“Black Hands”

A new poem by Amit Majmudar

Laudanum-lullabied, schnapps-
Nightcapped, hemophiliac
Kings and hotblooded counsellors
Sit up in bed with chest pains,
But when the doctors arrive,
Stethoscopes out, to listen,
Each unbuttoned silk nightshirt
Reveals the crisp soot print of
A black hand.

Gavrilo Princip’s standing
On the wrong street this June day
With his hands in his pockets
When the Archduke’s open-top
Car takes a right turn and stops.
Gavrilo feels a soft throb,
Looks down, and sees to his shock
There, at the end of his arm,
A black hand.

Charcoal on the cheeks is best
For night raids gathering fresh
Blown roses off a thorn bush.
In a land that is no man’s
Lies a man that is no man,
His helmet glowing yellow-
Green then going out again—
A firefly cupped in night’s
Black hands.

Kindest of all: the Harlem
Hellfighters. Ich black slave, du
White slave, they chuckle, poking
A cigarette in a near-
Dead Kraut’s mouth as if he were
A new dad. Yet in this hell
They bring hell, give hell, and close
The black eyes of their black dead
With black hands.

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