“Your Hands” by Shannan Mann

Shannan Mann


Like coals they ashed me bit by bit, your hands.
The open fire thrilled me, I admit—your hands.
A panther only sees white food at night. It is natural,
then, that against my cheekbone you hit your hands.
I crumbled into the sour milk of your tears as you begged:
So deep is my pain, save me. With this ring, commit your hands.
You called me priestess, whore, my half, my sin, my soul.
I sang bastard, bewitcher infidel, hypocrite, your hands.
Great men become bone, their names given to stars, but stars too
burned when they learned how piety and lust lit your hands.
I unearthed my cremains from the ghats of the Ganges;
a beggar tithed me a coin, along with it, your hands.
I discovered a woman created in my own image. I lifted her veil.
Behind it: dead birds, zephyrs, a faded palette, your hands.
You said, love achieves glory when lovers take up arms.
Yet no matter what I killed I could never outwit your hands.
Who has not made love to beasts in wild wastelands?
Shannan, it is not gold, it is gore, it is shit: your hands.

from Rattle #78, Winter 2022
Rattle Poetry Prize Finalist


Shannan Mann: “I wrote for several hours a day until I was 17. Then, I ran away from an abusive home and wound up in an almost-worse place. I didn’t write for 8 ½ years. After a near-death birth experience (for both my daughter and me), I was inspired to begin writing again. The first poem I wrote was for a Rattle Ekphrastic Challenge. Through that, I connected with previous challenge winner, Karan Kapoor, who encouraged me to read Agha Shahid Ali’s collection of English ghazals, Call Me Ishmael Tonight. He also challenged I write a better ghazal than the master. I’m not sure if I’ll ever come close to Shahid, but this poem is now part of a growing collection of ghazals that deal with my experience as a woman, person of colour, and a mother. All poetry is community, but the ghazal especially so. And I don’t think I’d be exaggerating one bit if I said that Rattle helped me to be a part of this community once again, long after I thought I’d exiled myself beyond return. My sincere gratitude for this magazine and every single poet who graces these pages.” (web)

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