By Denise Levertov
After I had cut off my hands
and grown new ones
something my former hands had longed for
came and asked to be rocked.
After my plucked out eyes
had withered, and new ones grown
something my former eyes had wept for
came asking to be pitied.
In The Vintage Book of Contemporary American Poetry, JD McClatchy ed. (Vintage Books 1990), 191.
HER BODY (parts 1 & 4)
By Daniel Halpern
1. The Fingers
They are small enough to find and care for a tiny stone.
To lift it with wobbly concentration from the ground,
from the family of stones, up past the pursed mouth—
for this we are thankful—to a place level with her eyes
to take a close look, a look into the nature of stone.
Like everything, it is for the first time: first stone,
chilly cube of ice, soft rise of warm flesh, hard
surface of table leg, first and lasting scent of grass
rubbed between the tiny pincer fingers. And there is
the smallest finger poking the air, pointing toward the first heat
of the single sun, pointing toward the friendly angels
who sent her, letting them know contact’s made.
4. The Soul
Who knows how they get here,
beyond the obvious.
Who packaged the code
that provided the slate for her eyes,
and what about the workmanship
that went into the fingers
allowing such intricate movement
just months from the other side?—
Who placed with such exactness
the minute nails on each
of the ten unpainted toes?
And what remains
beyond eye and ear, the thing
most deeply rooted in her body—
the thing that endlessly blossoms
but doesn’t age, in time
shows greater vitality? The thing
unlike the body that so quickly
reaches its highest moment only
to begin, with little hesitation,
the long roll back, slowing all the way
until movement is administered by
devices other than those devised
by divine design? The ageless thing
we call soul, like air, both resident
and owner of the body’s estate.
But her soul, only partially
through the slate that guards it,
contacts those of us waiting here
with a splay of its soft,
Her soul is a sapling thing,
something green, dew-damp
but resolute, entering this world
with an angel’s thumb pressed
to her unformed body at the very last,
a template affixed to her body
when they decided it was time
to let her go, for her to come to us
and their good work was done.
An angel’s thumbprint, a signature, her soul.
In The Best American Poetry 1997, J Tate ed. (Scribner Poetry 1997), 91-94.