Jonathan Louis Duckworth

This Living Hand, Part II

After John Keats

“This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou would wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calm’d–see here it is–
I hold it towards you.”

In the dream he is as dead
as he is outside the dream.

& yet he holds a hand, warm & capable,
to me,

& I want to tell him how he is loved,

But I think the dream is almost over—
my aching spine or my dry mouth

or the crowing trailer-park rooster will reclaim me
as the long nothing must reclaim him.

I wake,
touch thumb to wrist,

feel the earnest trickle of blood in vein.
One whose name was writ in water

quickly evaporates in morning sun,
& yet still I think of him, so brave,

he who would not wait
for death, who with his own hand,

when still capable,
dug himself a grave in paper.


Jonathan Louis Duckworth received his MFA from Florida International University. His fiction, poetry and non-fiction appears in New Ohio Review, Fourteen Hills, Whiskey Island, Meridian, Tupelo Quarterly, Jabberwock Review, Superstition Review, Flash Fiction Online and elsewhere. His chapbook “Book of Never” was published by Finishing Line Press.