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The Hand

The teacher asks a question.
You know the answer, you suspect
you are the only one in the classroom
who knows the answer, because the person
in question is yourself, and on that
you are the greatest living authority,
but you don’t raise your hand.
You raise the top of your desk
and take out an apple.
You look out the window.
You don’t raise your hand and there is
some essential beauty in your fingers,
which aren’t even drumming, but lie
flat and peaceful.
The teacher repeats the question.
Outside the window, on an overhanging branch,
a robin is ruffling its feathers
and spring is in the air.

—Mary Ruefle

From Cold Pluto, 1996, 2001
Carnegie Mellon University Press

Copyright 1996, 2001 Mary Ruefle.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of Carnegie Mellon University Press. Copyright 1996, 2001 by Mary Ruefle. For further permissions information, contact Cynthia Lamb, Carnegie Mellon University Press, 5032 Forbes Ave., Pittsburgh, PA 15289-1021, www.cmu.edu/universitypress.

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Mary Ruefle (1952- ) is the author of eleven poetry collections, including Trances of the Blast (Wave Books, 2013). Ruefle received a BA in Literature from Bennington College. She has taught at Vermont College and the University of Iowa Writers’ Workshop.

Learn more about Mary Ruefle at The Poetry Foundation.