Hands of a Poet, Hand of a Poet

Once upon a time there was a blog I created, Vagabond Poet, which after several years became for a short while Vagabond Poet Redux. Not too long after my husband Roger died in 2017, I discontinued the blog. But its still there at http://karlalinn.blogspot.com/, if you’re curious.

Then, in deep Covid era in mid-2021, I created this new blog, The Muses’ Refugia, with an expanded vision of what I wanted to write about and share.

For this installment, I’ve circled back to bring you the original “Hands of a Poet” think piece.  It reads:

This afternoon millions of people are getting psyched to watch their team charge on to Super Bowl victory, each pass landing firmly in the receiver’s ready hands.  Yay!  Or lose because the ball is fumbled and falls into the opponent’s hands. Boo, hiss!  Not for me.  I don’t even know who’s playing, and would much rather think about the miracle of the human hand and more specifically about a poet’s hands.   

Hands have been on my mind for a couple weeks now.  The above photo must have prompted a more prolonged meditation than zoom, focus, click, download, save.

On my recent Poetry Safari to Caloosahatchee Regional Park, tucked into my tent, aka Budkowsi, I experimented with a prose-poem variation on the ghazel, which is a 6th-century Arabic poetic form traditionally consisting of rhyming couplets and a refrain, each line sharing the same meter.  It’s evolved since then and you’ll often see ghazals in couplets where a single word and variations on that word serve a desire for sameness and refrain.

I’ve tried several ghazals recently exploring for the first time how the form works. Last week while tucked inside my tent, I tried a variation sans couplet, but working with variations on, you might have guessed it: hands. Here’s what came of my experiment:

Ghazal by Hand 

Human beings make so much of their dexterous hands, handing

over survival to opposable thumbs, handily.

Breaker, breaker one-nine, this is Handmaid,

CB handle for a left-hander with love handles.

Let’s hand it to hand signals

of catchers to pitchers and hand codes of foreign spies handing

off secrets. They’ve been seen on the streets of New York mishandling

hands-out panhandlers living hand-to-mouth

near Wall Street. Study the artful hands

of Georgia O’Keeffe in Stieglitz’s eye; ponder Adam’s holy hand

extend to touch the hand

of God. I have it firsthand

from the Buddha’s praying hands:

Faith is a hands-on

experiment with hand-me-down

koans. So I wash my hands of hand-to-hand

cosmic combat. Handmade

peace in pieces is handed

down to me. Let’s have a show of hands,

hold hands, shake hands. Put the handwriting

on the petroglyph wall, handsome!


Well, it was fun for me at least.

Since then, I have turned my thoughts back to the photograph that started all this rumination on our ten wondrous digits.

The hands in the photograph belong to William Heyen.  My friend Bill.  He and his ever-delightful wife Han (short for Hannelore) had joined Roger and me for an outing into the 10,000 Islands of Everglades National Park. When the tour boat picked up speed, we held on to railing, each other, our caps, keeping eyes open for bottle-nosed dolphins (who did indeed appear) and white pelicans (a large flock of them jostled one another on a small white sandbar just on the edge of the open waters of the Gulf of Mexico). I clicked the shutter.  And the photograph featured here got lodged in my brain.

Upon further reflection, I came up with a scherzi sextet, using the short form of thirteen syllables (plus a rhyme) that Bill invented.  Here ’tis:

The Great One on Tour in the 10,000 Islands

The master poet grasps his baseball cap,

both hands, secure.

This poet holds on to his hat,

fingers splayed, firm grip.

This is the poet who keeps his head straight,


Poet of the inner eye stares

into mangrove passes.

I behold the sun-shaded poet

behold the osprey.

Below the brim, the poet’s god

is lost in the Glades.


A challenge for your writer’s hand

Fresh today is this photograph of another poet’s hand, entitled “Bird of Paradise.”

Now it’s your turn. I hope you’ll take up the challenge:  Write a 50-word piece in any genre—flash fiction, poetry (haiku, tanka, etc. welcome), memoir—that tells the story of the photograph. Just send your 50 words (or fewer) along in the blog reply box and be sure to give me your full name as you wish it to appear; also include any credit should it be a published piece.

I’m looking forward to seeing what you come up with!  And thanks for reading!

9 thoughts on “Hands of a Poet, Hand of a Poet

  1. How did your reading, guitar playing, and singing go yesterday @
    Bookstore 1?  Where you pleased?

    Aaah…Roger.  His birthday is tomorrow.  Wish him a HAPPY!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Thanks for asking, Hanne! It went well. Great turnout…and although my hands shook playing the Amazing Grace melody, everyone loved the wee concert and afterwards several came over to say how brave I was. The reading part I aced! Georgia sends her regards back to you…and hopes to see you this summer at Chautauqua. Their new store is so much roomier! But, boy, was I drained afterwards. All in all, a solid A! 🙂 XOXO, Karla


  2. Thank you, dear Karla, for all the memories. Can’t wait until you’re back in this village again…. Han told me you had a great time with Victor. Wonderful. Be well. Love from both of us. Bill

    —————————————–From: “Karla Linn Merrifield” To: wheyen@rochester.rr.com Cc: Sent: Sunday April 3 2022 8:38:42PM Subject: [New post] Hands of a Poet, Hand of a Poet

    karlapoet posted: ” Once upon a time there was a blog I created, Vagabond Poet, which after several years became for a short while Vagabond Poet Redux. Not too long after my husband Roger died in 2017, I discontinued the blog. But its still there at http://karlalinn.blo [1]”


    1. Thanks so much, Bill. Yes, memories, beautiful memories. Back in town 5/24! No doubt will see you the very next day! Already starting to pack for the migration. Enjoy the spring, each other, your family. Dwell in your words as ever. Love, Karla


    2. Bill, thought I’d replied to this, but didn’t see it pop. Home 5/24–and no doubt will see you the next day. Meanwhile, enjoy the arrival of spring…and write on!!! Love, Karla


  3. I did something a little different- used a different photo but the theme of hand is there….ck email for the photo appreciate your input, Sis!

    The shaking of the hand holding the phone
    Taking the last picture of my black haired love
    as I spread out next to her
    lying on the floor her favorite spot
    next to the hearth of the now cold stove
    I reach for her with my hand today and
    She is not there
    Longing to hug her warm body and have one final
    feel of her soft black hair


    1. Patti, thank you so much for this. I’ll cobble together a piece to post on Monday with the photo you sent. I’m just delighted that I prompted you to take up the pen…and express yourself so beautiful. Hands down wonderful. Love you, sis.


  4. Okay…for the real photo assigned:

    You do not see
    All that I have lost here
    The emptiness of my heart
    I cannot reach the pillow
    Where your head used to lay

    Liked by 1 person

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