caryatid

by Ella Standage

my hands were soft until you tried to hold them.
blue skies. no marble horizons. stone was not stone
but skin. i knew how to bruise  knew imperfection knew
no grams/kilograms/tonnes or how to stand without
making the ceiling sway. traced my own lifelines.

my hands were soft under the sculptor’s tools.
not clay, but wax. don’t hold me or i’ll melt, i said,
already calcifying. the person of me was perfected,
which means i un-learnt facial expressions, set myself
in stone. something eroded. i don’t think i cared.

my hands were soft because i never used them:
my job was to stand and look serene, stay so still
i became artwork, make my poise almost architectural.
i knew how to hold everything up and make it look
like nothing. i could see anything and not even blink

until my hands went soft, still grasping at the air, and
you uprooted stone / you cut down every walnut tree
said: artifact  museum piece  1816,0610.128, our
number slimmed like a fragile moon. its light drew tears
from stone. wind on marble, the sound of my grief.

my hands                          cutting, saw blade   
            difficulties:    smashed       
open                                           shingle
on stone                         puzzle, cement
                                             my hands, my hands,

my hands were never soft but they were—mine,
stone teased into shape, and do you know how
many years i’ve held? all, sand between my fingers.
you reached for them. you wanted something perfect.
blue skies. your palms caught at empty air.