"Trees are poems the earth writes upon the sky,
We fell them down and turn them into paper,
That we may record our emptiness."
Khalil Gibran

Thursday, January 12, 2017

The Handflower ~ Sonnet

The Hands - Edvard Munch (1893)

In this night’s dark stain, come, lay beside me;
I will take you, man without a name,
who turns his face away and bites my shoulder,
who needs but cannot bear the bitter dregs.

I will carry your weight, as every sister
who wore the handflower became the bangle,
learned to spread her bones and sink beneath
the waves of each particular obsession.

Curses follow me of those who fear my right
and shudder to know the love I count in minutes
of every hour, who spit their gall where I laugh.

This flesh is mine, it has bled, and shed,
like a snakeskin every unworthy touch
and kept for itself, the taste of one kiss.


Literary Excursions in The Imaginary Garden focuses on the device used by Rainer Maria Rilke of employing imagery which portrays humans in terms of things.

The handflower is a 'slave bracelet' worn between wrist and fingers and the bangle or 'manilla', worn above the elbow, was a form of currency in the slave trade.


  1. My goodness, such power and depth in your poem, Kerry❤️ especially in awe of the lines; "This flesh is mine, it has bled, and shed, like a snakeskin every unworthy touch and kept for itself, the taste of one kiss." Beautifully expressed!

    Lots of love,

  2. Master use of this sonnet form. ...and impressive use of sound to add depth to the second part

  3. You blew my mind with this, Kerry. Then I shared it with a special friend, who also gave it high praise.

  4. As token and emblem -- Rilkean transformations of metaphor into religious myth -- this handflower is the garland of she who sunders herself surrendering to desire. Handmaiden and whore: she who offers sanctuary to those "who need( ) but cannot bear the bitter dregs." There is a victory here, though: she who joins the ranks of the sisterhood who have "learned to spread her bones and sink beneath / the waves of each particular obsession" is master of her own flesh, and finds power in giving it willingly away, as she chooses. Some really powerful lines in this, Kerry. Rilke was essentially bewildered by the Other, caught in the paradox of infinite reflection in a mortally empty mirror (a ladies man who knew nothing of real intimacy) -- the distance from Beloved here is as great here, and equally self-sufficient. Great work Kerry, and thanks so for the prompt.

  5. When not enough is all there is, it's a bitter cup indeed.

  6. Not a wasted word here, Kerry. They all built up to a small token of, perhaps a harlot, savoring, something to be remembered, 'the kiss', "kept for itself, the taste of one kiss." Even us, I remember some, I'm sure you do also.

  7. Oh, how fierce and beautiful! That first stanza just turned me inside out.

  8. "who needs but cannot bear the bitter dregs."

    So apt an analogy for desire at every level, unwilling the responsibility it carries

    much love...

  9. WOW!!!!!!!!!! "shed like a snakeskin, every unworthy touch" - those lines resonate for me.

  10. This sonnet is making its rounds. Folks are sharing it.

    1. Thanks for telling me, Martin. I had no idea it would make such an impact.

  11. This poem has POWER! Finely drawn images explode in that last stanza.

  12. Wow, Kerry! A wonderful sonnet, so tightly written with not a word wasted.

  13. Love this .. the way you have used the things (and unexpected ones too) in the snakeskin and a handflower... (which in itself is a kenning... )

  14. Powerful and deep, turning pain to strength, slavery to secret defiance, and asserting that which cannot be enslaved.

  15. Lovely, powerful poem--oh that people can shed the bad--beautifully and originally expressed. Thanks. A wonderful prompt too, Kerry. k.

  16. the hidden history of slavery and desire, carved from the flesh of the unnamed women who bear that burden.

    men fear when herstory is finally written ~

  17. Oh my goodness. This is absolutely beautiful. Such depth.

  18. Social restrictions and personal malleability bloom like a battle through the line... A battle she wins with laughter, with remembering that regardless of what anyone thinks of her, or happens to name her... She belongs to her.

  19. This flesh is mine, it has bled, and shed,
    like a snakeskin every unworthy touch... wow..a very strong write!

  20. What a powerful poem - I sense a strength - a repossession of her body and being..

  21. Reading it again, I am thinking of the glorious fierce women marching yesterday all over the world. Yay!

  22. What an excellent piece of writing, I really did enjoy this, so much so, I shall read it again before I go.

  23. Good-ness, Kerry; that second stanza is especially captivating. I'm glad you linked this again.

  24. A powerful feminist piece on f writing especially in light if yesterday's global women's march... wonderland...bkm

  25. My word that is a stong piece of poetry. Sounds like a lady of the night reflecting on her life.

  26. I must agree to the word powerful, straight and true in its purpose and direction. And yes, it also reminded me of yesterday's march. Thank you,


  27. All the accolades are genuinely accurate .

  28. Stunning Kerry! The last stanza was my favorite!


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