Blessed be the hand that slips

Each morning I shave an illustrated man,
memories gliding beneath my razor.
Yours is a rainbow that sings of crystal
in many hues of light,
while yours is a bell that plays a dirge
to softly call down the night.
And yours is the river and yours the tree,
and yours the scent of apple blossoms.

But yours—yes, yours—yours is the blade
that moves across my throat—
up and then up and then up and then up.
And what is that little drop of red
that stains through the white
to make no sound at all? That too is you
and you—yes, you—you are the loudest of all.

The Illustrated Man is an early science fiction book by Ray Bradbury. Made into a movie in 1969, it explores the relationship of man to the world. The main character has a series of tattoos that move over his body that predict the future and make him into a time traveler.

Is it just me or do we all often daydream as we go through the mundane chores of our life, remembering past incidents and people we have interacted with?

Thank you for reading Blessed be the hand that slips. I sincerely hope you have enjoyed it and I humbly appreciate your visiting the Book of Pain. As always, I look forward to your comments.


© 2013 by John Etheridge; all rights reserved. This poem and accompanying notes are licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Noncommercial-No Derivative Works 3.0 Unported License. This applies to all original work found on this site, unless noted otherwise. The attribution claimed under the license is: © 2013 by John Etheridge,


Filed under Poetry

5 responses to “Blessed be the hand that slips

  1. John, Exquisite, truly. >KB

  2. This is very, very good. The repetition of “Yours” is so powerful — the second person always hits me hard in poems. The work is enigmatic and somewhat dark, but very interesting.

    Second point: About shaving, that daily chore of man. There’s a great series of sentences in the opening of Saul Bellow’s excellent short story ‘The Old System’. It reads:

    “He brushed his teeth. Standing upright, scrubbing the teeth as if he were looking after an idol. He then ran the big old-fashioned tub to sponge himself, backing into the thick stream of the Roman faucet, soaping beneath with the same cake of soap he would apply later to his beard. Under the swell of his belly, the tip of his parts, somewhere between his heels. His heels needed scrubbing. He dried himself with yesterday’s shirt, an economy. It was going to the laundry anyway. Yes, with the self-respecting expression human beings inherit from ancestors for whom bathing was a solemnity. A sadness.”

    Relevant to your comments above.

    Again, a great work. A pleasure to read, and a poem that I will always keep in mind and come back to.

    • JR, thank you so much. It is always a pleasure to receive such kind remarks. The Saul Bellow quite I did not know, but it sure smacks of his style: taking even the most normal of hasty acts and imbuing them with a dignity, solemnity and importance that no one else could do with such brevity.