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Hand Shadows

My father put his hands in the white light
of the lantern, and his palms became a horse
that flicked its ears and bucked; an alligator
feigning sleep along the canvas wall leapt up
and snapped its jaws in silhouette, or else
a swan would turn its perfect neck and drop
a fingered beak toward that shadowed head
to lightly preen my father's feathered hair.
Outside our tent, skunks shuffled in the woods
beneath a star that died a little every day,
and from a nebula of light diffused
inside Orion's sword, new stars were born.
My father's hands became two birds, linked
by a thumb, they flew one following the other.

—Mary Cornish

from Red Studio, 2007
Oberlin College Press

Copyright 2007 by Oberlin College Press.
All rights reserved.

Reprinted by permission of Oberlin College Press. Copyright 2007 by Mary Cornish. For further permissions information contact Linda Slocum, Managing Editor, Oberlin College Press, [email protected], 50 N. Professor St. Oberlin, OH 44074, fax 440-775-8124, phone 440-775-8408.

Poetry 180

About the Poet

Mary Cornish (1948- ), a former children’s book illustrator, is the author of the poetry collection Red Studio (Oberlin College Press, 2007). Cornish is a former Wallace Stegner Fellow and lives in Bellingham, Washington, where she teaches creative writing at Western Washington University.

Learn more about Mary Cornish at The Poetry Foundation.