A Survivor's Hands
Pauline Burchfield

My hands were too heavy to hold you.
It was as if they said, I do not have the strength
to carry one more thing, they lay limp.

I tried to will them to work, to cook you dinner, or dial the phone
but they wouldn't move, wouldn't lift
no amount of coaxing would make them grasp

that it was better to feel, than not to feel the weight
of you pulling--spinning, like this long year,
a carcass in a cyclone of depression,

loneliness that dug deep with its tormented dizziness,
its paranoid craziness, clutching, greedy, grasping
for a woman's touch, a mother's hand, a loving hug

a deep and desperate need that rallied the rivals
who claimed me, they, not desperate, but determined
to be the first in line for hand-holding, for caressing.

Crushed in a tug of war for attention, my arms twisted
and pulled in too many directions, torn
between who to help first, my hands answered,

Let go. Let go. Let go of them all, they said,
but I knew I couldn't, as long as they worked.
And so they didn't. And I did.

Graphic by Elisabeth Kim

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