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.
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.