Arthritis is one thing, the hurting another

for Adrienne Rich in 2006


The poet’s hands degenerate until her cup is too heavy.


You are not required to understand.

This is not the year for understanding.


This is the year of burning women in schoolyards

and raided homes, of tarped bodies on runways and in restaurants.


The architecture of the poet’s hands has turned upon itself.


This is not the year for palliatives.  It is not the year for knowing what to do.


This is the year the planet grew smaller

and no country would consent to its defeat.


The poet’s cup is filled too full, a weight she cannot carry

from the table to her mouth, her lips, her tongue.

The poet’s hands are congenitally spoiled.


This is not one thing standing for another.


Listen, this year three ancient cities met their ruin, maybe more,

and many profited, but this is not news for the readers here.


Should I speak indirectly?

I am not the poet.  Those are not my hands.


This is the year of deportations and mothers bereaved

of all of their sons.  The year of third and fourth tours,

of cutting-edge weaponry and old-fashioned guns.


Last year was no better, and this year only lays the groundwork

for the years that are to come.  Listen, this is a year like no other.


This is the year the doctors struck for want of aid

and schoolchildren were sent home in the morning


and lights and gas were unreliable

and, harvesters suspect, fruit had no recourse but rot.


Many are dying for want of a cure, and the poet is patient

and her hands cause the least of her pain.


— from Smith Blue (Southern Illinois University Press