in memory of Ted McNulty, d. 1998

Time will come there’s nothing left
of hand. Not field, flower, nor woman
have the power to break the white
that blinds the heart. Unknown the when
will come that furious final act
of putting down the pen forever,

pen that waits in folded dark
the hand will take it out from coins,
receipts, bus tickets, bric-a-brac
of life’s untidy edges, waits
for hand will draw it out for shop list,
crossword puzzle, milkman’s note

and—when the blood sings—tap temple,
ease along the lip, submit
to tongue until a line of figures
break the white where nothing was
before. And time will come his jacket,
shrugged into his shape and stoop,

will hang for weeks until it settle
out of him, its pockets emptied,
one or two things set aside
as useful: key, some coins, a pen
that stands an idle month, a year
a time until it sheds his touch,

his slanting it to page, becomes
again pen, fit for any hand
would take it, break the blinding white
because the time will come there’s nothing
left of hand but never time
will come there’s nothing left to write.