self-portrait with three hands

analogue collage on paper

p. hodges adams

2024 Poetry Spring Contest Winner

the first hand had square knuckles, like a boy; 

the second hand could hold a teacup neatly;

the third hand was furious. i’m getting ahead of myself. the third hand had desire. or rather, the first
hand desired, too much to be contained in palm and five fingers. it reached,

the second hand pointed,

the third hand grabbed. that leaves no room for precision. one hand covered the mouth,
one performed the violence, one braced against the wall.

the first hand had square knuckles. i cannot comment on the shape of boyishness.

the second hand moved sixty times a minute.

the third hand didn’t know what the first was doing—
no, the third and the first made bird shadows together on the wall,
doves and such.

the second hand knew exquisite cursive;

the third hand made obscene gestures;

the first hand tunneled within the body. emerged wet. used the second hand to wipe itself clean.

except the second hand would never permit it.

the first hand had calluses on the fingertips; the third, on the palm.

the second hand never did a day of honest work in its life. it was graceful. so was the first hand. the third
played the lower register of the clarinet.

the first hand clapped with the second.

the first hand thumbed open the mouth of a lover. the second hand climbed inside.

the third hand strangled the wrist of the first; i don’t know if he survived.

all three hands laid a palm on the surface of the water, cold to the skin. so cold the hands felt nothing.
they felt nothing three times.

p. hodges adams received their MFA from the university of virginia, where they currently teach. their work has appeared or is forthcoming in cutbank, new orleans review, december magazine, arkansas international, northwest review, fourteen poems, and elsewhere. a 2023 tin house fellow, they were a finalist for both the 2023 c.d. wright emerging poets prize and the 2022 jeff marks memorial poetry prize. hopefully they will transform into a beam of sunlight someday soon.

Artwork: “Cahoots” by Katy Stewart

Analogue collage on paper

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