By Paul Hostovsky

After Ian Sanborn’s ASL poem of the same title

A man with eyes as blank
as the indifference of nature
is staring straight ahead
as the whole thing unfolds.
He has a black beard, black
shirt, black woolen cap —
he could be a thief — you better
keep your eyes on his hands
which have begun clearing
a clearing. Here he plants
a seed as small as his own
fingernail, and shazam! it sprouts
roots, shoots, stems, branches —
a whole tree shouldering up,
tossing and swaying in the air
between the sun’s magic hands
and the man’s indifferent eyes.
Next thing you know, an orphan
index finger is worming its way
across the stage that wasn’t
a stage until your eyeing it
made it so. It inches over
to the tree like a lost knuckle
finding its way home, its feelers
testing, feeling, sniffing, finding
purchase, finding a toe-hold,
the tiny, spiny, hairy, leg-like
appendages beginning to wiggle,
to climb, to shinny up the tree,
the elbow, the sheer escarpment,
pausing to send out a line,
a lasso, a long rope as fine
as the filament of a spider
launched from its abdomen
and hooking the thumb
of the lowest branch. A rope for
rappelling, for jumping off
this cliff, taking this dive,
twisting as it untwists, enfolding
as it unfolds, holding on for
dear life as it spins itself into
silk, those indifferent eyes
almost imperceptibly squinting
in sympathy with this closing
up, this cloaking, this cloistering,
this hanging upside down with
a pulse inside. A fluttering
pulse. A pulse like the flutter
of eyelids. Like the flutter
of wings. A heartbeat growing
stronger, stronger, breaking
out, breaking free, the wings
opening, the eyes opening as if
all this time they were closed —
the blank eyes opening to the
wings, taking them in, incredulous,
in love with them — and the black
and white has grown iridescent;
the orphaned knuckle has found
the hands; the hands have found
their wings, and we are all
utterly blown away.

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