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About this Poem 

"In museums, I often attract the guards’ attention because I like to get very very close to paintings I love. I once fell in love with a man in the large white rooms of the Art Institute of Chicago, in large part due to the way his breathing changed when we stood too close. At its root, 'The Problem of Hands' is a poem about the brute power of desire—how it fills us—and it’s sister threat: that it can also cut us off at the knees."
— Louise Mathias

The Problem of Hands

Louise Mathias

And how to fill them 
is the problem of cigarettes and paint.  

First time I felt my undoing 
was in front of 

a painting—Sam Francis, I believe.  

Oh, his bloomed out, Xanax-ed California.

I liked the word guard, but you know

we made each other
nervous, standing too close

for everyone concerned. All art being 

a form of violence
as a peony 
is violence. 

Here you come

with your open hands. 

Copyright © 2013 by Louise Mathias. Used with permission of the author. This poem appeared in Poem-A-Day on November 20, 2013. Browse the Poem-A-Day archive.

Louise Mathias

by this poet

All night I flew the dark recess of God's mind.
It was arranged like Iowa fields--

not a damn thing missing.
You ask how I survived.

I lived on a message, broad light
at the end of the world.

Words, they have so much in common with departure,

the clouds elliptical & nervous.
Why translate? It's just a