We hold pens and pennies in our hands until our knuckles cramp

And our nails turn blue; reciting wish upon wish that the world doesn’t fail us now.


We plunge our palms into the powdered softness of the sands

To convince ourselves that our touch can bring change to our surroundings.

Yet our backs are always turned when the sand pits we’ve dug

Sigh into themselves with a faint gurgle,

Back into the moistened bed of the sea.


The same hands in the sand caress the pressure points

Of a hardened shaft;


The same hands anchor food into the air,

Ready to be engulfed by the blackness 

Behind our teeth.


These same hands find their ports

Clasped in the hands of others;


These same hands hold the gleaming trophy

And spell out V-I-C-T-O-R-Y to the clouds


These same hands mould into the same fists,

And just as in life;

Direction is everything. 


We clutch things in sweaty fists, palms shut up tight

Against the world — willing them not to slip from our grip.


But we all get slapped sometimes,

And our hands only serve to nurse the wound.


That’s only the universe telling us to cling harder to the things we have,

The things we care about keeping, and the things we can trick ourselves 

Into believing were worth it to have loved when we have lost.

Lines to Keep

I came up with a near-perfect beginning of a poem last night,

Sitting on the inside of a grimy, bright bus

Watching the darkened streets fly by.


It might have been a line about the girl curled up and into herself

On a chair in the front window of the police station.

It might have been about the reflections in the bus windows,

About everyone seeing everyone without the burden of eye contact. 

It might have been about a pharmacy, 

Or about the festive lights that drape across the alleyways and squares;

Little shining stars ashamed to find themselves so close to Earth:

A string of half-hearted message cards dutifully reminding people

That this is the season to be kind to others. 


But most people here can’t stand that thought, 

So the lights turn into haunting annoyances — a voicemail on repeat-

That no one dares take down or take the time to understand.


It might have been a line about all those things combined,

It might have been the one defining line:

One defining line to fill the emptiness inside the cracks between my bones.


But, of course, I lost that line-

I lost the whole damn fishing pole at the same time,

Swallowed up by the unforgiving mouth of the realm of dreams. 

It bubbled up and foamed and dribbled out of my mouth in my sleep,

For my fingers were too slow to let the blood-turned-ink run out of my

Nail beds and sink into a page, if only to be sealed up tight

And left recorded for the rest of my life. 


I’ve said sorry to the muses of the written word,

And the goddesses of buses, fingers, pens, and sleep.

And since I’ve lost, in return, 

I’ve written them a poem entitled:

Lines to Keep