Tide Hands


November 21, 2012 by rebelwithalabelmaker

Saw the Leonard Cohen concert yesterday–amazing.  Made me want to post a poem.

Found out that someone I care about a great deal is having a major operation today.  Which made me want to post this particular poem.


Tide hands

at dinner

we are all strangers, stiff

like coral

our ticklish feelings coated by a hard layer of nervousness

Patricia’s words move like a school of minnows

darting into crannies, exploring


she finds favourite topics, curled

like timid fish under layers of seaweed

and brings them into light

she builds us into a tiny ecosystem

around the dinner table


current always tugs the conversation to my husband’s work

people lean in to hear of cancers, banished like slimy dragons

his hands like comets streaking in to coax a heart to life

his breath in a dying woman’s lungs



I never see them

the covenant of druids he works with

huddled over the operating table as though it were a cauldron

they wave magic hands


some days he comes home flying

bubbling over with flocks of long words I don’t understand

sprinkling them about the kitchen like lily petals


his hands flutter like leaves in a stream

as he illustrates each step of the day’s triumph


other days he comes home a dry hollow

eats supper quietly

watches the wall behind me as though the operation were playing there

a film that follows him all evening and to bed

waits in the shadows behind the dresser

with a dry grin

gnawing on the bones of the day’s work

blowing dust into every hollow of his face

crumpling the soft bed of his forehead

with dry cracks


these are things the patients do to us

like an unseen moon

they fill or empty him like a tide pool


they dart around him like invisible ravens

abort conversations

and  peck at him while he is trying to sleep


at four in the morning

we have been laying curled like phosphorescent fish in the dark

the duvet rising like silt around our soft edges


the phone rings

imbeds itself in his ear like a fisherman’s hook


drawn out of the house and through the snowy streets

by an invisible gravity




I am told that Patricia has terminal cancer.

I spend days trying to inspire him

to coax him into some new magic into his hands


my words always orbit back to the disease, lodged

like pebbles in her lungs

I point out all of her tiny kindnesses and skills

ask him to check the books again

to leaf through their pages for a cure that may be

nestled like a pressed flower there



Pat was rushed to the hospital last night

coughing blood and gasping

a fish flung into the air


Gary and I laid in bed

fingers tangled

hands tied


and watched the moon push a new day through the curtains.



2 thoughts on “Tide Hands

  1. Wendy says:

    Great poem, Liz

  2. Sandi James says:

    I have always loved this one. I think it is your best. Mum

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