A Sonnet to Left Hand

Left Hand, the lesser, in splints;
Trauma victim, cut by a chipped plant-pot.
On a sickly, creamy, fleshy backdrop,
I see pink-tipped blushing finger prints,
Heart lines, life lines, criss-crossed sharp lines,
Strained veins that pull towards my palm,
Broken, by the crescent, sickle-shaped scar:
The stitched-up frown of my flesh shines.
Now look at the unscarred flesh of Right Hand,
The preferred, the wielder of the pen.
You are jealous, Left Hand, I understand,
You bear heavy on my conscience friend.
I implore you Left Hand to stir me! Move me
From shameful indifference to pity!

I wrote this poem as part of a Creative Writing module at university whilst studying English Literature and had a lot of fun writing it. Originally, we were given the prompt of describing our left hand, which allowed me to describe in detail the circular scar on my hand resulting a floppy disk-related injury at the tender age of two. It does actually look a little bit like a sickle, which some of my former students commented made it look like Communist propaganda. Fun fact: until I was around six, I believed everyone had a circle shape on their left hand, and was perturbed to discover it was just me.

I had originally written this poem in free verse, but felt it had no direction and was a bit flimsy, so I subsequently disposed of it. However, after I read Quoof by Paul Muldoon, I was inspired to turn ramblings about my hand into a comedic sonnet. You can read Muldoon’s sonnet about a weird name for a hot water bottle below:

by Paul Muldoon

How often have I carried our family word
for the hot water bottle
to a strange bed,
as my father would juggle a red-hot half-brick
in an old sock
to his childhood settle.
I have taken it to so many lovely heads
or laid it between us like a sword.

A hotel room in New York City
with a girl who spoke hardly any English,
my hand on her breast
like the smoldering one-off spoor of the yeti
or some other shy beast
that has yet to enter the language.

I loved the idea of writing a sonnet, which is typically a love poem, about something unconventional. It made for a humorous contrast with the silly subject matter of a left hand feeling inferior to the right hand within the poetic gravitas of a sonnet; I attempted to convey a sense of bathos by dealing with such a mundane topic in an elevated form. This encouraged me to use the heightened, lofty language juxtaposed with playful internal rhymes to further emphasise the silliness.

(Featured photo by Andrik Langfield on Unsplash; Quoof written by Paul Muldoon)

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