19 January 2009 | Vol. 8, No. 4

What I Hold

A glint—an intimation of what gleams.

Just the incidentals; nothing grand

in pomegranates, Coney Island, reams of

of new newspapers hitting dawn—dark stands.

The birds I hear don't sound like opera, not

like flutes or piccolos at play. They sound

like birds. Sometimes the birds are all I've got.

There's nothing grand but wakefulness, the ground

I jump from; nothing but the shining air

which might be a light left on for me. A glow

that may be small, but bright and worthy of care.

I pity the fragile, but I still forgo

the sturdy cup and choose the demitasse.

Whatever's in my grip, it's made of glass.

Whatever's in my grip, it's made of glass—

blown promises, assurance that forged skin

will harden, change to something that might pass

for beautiful. But though I know that in—

side every crafted sphere there is just air,

I cannot love the space between the words,

can find no pleasure in the silence there.

And if the point is trusting what's unheard—

how every stop, in time, will yield a sound—

the shape I seek is not one I create.

Thorns twist around themselves to form a crown;

they frame an emptiness we'll consecrate.

Without the skips, the beat would not exist.

My hand grasps nothing and still forms a fist.

My hand grasps nothing and still forms a fist

for me to rest my heart against. There's doubt

in everything but what I own: the trysts

I thought were trusts are minor—they amount

to nothing but a blink over the lifetime of the eye.

When subject fails to add up, there's the sum

of my own fingers, vanities, the way

the body shows me just what's mine: the run

of timid freckles sprinting down an arm,

a clavicle to climb, the bones that hold

my weight despite themselves, despite the harm

I've caused. And every story I've been told

is hidden in my spine, a refugee.

Worry my backbone like a rosary.

Worry. My backbone, like a rosary,

cannot withstand the press of all this faith.

I've wrapped myself around the things I see

so tightly that my stories feel like breath—

beholden to them, I inhale their rich

minutiae desperately, but when I let

them out they have been changed. This is a switch

that stripes my best attempts. I need to get

perspective now, and so, unusual

as it may seem, I'll stop to look outside

these lines; to ask if it is sin to pull

myself away from this, or prayer to ride

the story out. But who will answer me?

I'm not a girl who has epiphanies.

I'm not a girl who has epiphanies,

but once one happened, waiting for a light

to change. An ancient woman raised a weak

gnarled fist to tap my window just as night

pressed on. I lowered it. She spoke—a voice

as thick and cumbersome as wool. My feet,

she said, I can't get home. I had a choice,

but I said no. And she went down the street,

the queue of cars…they all said no, and no

and no. I knew this damage was my own;

I had been taught such fears. I knew. And so?

Perhaps I changed my mind and drove her home.

And maybe to this day that choice still seems

like a hint, a minute's inkling of what gleams.

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About the author:

Jessica Piazza is Founding Editor of Bat City Review and Co-Founder of the Speakeasy Poetry Series in New York City. Born and raised in Brooklyn, New York, she is currently pursuing a PhD in Literature and Creative Writing at the University of Southern California. Among other places, her poems have appeared in AGNI, Indiana Review, No Tell Motel, and Pebble Lake Review.

For further reading:

Browse the contents of 42opus Vol. 8, No. 4, where "What I Hold" ran on January 19, 2009. List other work with these same labels: poetry, crown of sonnets, sonnet, rhyme.

42opus is an online magazine of the literary arts.

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