If I Had as Many Hands as Vishnu, by Stephen Ackerman

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August 2022 Issue [Readings]

If I Had as Many Hands as Vishnu

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From his debut poetry collection, Late Life, which will be published this month by Silverfish Review Press.

I would touch you tenderly
And then touch myself tenderly
As I wished to be touched by you.
I would open four books
And read four passages
With my four tongues
And these choristers would be
Scheherazade for the four Queens
Of you. If I had as many hands as Vishnu
I would draw silk with one hand from my sleeves,
Blindfold you with silk with another, lash you
With silk with another, remove the blindfold
With another. I would text you with a free hand and
Telephone you with an idle hand
To report that I had applied WD-40 to the valves
With one hand, removed the soufflé
From the oven with another, scattered
The seed for the songbirds across the surface
Of the earth with another,
Leashed the dogs with another
And was now in the field playing long toss
As I washed your hair with another.
There would always be one hand
Soothing you with the vowels
Of a sign language that I perfected
By listening to the sounds the signs
Made in you and I would release
The fingers of my left-most hand
To do as they please while my right-most hand
Conducted the string section and the brass and
The wind, the west wind, which traveled down
The life line of one of my many hands.
I could not foretell how long I would live,
For all my hands told a different story,
And I could not foretell how long we would love,
Though all my hands sought to please you.


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