Alien Hand Syndrome, by Jo Angela Edwins

Alien Hand Syndrome
by Jo Angela Edwins

“Alien Hand Syndrome sees woman attacked by her own hand.”—headline to story on BBC News Health website

We may laugh at first,
and as usual, our laughter
disguises our horror.
There is nothing funny about
the woman’s bruised face,
her mouth gaping in fatigue
and confusion. This is
both less and more than metaphor
for the ways we damage ourselves, the ways
we never learn our own minds.

The brain, that mad hermit
hidden in his house of bone,
is no more than twins attached
at the middle. They think alike, until
some skillful surgeon cleaves them
to remedy electric flares, until
a stroke builds walls between them.
Then the figurative turns literal:
the left hand doesn’t know
what the right one is doing,
and worse yet, doesn’t care,
might drop your credit card
in the mailbox, might unbutton
your blouse in the crowded lobby,
might blindly slide itself across
the blade of a butcher knife.

Who can help but wonder why
the wild one chooses cruelty
over kindness, chooses chaos
over calm? Or is it that
bad hands get all the press?
Perhaps somewhere, a quiet woman
finds her left hand picking flowers
for her table, sorting laundry,
gently stroking a sleeping cat.
Her right hand, stunned at first
to stillness, cannot help
but be changed by the stranger hand’s
example. Soon enough,
its own intentions may improve.
It may learn to help the other
in its tender, errant ways.

All this is silly fantasy.
There is true illness here.
There is true suffering.
Nonetheless, fantasy—
like laughter—is a thing
we turn to when reality
is too horrible to watch,
hard slaps to battered cheeks,
a grainy image gone permanent,
too seared to us to be erased
by the swipe of anyone’s hand.

“Alien Hand Syndrome” was inspired by a story and headline appearing on BBC.com. Here is the link to the story: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-12225163.

Jo Angela Edwins has published poems in various venues including Calyx, New South, Naugatuck River Review, Zone 3, and other journals and anthologies. Her chapbook, Play, was published in 2016 by Finishing Line Press. She has received poetry awards from the SC Academy of Authors and Poetry Super Highway and is a Pushcart Prize, Forward Prize, and Bettering American Poetry nominee. She lives and teaches in Florence, SC.

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