For the Corporeal

By Grace Von Lehman

Honorable Mention, Poetry, Create | Encounter 2021


We held the hands of Miss Joann

in the cold room where

she died, rosary

wrapped around her eight fingers.

Disabled body in thin pale

skin, woman, “vegetable” green

glass beads graced by mangled grip.


Washed a child’s chapped, rough wrists

at the border, at McAllen,

dusty desert-tracked shoes duct-taped up by

the dark hands of her “alien” father,

now handcuffed. Not enough

they wouldn’t tell her

who they were, where they took him.

Put our hands Up, in July,

fingers clasped in fists thrust high, toward

Tomorrow, justice, upturned palms

where a “thug,” young, Black, placed packs

of chalk, said to write what that world would be.

Thumbs scraped the concrete

with the stubs we had left.

Sifted through debris of disaster

after disaster, deplorable

“them,” hands tied to half-done

hand-outs of ungenerosity, still within

same bones, blood, tissue, skin.

Carnal, carpal reality intertwined,

Inseparable from mine. Yours. Ours.

Promised when it starts to seem the center cannot hold,

I’ll hold you to me hand in hand with everything I have.


Artist Statement:

This poem centers solidarity in physical connection as resistance to semantics that divide and dehumanize. Amid so many abstractions of harmful language, a person’s humanity is undeniable in these moments of tangible recognition.

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