These hands cradle the fragments
of hushed gestures. They possess
a stammer and a tremble,
as if hooves beat in the veins
that map what moves beneath
the blazing skin. Every breath
is a reminder of the body
in exile, the compass dropped
down a dried-up well.
In the background, the machines
whir & bleat while the whitecoats
squander their smooth voices,
ordering higher doses and another
sting of the needle’s tongue.
I bow down to a gold-leafed grief.
The nurses are my anchors,
guard me from the leap at the lip
of the abyss. I claim a dumb tongue,
let my eyelids be sewn shut against
the surge of light. This vigil
needs no voice, no sight,
needs only the muted clamor
of nerves that signal pain
to an obedient brain.
Sandy Longhorn is the author of Blood Almanac which won the Anhinga Prize for Poetry. New poems have appeared or are forthcoming in 32 Poems, The Cincinnati Review, Crazyhorse, Hayden’s Ferry Review, North American Review, and elsewhere. Longhorn teaches at Pulaski Technical College, where she directs the Big Rock Reading Series. In addition, she co-edits the online journal Heron Tree, is an Arkansas Arts Council fellow, and blogs at Myself the only Kangaroo among the Beauty.