Poetry Explorer- Classic Contemporary Poetry, HANDS, by EARL (EARLE) BIRNEY



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HANDS, by             Poet's Biography
First Line: In the amber morning by the inlet's high shore
Last Line: Our roots are in autumn, and store for no spring.
Subject(s): Canoes & Canoeing; Hands


In the amber morning by the inlet's high shore
My canoe drifts and the slim trees come bending
Arching the palms of their still green hands
Juggling the shimmer of ripples.
Too bewildering
Even in the dead days of peace was this manumission,
The leaves' illogical loveliness. Now am I frustrate,
Alien. Here is the battle steeped in silence,
The fallen have use and fragrantly nourish the quick.
My species would wither, away from the radio's barkings,
The headline beating its chimpanzee breast, the nimble
Young digits at levers and triggers. Lithe are these balsam
Fingers, gaunt as a Jew's in Poland, but green,
Green, not of us, our colours are black and red.
Cold and unskilled is the cedar, his webbed claws
Drooping over the water shall focus no bombsight
Nor suture the bayoneted bowel, his jade tips
Alert but to seadew and air and the soundless touch
Of the light winked by the wind from the breathing ocean,
Inept to clutch the parachute cord, the uniformed
Throat, the mud by the Thames in ebbing agony.
These alders cupping their womanish palms, pulsing
To the startled light when the long unpredictable swell
Reaches from the grey heart of the far Pacific,
Are not of my flesh. Their hands speak for Brutus,
And signal sedition to the poet interned and the lover
Suppressed; they render nought unto Caesar.
My fingers
Must close on the paddle. Back to the safe dead
Wood of the docks, the whining poles of the city,
And to hands the extension of tools, of the militant typewriter,
The self-filling patriot pen, back to the paws
Clasping warmly over the bomber contract,
Applauding the succulent orators, back to the wrinkled
Index weaving the virtuous sock, pointing the witch hunt,
While the splayed fist thrusts at the heart of hereafter.
We are gloved with steel, and a magnet is set us in Europe.
We are not of these woods, we are not of these woods,
Our roots are in autumn, and store for no spring.





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