Three Poems: 7:51 am / On Cleaning Out the Car / Michigan Ave

Rilke cautions the young poet to not write about love.

It’s good advice to a certain extent, but from my experience, we have to write shitty poems about romance before we can learn to write about anything else. Part of me wants to apologize for some of the poems I’ve written in the last three years, but it’s all part of the journey and so while I won’t share any more than I already have, I’m not sorry.

Also, I think that every poem is about love in some form (the absence of it, the perversion of it, the love of mornings, of self, of god, of brother, of partner etc.) and so rather than being banned from writing about love, we should readjust the kinds of love we write about.

All that to say, I don’t know if I’ll ever be any good at writing poems. But I want to practice because that’s the only way to really tell. So here are three very short poems. I wrote them all tonight, but each are based off my own journal entries from last semester. In some ways, therefore, these poems transcend time in that they contain both old stories of pain and current moments of joy. If you hate them, it’s ok. me too (depending on the day). They’re works in progress.

As am I. (As are you.)


the surface tension on the cornea is too taught for light
to catch water and the dermis runs with
nerves accustomed to spread eagle sleeps
alone because I forgot your name as if I never knew it. Even more,
I forgot your face enough to see it new.
Esther found a small, toothless smile
and carried it as one would carry a flower picked in autumn and


On Cleaning Out the Car 

Beneath the seat,
we found unsent letters stuck to gum wrappers and
half -drawn monks:
there was a point of reference, but no shadows.

In the console,
we found words about the skin of teeth
(please do not forget the half-drawn monks).
All is shadow.

But we keep them
(the monks, not the letters).


Michigan Ave 
two blinks in the bucolic center of a roaring city
stilled at the glory of a head-tilted-back, upper-belly laugh of
those who have learned that love is aggression
and wait to rest among the lambs ear

Note: each of the journal entries was based on a song that I related to in that moment. While the poems that have emerged don’t completely align with the songs anymore, I still included them because it’s kinda fun.
Another Note: I feel like I’m breaking all the rules of poetry by explaining my process and attaching images and songs to them. If I were really brave and mysterious I’d just post the poems and let them speak for themselves. I’m not quite there yet.
Three Poems: 7:51 am / On Cleaning Out the Car / Michigan Ave


Hands in particular are as revealing to her as faces.

-Rosamond Bernier writing on Louise Bourgeois

Louise Bourgeois
Louise Bourgeois “Variation for Four Hands and One Foot” 1994

My fascination with hands began on a Tuesday.
We were sitting legs-crossed in sweater vests and khaki skirts while overdramatized clips of hands flashed across the screen. Each clip was labeled with a sin such as “stealing” or “pornography” (the awkwardness was palpable). After several of these sinful hands were displayed, Jesus’ pierced (caucasian) hands lit up the screen. We discussed atonement and then went about our day. But (for once in my life) I quickly forgot the theology and began noticing my own hands and the hands of people around me.

At 16, I visited St. Peter’s basilica and cried at the Pieta when I saw Mary’s hands holding Jesus’ dead body. It was the first time a piece of visual art that grabbed my heart so as to make me still and to make me cry.

At 19, I visited the Tate Modern and was struck by Louise Bourgeois’ “Variation for Four Hands and One Foot”.  I saw it in the lonely hour, when I would have given almost anything to be touched by someone and I clasped my homeless friend (Christy)’s hand more for my sake than her own.

At 20, I began trying to write poems. Every poem about love was driven by hand metaphor: joy at the pressure points, thick thumbs and thin index fingers, double-jointed eccentricities and the relief of holding someone.

Then, at 21, I wrote about the loss of hands that didn’t quite fit; The grace of a friend’s hands holding my face.

These memories stick out to me, but as I begin to reflect, more memories come. There was that song where the bridge goes “all I can picture is held hands coming apart” that I played every time I got the keyboard to myself (sorry everyone). There is the fact that I could describe to you the size and length of fingers of the ones who are or who have been dearest to me. There is the beauty and humility that came with learning to pray with my hands.

There are many reasons I love hands so much. Hands hold and touch, they show and write, they cling and they let go.

But as for my nails, they are always chipped. Even when I went through a short and awful phase of black acrylics, I would begin chipping away at them in a week. I go in phases with rings, and although each ring is significant, I lose them like it’s my job. I have a huge scar on my right hand from a large wart that I had burned off several times when I was 15. I think my hands are beautiful, but they are not well-kept. Hands without scars or marks feel dishonest to me because I think we are meant to live life with our hands.

We have done both wonderful and horrendous things with our hands, and it matters because the physicality of our life is essential to God. It is essential that Christ became a man, not a set of rules, so that he could hold children and touch lepers. Our God had hands. And he has also held the faces of the ones he loves and knows everything about the hands of those who betrayed him. And I believe that to be the hands and feet of Christ is both literal and metaphorical. We must feed, heal, hold and free as he did.

But also, we must know that when we are at the place where words fail to capture either our grief or our joy, a hand extended is the very hand of Christ—providing love and peace that surpasses all knowledge (Eph 3:19, Phil. 4:7)


|Hummingbird Poem|

66937169_xcwokRQY_cThis morning I saw a hummingbird

Last night the trees hid the moon
This morning I saw a hummingbird
Last night I needed to be held
(But the hands I want are the hands I shouldn’t have and the bed was hot and i was sweaty and their laughing voices made me feel like I was going insane.)
and I hurt.)
This morning I saw a hummingbird
Last night I slept on the couch so the big windows would keep me awake
This morning I saw a hummingbird
Last night I lost my voice & my patience; I played C, Am, and F chords for a long time
This morning I saw a hummingbird
The sky is grey
and the air is not hot
But maybe, just maybe, this hummingbird realized that we need the resurrection on cloudy days.
Maybe, just maybe, the hummingbird remembered that we’ve been told to die daily because once wasn’t enough to become a new creation.
Maybe, just maybe, the hummingbird knows that there are some pains that come in and out, but never quite leave.
 Maybe he knew that the night makes us want to give up and give in.
This morning I saw a hummingbird
Last night I prayed for resurrection (without realizing it)
This morning I saw a hummingbird
-Danielle Isbell 
|Hummingbird Poem|