The Forest of Hands
Hands of the black oak, playing the light.
Hands of the ponderosa, a brush for the wind’s voice.
Hands of cedarfroth and alderfeather, hands
Ham-handed sugar pine cones two feet long.
Tight-fisted cones; fists full of berries; old thistle-fists;
Grassy hands; fists full of seeds;
Long blue lupine hands testing the air.
Under the earth
old hands in pieces, bones
People are descended from bears.
As the winter eats up the daylight
and the edges of cold slide and cut along your bones,
don’t you feel it,
the weight of it,
the delicious downwardness toward sleep?
Sleep, like gravity.
Sleep, a meal
of dark, rich
stored things; fruits, fruit puddings,
syrups, breads, thicknesses, culmination.
Let the cold and the dark prevail out of doors.
Indoors, follow the wisdom of your bear genes,
follow the knowledge of your body, that
heaviness of yours—
those years and years
of past bears.
Bee purple, bee violet—
we will never see it,
though it is there, hovering
in the air, among the colors.
Be brave. Hold a bee
in your hand —a dead bee, all electricity
gone. No fear; no sting; no buzz
of rods and cones in those eyes, no play
of colors on the keys
of that bee mind. Just wires
and brushes. It never saw
our singing scarlet, never worshipped fire—
vermillion, crimson, carmine—or was burnt
by that beauty. It never saw
what we will reconstruct; our Stygian shadows,
our bruises, our sweet crepuscular loves; never knew
our lilac fragrances. It saw
Dorothy Gilbert is the translator and editor of Marie de France: Poetry, (A Norton Critical Edition), which received the 2016 Northern California Book Award for Translation in Poetry and Honorable Mention for the MLA Jeanne and Aldo Scaglione Prize for translation of a literary work. Her publications include a verse translation of Chrétien de Troyes’ Erec et Enide, the first known Arthurian romance. Her own poetry has appeared in The New Yorker, The Nation, The Iowa Review, PEN Southern Lights Anthology, Persimmon Tree, Tattoo Highway, and elsewhere. She has also published science fiction. Her article, “My Women's March,” recently appeared in Women's Voices for Change. She lives in Richmond, California.