If You Can’t Say Anything Nice

Nancy White

If my left hand wrote this 

it would taste better   would know  

quiet   the listener   It failed public

speaking   the eye contact and gesture


holds the nail  (silence)  straight

while the right hand hides

behind the hammer   It knows

you better than the right ever can


was born knowing The left-hand

word cuts during freshet

muscled flanks pushing

popple over boulders till they tangle


and jam The pool fills with mute

With my left I love better and not just

you but anyone   It weighs equal:

rust   kettle   mayfly   me

Nancy White’s work appears in journals such as FIELD, Ploughshares, and New Letters. Her three poetry collections are Sun, Moon, Salt (winner of the Washington Prize), Detour, and Ask Again Later. She teaches at SUNY Adirondack and serves as president of The Word Works in Washington, D.C.

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