poem index

Ode to My Hands

Tim Seibles
Five-legged pocket spiders, knuckled
starfish, grabbers of forks, why
do I forget that you love me:
your willingness to button my shirts,
tie my shoes—even scratch my head!
which throbs like a traffic jam, each thought
leaning on its horn. I see you

waiting anyplace always 
at the ends of my arms—for the doctor,
for the movie to begin, for 
freedom—so silent, such 
patience! testing the world
with your bold myopia: faithful,
ready to reach out at my 
softest suggestion, to fly up 
like two birds when I speak, two 
brown thrashers brandishing verbs
like twigs in your beaks, lifting 
my speech the way pepper springs 
the tongue from slumber. O! 

If only they knew the unrestrained 
innocence of your intentions, 
each finger a cappella, singing
a song that rings like rain
before it falls—that never falls!
Such harmony: the bass thumb, the
pinkie's soprano, the three tenors
in between: kind quintet x 2
rowing my heart like a little boat
upon whose wooden seat I sit
strummed by Sorrow. Or maybe 

I misread you completely
and you are dreaming a tangerine, one
particular hot tamale, a fabulous
banana! to peel suggestively,
like thigh-high stockings: grinning
as only hands can grin 
down the legs—caramel, cocoa, 
black-bean black, vanilla—such lubricious 
dimensions, such public secrets!
Women sailing the streets 
with God's breath at their backs. 
Think of it! No! Yes:
let my brain sweat, make my 
veins whimper: without you, my five-hearted 
fiends, my five-headed hydras, what 
of my mischievous history? The possibilities
suddenly impossible—feelings 
not felt, rememberings un-
remembered—all the touches 
untouched: the gallant strain 

of a pilfered ant, tiny muscles 
flexed with fight, the gritty 
sidewalk slapped after a slip, the pulled 
weed, the plucked flower—a buttercup! 
held beneath Dawn's chin—the purest kiss,
the caught grasshopper's kick, honey,
chalk, charcoal, the solos teased
from guitar. Once, I played 
viola for a year and never stopped

to thank you—my two angry sisters, 
my two hungry men—but you knew
I just wanted to know
what the strings would say 
concerning my soul, my whelming
solipsism: this perpetual solstice
where one + one = everything
and two hands teach a dawdler
the palpable alchemy
of an unreasonable world. 

Copyright © 2010 by Tim Seibles. Used with permission of the author.

Tim Seibles