Canticle for the Hand and Mouth by Karl Sherlock

hand reaching up, another reaching down, blue sky background
Photo by Youssef Naddam on Unsplash.

The way one’s mouth shadows the hand because hands
spoke the first language. The way the lurid tongue-tip
drapes the sill of one’s lip, mobilizing when hands are
elsewise picking knots from shoelaces or rubbing together
the neurons of a nuanced thought. How the rushed cadence
of fingerspelling paces a deaf friend’s lips. How Moses,
heavy of mouth and stammering tongue, lifted the sea with
a lightness of hands thrust forward. How a forefinger, pinched
against the lips, muzzles a neighbor’s fracas, or the well-
meaning, ill-mannered way the hand of a relative stranger

cups the mouth, whispers, “You’re stronger than you know,
you know?” How they all should just keep mum about
surviving this hotter-than-hell August while her husband
is dying, artfully slow, broken into hours of hand-holding
and unspoken unmaking. How the bud of her tongue,
sentineled before the locked tabernacle of her throat,
must not give up its litany of sobs until her hands fold first
to grant consent, let her tongue withdraw into the dark
chapel of her mouth, where it may, instead, consecrate her,
and all of us, with the speechless, bitter work of prayer.

Karl Sherlock
A disabled, queer poet, writer, and professor of English, Karl Sherlock’s recent work appears in Broken Lens, Cathexis North West, Lime Hawk, Mollyhouse, RockPaperPoem, Stone Boat, Science Write Now, Wordgathering, and many others, as well as in anthologies such as The Ending Hasn’t Happened Yet. He is a Sundress 2014 Best of the Net finalist for his memoir about marrying a conversion therapy torture survivor. Now a round-the-clock caregiver to his physically and medically disabled husband, Karl teaches online writing courses and poetry workshops from his home in El Cajon, Calif.

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