A Hand's Breadth

When I hear the voice that woke me with a hand over my mouth, 

humming Psycho Suite or The Imperial March, my throat closes up 

 

and I have to rush off the thought of some last tolerant god to relearn 

the physics of swallowing I love myself I love myself I love myself.

 

Though I've done nothing to ease the world. As a child, the voice 

tried to balance out the earth, bringing soil from the garden 

 

to the island’s roots loosed in the fast panache of a hurricane. 

Still, it laughed more than it cried. We laughed more than we fought 

 

but not by much, which doesn't mean much. When I confessed 

I killed the man-o-war and the voice asked if it had a face, I only said no 

 

because I was thinking of its hands. I have always looked to hands.

I only know what I still see: its rotund plea, its pleated crest  

 

like a bloated sailfish with its dorsal fin array all astray, bereft

of any will to lollygag or dash or bat its placeless eyes 

 

as I wrecked its bladder and listened to its pneuma seep. 

I want to see the world and all its seepage glitter thick like tar.

 

I want to keep opening wounds the aperture of stars in snails and oak

with salts and picks to see the strongest things contract and pulp. 

 

And I want to push a whale into the sand. We had such similar hands.

On the gurney, I note the breadth of purple beneath the muted teeth. 

 

I love myself I love myself and He loved me and He loved me.

The last time I saw him, the earth was beneath his fingernails.

 

Colin Dekeersgieter

Colin Dekeersgieter’s poems have appeared in The Greensboro Review, North American Review, Green Mountains Review, and elsewhere. He holds an MFA from NYU and an MA from the CUNY Graduate Center. He is currently Poetry Editor for The Carolina Quarterly and a PhD candidate at UNC, Chapel Hill. Colin lives in Carrboro, NC with his wife, writer Alisa Koyrakh.

Header photo by Melchior Damu