by Lauren Winchester
Hans Castorp saw his hand
laid bare to bones in that machine.
An X-ray so-called, it showed
the future of decay. How it ate
the flesh and left the scaffolding
on display. His ring remained,
hanging loose and black along
a line of white.
A round little hill, the body,
a mass of guts and stuff
unglamorous. I like the body
in art only where it can stay
and stay constant.
I have a thing for the grotesque.
The gnarled, aching
hand. One lunatic has it wrapped
around another’s neck. Sometimes
the edge of ugly dulls with age,
becomes soft and sought out: like babies
probing for a wrinkled neck
with fat, fat fingers on hands.
I’d like a deformed ghost
for a friend—maybe
Richard III, so rudely stamped.
Would the dogs still bark?
Would he walk with a halt?
Would his hands be heavy with rings?
We could compare our ugly:
I have a crooked bottom tooth,
and what’s more I’m selfish,
petty and cruel. What about you?
A good game, but not as fun
as the one where I try to guess
what it’s like to be immaterial—
what it’s like to see your hands
but not feel them.
El Greco painted a man
and showed the hilt of a gold
sword and the spread of a pale
hand. Everything elongated,
even his head. When I die,
paint me in his style. Every
wrinkle a rivulet in a face
like a satin cloak; every finger
gleaming with rings; every
Lauren Winchester is an MFA student at Johns Hopkins University.
Art: Hands, 16th Century by Erasmus of Rotterdam