portion of the artwork for Christine Reilly's poetry

Cities for Hands
Christine Reilly


Get your palm off the oven before Paris burns down again!
Your mouth was the hole that leads out to the sky. I lost
Balloons up there. I remember crying, my eyes milky pockets,
One floating away. You swallowed, placing everything inside.
My iris is still lost somewhere in the acids of your belly.
I forgot what it feels like to miss it. Now I have one blue eye
And one floating pupil, waiting to please everybody.

When I was a child I would
Hide under a parachute to find my food.
The men who worked with their hands were
Always outside of my house.
Rarely would they come inside or go off-duty.
They had all been deafened by the war.
I wish I could go back, show them my broken face,
Point to your body and the give-take/wear-tear
Of a relationship, tell them I understand.


Lightning struck every time you cursed. Cunt
Burnt all the indigenous crowds away. You had a fever the day
Suburbia was invented. You were curious, your body’s overseer—
Glancing inside yourself to admire the handiwork.
Then you duct-taped your mouth shut. The film
Of my eye could not escape, and neither could the people,
Despite their number of revolutions.

All of the fights we ever had
Came back to that one request where you told me to
Swallow the inflections of my own voice during conversation.
I used to do it because it made you happy.
I would do it and feel my stomach expanding.
All of my voices were inside.
I was still hungry, but too afraid
To say anything.


Sleeping Beauty had Salzburg for one hand
And Prague for the other. When Sleeping Beauty woke up
Last night she was almost fifty years old. She was naked
Under her rain slicker, slipped botox into her face
When she thought no one was looking,
She thought brains over beauty,
She read the Greeks. Obsessed
Over plastikos, it means to cast, to shape.
She was a song and dance number
Of cartilage and bone, of muscle, fat, and skin.
To figure or to disfigure: that was the question.
She was molding her body out of clay.
Once she was fully liposuctioned, waxed, plucked,
And tucked, she cut off
Her hands, for they betrayed her:
Her hands never told a lie.

Every day I clean my apartment for exactly the length
Of four songs on my iTunes and then I can finally
Feel comfortable in my own home. It only lasts
One day at a time. On mornings I feel defiled, I play
Alice’s Restaurant.


I don’t tell you
About the dream I had where
You said you were insecure
About your voice and I said, But I love
Every part of you
. That dream
Sunk into my body
Like a freckle or a clot.

I may know you
Well enough by now to realize that every time
You shiver, it’s because you’ve accidentally
Touched yourself too lightly, and it hurts.
When I try to do it, you tell me,
It doesn’t work if it’s somebody else.
Nobody else can touch yourself that lightly


I’m afraid that you will die
While I’m still young and I’ll live
A long life, and only remember you as my friend
Who died because the years I’ll live after will outlast and
Outlive the memories of the time before. I’m afraid

That the civilizations in your body will die with you:
Dead languages, dead civilians, dead baby jokes
That I accidentally swallowed during our last tiff.
There is nothing funny about death.
At your funeral I am certain
I will tell an inappropriate joke
When I cannot cry anymore.

Return to Archive

FRiGG: A Magazine of Fiction and Poetry | Issue 34 | Fall 2011