MN poetry: J.P. White’s “Open or Closed”

J.P. White spent his childhood summers sailing on Lake Erie. In the early 1980s, he worked delivering sailboats up and down the Eastern seabord, to the Bahamas and the Caribbean. He is the author of five books of poems, including “All Good Water” published by Holy Cow! Press. White currently sails a Cape Dory 25D out of St. Louis Bay on Lake Minnetonka, near Minneapolis, Minnesota.

Open or Closed

Your hands are always open or closed.

They are not encumbered

with any other choices

that weight and worry the rest of you.

The bright wet fist of the infant

tells us trust comes slowly.

The outstretched fingers of the prisoner

remind us trouble finds us quickly.

How alone a person lives with memories,

dreams and pain more tangled

than the great hoop of the Sargasso Sea.

But your two hands, that old married couple,

puttering along after decades,

are still charming to watch,

one holding the screen door

while the other fishes for the key.

Mostly they are courteous, gentle and tolerant

of one another even when everything

knots your shadow and the door remains locked.

See them there by your side,

keeping you company after everyone else

has left for good,

touching each other

for reassurance as if to say,

How’s the weather over there?

When should we break bread?

Will this be a day to open or close?

– “Open or Closed” by J.P. White, from the collection “All Good Water” published by Holy Cow! Press. Reprinted here with permission from the publisher.

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