You Can’t Warm Your Hands in Front of a Book but You Can Warm Your Hopes There

By Fanny Howe b. 1940 Fanny Howe
Feathers fluffed the ashtray bin at the bottom of the elevator. Feathers and a smeared black look littered the parking lot like mascara. A cage would glide back and let them out to merge with the other cars on La Brea. It looked as if a struggle had ended in tears between the bird and an enemy. She broke through the fear to examine it. No chicken claws, or comb, no wing, no egg. The neutrality of words like “nothing” and “silence” vibrated at her back like plastic drapes. How could there be a word for silence? A child’s lips might blow, the North wind bring snow, a few stars explode, boats rock, but whatever moved in air did not by necessity move in ears and require the word “silence” therefore. She had personally sunk to a level where she could produce thought, and only “violence” remained a problem. It was common in her circle. A bush could turn into a fire, or a face at a clap of the hand could release spit and infection. The deviants were like herself unable to control their feelings. Los Angeles for them was only hostile as a real situation during the rainy season when torrents ripped down the sides of the canyons and overnight turned them sloshy. Then they hid in underground places, carrying Must the Morgue be my Only Shelter?? signs. But the rest of the time the sort of whiteness spread out by a Southland sun kept them warm, and they could shit whenever they wanted to, in those places they had long ago staked out. My personal angel is my maid, said one to another, putting down his Rilke with a gentle smile.

Fanny Howe, “You Can’t Warm Your Hands in Front of a Book, But You Can Warm Your Hopes There” from One Crossed Out. Copyright © 1997 by Fanny Howe. Reprinted with the permission of Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, St. Paul, Minnesota, www.graywolfpress.org.

Source: One Crossed Out (Graywolf Press, 1997)

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Poet Fanny Howe b. 1940

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Language Poetry

Subjects Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries, Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics

Poetic Terms Prose Poem

 Fanny  Howe

Biography

Fanny Howe is the author of more than 20 books of poetry and prose. “If someone is alone reading my poems, I hope it would be like reading someone’s notebook. A record. Of a place, beauty, difficulty. A familiar daily struggle,” Fanny Howe explained in a 2004 interview with the Kenyon Review. Indeed, more than a subject or theme, the process of recording experience is central to Howe’s poetry. Her work explores grammatical . . .

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Poem Categorization

SUBJECT Cities & Urban Life, Social Commentaries, Arts & Sciences, Language & Linguistics

POET’S REGION U.S., New England

SCHOOL / PERIOD Language Poetry

Poetic Terms Prose Poem

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Originally appeared in Poetry magazine.

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