Home > Poetry > In the School of Empty Hands
Published: Wed Jul 1 2009
Wosene Worke Kosrof, The Inventor V (detail), 2022, acrylic on linen. Courtesy of Sullivan Goss Gallery, Santa Barbara, California
In the School of Empty Hands

you were tired.  Such a little earthling smile, such a brand
of humor.  Your sash, a burn-down-the-town
orange, nothing like it for miles.

In the school of empty hands, you were third in line,
you were on Mars, you imagined yourself
a cloud, each thought a witness to your own birth.  You were small,
you became smaller and found nothing at its root.
Its root was a silly way of putting it, you knew.
No one had to tell you

you didn’t eat a lollipop, you sucked on it,
and you threw it away when you were done. You thought

sleep of reason.  You imagined
the volcano rabbit, the white rhinocerous, the merganser,
then slept.  Soon your name
was something tinged with aspic,
slated for demolition.

These were the early years,
the regulation apprenticeship-to-ash.

Then you said prayers to wood grain,
to the letter-of-the-day, to the shape
of the fugue.  You knew what you meant,
it was original, it was infused with a certainty,
and where it went you imagined

a safe docking; you wished it well.  You folded your sash
in on itself until it was naked as the inner ear.  You left it at that—
you were leaving many things.  In your wake

a trail of cellos, legos, action-figure arms.  The color _orange
_ in the mind of a wild creature.

Carol Ann Davis is the author of the poetry collections Psalm (Tupelo Press, 2007) and Atlas Hour (Tupelo, 2011) and a forthcoming essay collection, The Nail in the Tree: On Art, Violence, and Parenting (Tupelo, 2019). Her work has been published in The Georgia ReviewAGNI, The American Poetry ReviewThe Gettysburg ReviewBeloit Poetry Journal, and elsewhere. An NEA fellow and finalist for a National Magazine Award, she is professor of English at Fairfield University, where she is founding director of Poetry in Communities, an initiative that brings writing workshops to communities hit by sudden or systemic violence. She lives in Newtown, Connecticut. (updated 4/2019)

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