If the Girl Receives a Caress from a Man Without Hands

by Sue William Silverman


The girl’s forehead is steamy,
her feet wandering Jerusalem’s old city, passing
stalls of silver, turquoise, carnelian,
embroidered dresses, the shop-
keeper slipping billowy green
over her head, his stubby
wrists, wounds tight as grenades,
grazing her shoulders…yet gentle,
she thinks, no thorny nails
or bony knuckles. She places coins
on an enamel plate without
expecting change.

In air scented by olive trees,
the girl dreams of hands severed
by bayonets – the man entering
her chamber dripping blood –
a kind of tenderness
like cancer curling up
snug inside bones, radiated skin
rainbowed pink, lavender, gold – fragile
as parchment – a surgical dig –
an archaeologist discovering
every damaged
cell in her body.

The girl returns to the shopkeeper’s
stall to grasp his handless
hands, his stubs,
as if she can mend
him, or as if he could press
his phantom palm
between her legs
and call it love.

SUE WILLIAM SILVERMAN‘s poetry collection is Hieroglyphics in Neon (Orchises Press). She is also the author of three memoirs: The Pat Boone Fan Club: My Life as a White Anglo-Saxon Jew was a finalist in Foreword Review’s 2014 IndieFab Book of the Year Award; Love Sick: One Woman’s Journey through Sexual Addiction is also a Lifetime TV movie; and Because I Remember Terror, Father, I Remember You won the Association of Writers and Writing Programs award in creative nonfiction. Her craft book is Fearless Confessions: A Writer’s Guide to Memoir, and she teaches in the MFA in writing program at Vermont College of Fine Arts. Please visit: www.suewilliamsilverman.com