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.

Cole Swensen's latest books include a collection of poetry, Art in Time (Nightboat Books), and a volume of critical essays, Noise that Stays Noise (University of Michigan Press). She has won the Iowa Poetry Prize, the SF State Poetry Center Book Award, and the National Poetry Series and has been a finalist for the National Book Award. Also a translator, she divides her time between Paris and Providence, Rhode Island.