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In the School of Empty Hands

by Carol Ann Davis

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 directs the undergraduate creative writing program at the College of Charleston, in Charleston, S.C., where she is associate professor of English and editor of Crazyhorse. Her first book of poetry, Psalm (Tupelo Press, 2007), was runner-up for the 2005 Dorset Prize. Her poems have appeared in The Iowa Review, The Threepenny Review, Image, and elsewhere. (1/2009)

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