Wednesday, October 3, 2007


What a great old, ornery word "wrist" is. When I say it and think about it, as language, I see it walking out of an Anglo-Saxon forest, in a bad mood. According to the OED online, the word goes back at least to 940 A.C.E. in written (Old) English, and back then it meant the same thing it does today. Later, however, some people got sloppy for a while and used the word to refer to the ankle and to thigh- and calf-bones. That doesn't seem to have lasted long. "Wrist" can also be used a verb--in the game of cricket, for example. I think I've heard it used in tennis, too--"wristing" the ball over the net, as opposed to taking a full swing.

Where does the wrist begin and end? Is that an anatomical question or a metaphysical one?

Here's a poem meditating on the wrist:



The road narrows as it approaches the river.
The bridge is brief as bridges are. Beyond it,
five separate routes materialize. Seeming
parallel at first, the routes diverge.


When I looked at her brown wrist
that summer, I fell in what-I-thought-
was-love. I don’t blame myself
for having thought me into love.
Her wrist was better than ideal because
it existed. So did she. Aristotle always
held a better hand than Plato’s, so
to speak, for he knew real beat ideal
every time just because it showed up.
The rest of what I knew that summer
seemed useless. It was. I do hope
she kept the bracelet.


His wrists were placed under arrest
and bound. They were booked, charged,
arraigned, tried, convicted, and sentenced.
Loyal to his wrists, he went
to prison with them.


The other day a woman’s wrists asked her
why she’d worked so hard. She said because
she wasn’t born a Rockefeller, for example.
The wrists said, “That’s what we thought.”
With the help of her wrists, she picked up
a tool and went back to work.


By means of repetitive motion,
Industrial Society declared war on The Wrist.

Copyright 2007 Hans Ostrom

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