Break My Hands
Maggie Blake Bailey
Tallahassee, Atlanta, Columbia.
When I arrive to babysit Sarah,
she is upstairs, reciting state capitals.
I’ve met her before, Adam’s sweet daughter,
architect of the elaborate valentines
that decorate her father’s desk, but now
he tells me, when she was six years old,
she asked him to break her hands.
Why does my daughter want me to shatter
her bones? he asks, and I want to say,
I know exactly what she wants, but that
is not the conversation he offers tonight.
He wants worry. I want to think about hands.
Cracked between a hammer and a solid
wooden kitchen table, slammed in a door
frame, held too hard, too long. Sarah
and I, we want one startling, brilliant
pain to overtake our many, smaller griefs.
So Adam gathers his jacket and briefcase,
and I climb the stairs and join her
incantation, building slight relief as we
venture west, clicking each name into place:
Sacramento, Olympia, Salem. I watch
Sarah trace coastline with her finger,
find the transplanted freckles of Hawaii,
the excised mass of Alaska floating in a blue,
waveless Pacific, water folded and hemmed
against islands splayed out like broken
joints. Her hand comes to rest in the lower
left corner and together we say Juneau,
knowing the effort that facts demand,
tasting conviction like honey. Thick
tongued, we settle for the lesser satisfaction.
About the Author: Maggie Blake Bailey has poems published or forthcoming in The Southern Poetry Anthology, Volume V: Georgia, Tar River, Slipstream, and elsewhere. She has been nominated twice for a Pushcart Prize and her chapbook, "Bury the Lede," is available for pre-order from Finishing Line Press. For more work, please visit here.