Posted April 07, 2021 in News Articles
This week for Mindful Poetry Moments we gathered to listen and contemplate Aracelis Girmay's poem "Consider the Hands that Write this Letter." Amy Tuttle, of WordPlay, led our opening meditation. And, Haleh Liza Gafori, poet, vocalist, translator, and educator, led the reading and response. (If you'd like to read the full transcript, that can be found here.)
Check out WordPlay for writing courses for youth. And you can preorder Haleh's forthcoming book of Rumi translations that will be released in October. "This new translation preserves the radical intelligence and the ecstatic drama of poems that are as full of individual character as they are of visionary wisdom." -New York Review Books/NYRB
During the poem discussion, Haleh referenced a couple of other poems and writers, which are linked below.
- Lucille Clifton's "won't you celebrate with me"
- Miguel de Unamuno's "Throw Yourself like A Seed"
- Forugh Farrokhzad's "Another Birth," translated by Ahmed Karimi-Hakkak (no link)
- Joan Didion’s “Why I Write”
- Rumi’s “Friend of My Soul” from GOLD: Poems By Rumi, Translated by Haleh Liza Gafori
Community Response Poems
By Steven Barragán
My hands think by themselves
My hands make shapes I don’t recognize
My hands put letters closer into stanzas
My hands try to speak through made up lines
My hands can see the fired
My hands can create worlds
My hands build thoughts into paper
My hands release ideas into the world
My hands can talk
My hands hold hacks
My hands move mountains
by Andrew Monroe Rice
my off hand acts
placeholders for my blueprints
of practice climbs
she demands to
take a stand
before the sundry invasions
can coax me back into bed
not for loving
to concede to my head
away from me
the degraded hand
permits such grandiosity
from prolonged child's play
born of need
not of wanting
for their two sides
of each side
the treasures of which
What is Grace?
by Elena Estella Green
My hand on your grave
Feeling freshly dug soil,
Dirt in my fingernails.
The dust as dry
As my grief since you left us
Suddenly, like dropping
Something precious and
With outstretched arms
Trying to save it.
Something golden emanates
From my palms it fathoms the
Earth to reach you
But you’ve already
Found a place in
The lines of my hands.
Guaranteeing a second meeting
When we can hold each other
Again talk with our hands
And find each other’s
What is grace?
by Mari Lescaille
My hands ache and talk, one is telling me a story about the nerves we
Left unattended accustomed to the pain.
It tells the story with a calm voice that I was not expecting from
The bursts it goes into without notice.
My hands ache not like I'd die from this pain
They ache how at the end of the day a carpenter hands are from holding
Tools too tight for too long.
They gesture because they want to keep telling this story, their story, our story.
Have they not have all the stories that we can possibly have?
The gestures are from my culture, we talk with hands
But they point at each other in an intimate wink.
My hands have switched turns to hold the world
One has made progress while the other rested.
One has shared a world pressed to be inked.
My grandma grab my hands and says
They are so soft, is this what writing is?
Her hands ache too, her hands ache of work,
time, of what she holds close and what she carries.
My hands hold hers closely, gripping them, skin knows.
by Amy Tuttle
my hands: pulping fruits;
flesh & skin & seed, juicing.
my hands: soil-bound;
my hands: pressing;
atop your heads, the back of your heart, holding.
one hand catches lightning
while my other hand brews a might storm.
My Left Hand Writing to My Right
by Hadley Hutton
My Left hand writing to my right
claims the roots of clouds &
the stems of worms.
Its fist translating
mysteries in cursive.
Lined right hand
no longer seeing
hand to hand.
The eyes of fingernails
afraid of the inscrutable
distance from sky to foot,
tries to shut out night’s grubs.
Left wedges its foot in the door
scribbling the signature of
a dark rainbow on back
of right’s corded veins,
Let go, Let go.
I will hold you.
Right finds the strength
to slam the door,
by lydia dubose
cut it off they said
if one hand causes harm
now we find ourselves
remember how it felt
like a bow and string
the tension creating
a cruel cacophony
or a healing harmony
Butterflying the Sides
By Emily Little
This right hand drank beers too fast.
This right hand pushed a chest away,
a face away,
a grinding body away.
This right hand checked a million to-dos
off of a million to-do lists,
to-do lists that never ended.
This right hand filled out applications,
fitting my whole body, my whole soul
onto flat white paper and
into squares outlined in black.
This right hand never wrote neatly enough,
too sloppy for the second-wave-feminist peering over
my right shoulder;
noting where this right hand had done wrong.
This right hand grasped a golf club,
locking in place the left hand—
swinging my way through glass ceilings—
finding myself losing blood from a million tiny cuts in a Man’s World—
Breaking through a glass ceiling never led me to heaven.
Slowly I’m opening this left hand of mine,
crescent indentations slowly filling from fingernails dug in for so long.
This left hand of mine:
takes a thread bare wash cloth
and pets these tiny cuts
imperceptibly tweezering shards of glass,
butterflies the sides together,
bringing the sides in closer to center, trusting the body to do the rest.
This left hand of mine has untwined from around the club,
releasing that weapon with a metallic clatter.
This left hand of mine:
pulls itself through my hair,
touching my scalp,
releasing the heat of the day.
This left hand of mine picks up paint brush and pencil,
and makes things not found on any lists, and listens—
listens to the voices of littler ones learning to do the same.
This left hand of mine:
stays longer now on little backs,
little backs falling asleep,
little backs like saplings growing
deep within their sheets.
This left hand of mine meets my right now. Right now,
meeting my right hand, calling him back,
reclaiming masculine danger
by a feminine undrowned.
You are not nothing.
by: Evangelos Pappas
Yes, little park bench, I will sit in your comfort.
I'm sure, you can be comfortable, in any case.
Those wooden arms of the metal body.
I wonder, why. Why I haven't seen you again?
Why your leg is broken and you look me with a slant.
Did someone break it?
But still, here you are, proud and waiting.
Too friendly to not sit with.
Look this sunray, resting on your nature.
Light upon the light.
See, others might mean nothing.
For those who can really see?
No, you are not nothing.
by Wade Hopkins
I can't escape Spike Lee and Radio Raheem
In the empty theater I can barely process what I am seeing
The story of Love and Hate on two hands
In my left hand I hold the handle of the pot
It tips and boiling water rushes through the colander
My right hand twists to avoid the heat
In the theater my right hand digs handfuls of popcorn from
a tub balanced in my left hand
Sal and Mookie, the Mayor and Mother Sister
Radio Raheem and this boy
Each open and closed in turns
Each gripping and each twisting
Each working without command
I can't escape the Empty theater and my own hands