It was somewhere over the northeastern coast of Brazil,
over Fortaleza, a city of which I knew nothing,
except that it is full of people—
the life of each one a mystery
greater than the Amazon River—
it was there, as the toy plane on the flight monistor
nudged over the equator
and veered east towards Marrakech,
that I started to think again of hands,
of how strange it is that our lives—
the life of the red-haired French girl to my left,
the life of the Argentinean boy to my right,
my life, and the lives of all the dozing passengers,
who are being carried fast in the dark
over the darkened Amazon—
all of these lives are now being held
in the hands of a pilot,
in the consciousness of the pilot,
and I think of other hands which can hold our lives,
the hands of the surgeon
whom I must meet again when I return home,
the hands of the intelligent, black-haired nurse
who unwound the birth-cord from my neck,
the soft hands of my mother,
the hands of those others
who have loved me,
until it seems almost
as though this is what a human life is,
to be passed from hand to hand,
to be borne up, improbably, over an ocean.
by Moya Cannon

Viola d’amore

Sometimes love does die,
but sometimes, a stream on porous rock,
it slips down into the inner dark of a hill,
joins with other hidden streams
to travel blind as the white fish that live in it.
It forsakes one underground streambed
for the cave that runs under it.
Unseen, it informs the hill,
And, like the strings of the viola d’amore,
Makes the hill reverberate,
So that people who wander there
Wonder why the hill sings,
Wonder why they find wells.


How could I have forgotten
the sickness, 
the inescapability.
My strange love,
it frightens my life. 
We sail high seas 
and watch the voyages of stars. 
Sometimes they collide.
Did you know, you make my head flame.
Blue flames and purple flames leap about my head.
I had once a thousand tongues,
but tonight,
my head is crashing through the sky,
my head is flaming on a dish.
My love,
carry it in carefully,
My love,
carry it in with trumpets.
by Moya Cannon

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