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Can be eyes, staring.

Or blindfolds, close and covering

--don’t look, they say, feel this. . .

At first, they were bandages. Your hand on my neck, a tourniquet,

pressing to an emergency I barely knew

and for which you suddenly held all and none

of the responsibility

A few months in, they're as close as pen to paper.

Instead of slipping from your bed and writing my dream down in my journal,

I turn to your breath and tell you–about the horses, about the fear.

The only word that sticks, though, is where

my palm cups the back of your head.

And the line I think we’ll remember is where your fingers

glide down middle back, slow, towards tailbone.

Hands write their own dreams.

Two seasons in, your hands are like November leaves.

By now, they've blushed and fallen in a pile, a thousand

touches on the path behind us; so hard to not walk back and carry

the brightest few.

Sometimes your hands and what they've meant to me are books. There are so many to read

before the librarian starts calling.

Alone, sometimes I hold your hands in my hands in a dim light and study

the thin letters they've written me,

that I've written with them.

Sometimes, like words, hands do not reach me

do not always touch

the place that hurts.

Sometimes hands are cowards, doing brazenly the work that a soft sentence could do better.

Put your hand over my heart, I said months ago, when it was racing.

Put your hand over my mouth, I said more recently, wanting them to admit to the silence they were seeking

in my skin.

I wish your palms were like poems, lines cracked open wide

A bowl as open and spiraling red as the palm of sandstone before Moab's Delicate Arch, where

everyone stands and waits in line to see what they've come to see.

In the morning, when it comes time for our bodies to go back out into the green day, separate,

I sometimes pause to remember how many times your hands have

cupped my face on the counter, or the floor and said, to my head--you, too, can be a body,

you too, can be held.

Or when, in the dark of an audience, your hand squeezed mine and fingers said, Yes, this!

louder than the tubas, breaking the silence of civilization, and mine

said it back, without my telling them to.

That's when I realized that my hands are also hands to you,

doing all of this--or I hope at least some--to wherever feeling happens.

I don't know how much I should trust myself;

if the metaphors the body keeps whispering to my skin are

just the echo of my own desire for

everything to mean something. For life to always be

talking to me, touching the place that hurts, with tender precision. 

Like when, a few weeks ago in Moab, at the point of the trail when going out becomes coming back,

I bent down and scooped a handful of red dust into my hands and said to myself--this resembles your shame, Martha–and then slowly let the space between fingers widen, and watched the fiery dirt become amber cloud

in a wind made by falling, by letting go. 

I don't know if what hands feel like to me is

ever, in fact, what they really are. 

What I feel when you touch me is, I know, another form of solitude

I am willing to live out,

less lonely than the ones I've tried.

I'll never know what your hands meant when they said it.

But I do know that, when I put your hand to my mouth,

it feels like the blackberry along the walking path that is

actually as dark and sweet as it looks.

And when I look up, at my fingers braided in yours, it feels like when we looked up from each other's skin at the same moment a pair of river otters arced and broke the surface of the algae-brown current,

their wet bodies twisting and gleaming in the afternoon light like ropes of wet hair,

there then gone --or rather, there then there but hidden,

I dug my fignernails deeper into your back then and yelped

at our luck, or at mine--"I still can't believe we saw them!" my words bent into your neck.

I could see the corner of your mouth smile mildly,

more amused at my amusement than the wild coincidence

as if it was only I who had seen them.

When I released you and moved to find my clothes,

I bet my fingertips left little yellow moons,

phasing from fullness to nothingness, along your lumbar and ribs.

But I don't know for sure. I was too busy studying the yellow and black catterpillars that were

raining down from the trees to mate, too embarrassed by how I'd assumed that creatures who crawled, must have be

born underground; too delighted, as I found myself in the company of animals who would also

risk it all, to make contact.

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