The Book of the Dead Man (Your Hands)

Marvin Bell

 
Live as if you were already dead.  – Zen admonition
1. About the Dead Man and Your Hands
Mornings, he keeps out the world awhile, the dead man.
The dead man, without looking, believes what you said of the garden.
He knows the color of a rose is the color of a rose is the color.
He sees the early sky lit by a burn toward which we sidle.
He will take care of you, the dead man will do that.
He will wait for your hair to grow back.
He thinks the things you touched are lucky to be yours.
The dead man knows where to be and where not to be, how he survives.
He is aware, at all times, of your place, your dog, your rug, your roof, your chairs and tables.
Here is his own table, from the basement of the “as is” shop.
The dead man is of this old table, he is of his front and back doors, he is of the tea on the burner
     and the burner, too, he is.
It cannot stop the dead man, that others have caught on.
The dead man at his worst still looks his best.
2. More About the Dead Man and Your Hands
Nights, he lets in the world, the dead man does it, always.
By any late night, he has lost the need to believe.
The dead man plays a nighttime piano, he blows a nighttime horn, he sings more after midnight.
Dead man's music is nighttime, call it earthly, call it planetary.
The dead man feels the high registers heard by animal ears.
He feels the rumbly pedal note struck by redwoods enlarging and tectonic plates lurching.
What is it about his hands and your hands, is it the absence of certainty?
He has stirred distinctions into a broth, a soup, a stew, a gravy.
You cannot find yes and no, true or false, in a dead man's soup.
So what if they have caught on, the dead man is out front and stays up later.
Hence, when the dead man maketh eyes, he's gotcha.
He'll care for you, now that he's gotcha, and he hath giveth his hand.
He can't talk about the children if you are going to cry.
 
Copyright © 2009 by Marvin Bell. Originally published in Make. Used by permission of the author.

Poems by This Author

Around Us by Marvin Bell
We need some pines to assuage the darkness
Bagram, Afghanistan, 2002 by Marvin Bell
The interrogation celebrated spikes and cuffs
Mars Being Red by Marvin Bell
Being red is the color of a white sun where it lingers
The Book of the Dead Man (Food) by Marvin Bell
The dead man likes chocolate, dark chocolate
The Book of the Dead Man (Fungi) by Marvin Bell
The dead man has changed his mind about moss and mold
The Book of the Dead Man (Nothing) by Marvin Bell
The dead man knows nothing
The Book of the Dead Man (The Foundry) by Marvin Bell
The dead man hath founded the dead man's foundry
Time Study by Marvin Bell
The coffee was cold so I said so. I said,
To an Adolescent Weeping Willow by Marvin Bell
I don't know what you think you're doing
To Dorothy by Marvin Bell
You are not beautiful, exactly
White Clover by Marvin Bell
Once when the moon was out about three-quarters


Further Reading

Poems about Hands
A Bird in Hand
by Amber Flora Thomas
A Hand
by Jane Hirshfield
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 Hand
by Mary Ruefle
This Living Hand
by John Keats
To You
by Walt Whitman
Poems about Roses
A Red, Red Rose
by Robert Burns
Go, lovely rose!
by Edmund Waller
I know I am but summer to your heart (Sonnet XXVII)
by Edna St. Vincent Millay
O, Gather Me the Rose
by William Ernest Henley
See How the Roses Burn!
by Hafiz
The Sick Rose
by William Blake
The White Rose
by John Boyle O'Reilly
This Living Hand [excerpt]
by Dean Young