfield
10^25 molecules
For What Binds Us by Jane Hirshfield
Late Self-Portrait by Rembrandt by Jane Hirshfield
The dog, dead for years, keeps coming back in the dream
Many-Roofed Building in Moonlight by Jane Hirshfield
I found myself
My Skeleton by Jane Hirshfield
My skeleton,
The Bell Zygmunt by Jane Hirshfield
The Supple Deer by Jane Hirshfield
This Was Once a Love Poem by Jane Hirshfield
This was once a love poem
Waking the Morning Dreamless After Long Sleep by Jane Hirshfield
But with the sentence


Further Reading

Related Poems
Ode to My Hands
by Tim Seibles
Shahid Reads His Own Palm
by Reginald Dwayne Betts
Poems about the Body
After tagging the dust your body is made of
by Jen Tynes
Anatomy
by Monica Ferrell
Bodyweight
by Matthew Schwartz
Brokeheart: Just like that
by Patrick Rosal
Danse Russe
by William Carlos Williams
Flux
by Afaa M. Weaver
For the Man with the Erection Lasting More than Four Hours
by John Hodgen
Ghost in the Land of Skeletons
by Christopher Kennedy
Guessing My Death [excerpt]
by CAConrad
Headaches
by Marilyn Hacker
homage to my hips
by Lucille Clifton
Human Atlas
by Marianne Boruch
I Sing the Body Electric
by Walt Whitman
In the Surgical Theatre
by Dana Levin
Love Letter to a Stranger
by Jenny Browne
Multiple Man: Guest-starring me & you
by Gary Jackson
My Skeleton
by Jane Hirshfield
Post-Dissertation-Intervention (i.)
by Ronaldo Wilson
Self-Portrait in a Wire Jacket
by Monica Youn
Slight Tremor
by Linda Gregerson
Textbook & Absence (Anatomy)
by Catherine Barnett
The Tongue
by Chris Martin
These Hands, If Not Gods
by Natalie Diaz
With Child
by Genevieve Taggard
Poems about Hands
A Bird in Hand
by Amber Flora Thomas
After the Grand Perhaps
by Lucie Brock-Broido
Amaze
by Adelaide Crapsey
Consider the Hands that Write This Letter
by Aracelis Girmay
Hands
by Siv Cedering
Out-of-the-Body Travel
by Stanley Plumly
somewhere i have never travelled,gladly beyond
by E. E. Cummings
Spring is like a perhaps hand
by E. E. Cummings
The Artist's Hand
by D. A. Powell
The Balloon of the Mind
by W. B. Yeats
The Book of the Dead Man (Your Hands)
by Marvin Bell
The Hand
by Mary Ruefle
This Living Hand
by John Keats
To You
by Walt Whitman