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Hands by Jean Monahan

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Robert Dana-Anhinga Prize for Poetry (1991)

Jean Monahan's Hands surprises the reader at every turn. She verses and reverses direction, never following predictable rhythmic paths, expressively inventing the noise of a physical world which expresses the noise of the spirit. Her headlong syntax mimics the mind's movement. She attends to sound, not only in the dance of lines down the page but in intimacies of adjacent phonemes--with an ear that is both beautiful and playful. These are poems of brilliant physicality in description, dramatic and often objective. -- Donald Hall

 

 

Perseus Appears to the Three Gray Women

What a different world it might have been
were it not for the man

who stepped out of the wind
shaped the way our dreams had always shaped him.

What hues might have blazed, if not for his fire-
colored cloak and bronze shield, charcoal hair

and copper skin? We remember now his smile
curling up, smoke-thin, from the lid of a scowl,

how he watched us watch him, all the while
gauging our hands, as we passed our one eye

beneath our gray wings. The exact moment we lost
sight of him remains uncertain; under the pregnant

clouds that impound our land there is only this
sudden, heartsick wonder: in a careless

moment one might blindly trade
the world into a stranger's hand.

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