Conjunctions:35 American Poetry: States of the Art

Seven Hands
The following is an excerpt from Cole Swensen’s “Seven Hands” as originally published in Conjunctions:35.
The Hand Defined: 1
How is the We define the Where begin? an elbowful of muscle
fine as an inner ear

Those who say the definition of the hand begins in the shoulder say
those who say (the abbreviate) (mya): between 3.9 and 4.2 Million
Years Ago, Australopithecus anamemsis: to find. Fossils of the
hand and feet are so much rarer than those of skulls. Refined. We’re
back to the inner ear. To hold onto earth hearing
with the fingertips all those singly
millions of                    early braille, caressing    a        an
armful of earth in falling
and is still falling
                                       the entire

structure of the back and shoulder
                          and enormous parts of the brain.

The author of many volumes of poetry, Cole Swensen is the founding editor of La Presse Books. She coedited the Norton anthology American Hybrid and guest-edited the first annual Best American Experimental Writing (Omnidawn). Her collections include On Walking On and Landscapes on a Train (both Nightboat Books)A former Guggenheim Fellow, she has won the Iowa Poetry Prize and the PEN USA Award in translation, among others. She teaches at Brown University.