Suppose the Function Is Praise

Cate Lycurgus

When doctors have given their final shot
or volleys rocket insomniac dark, without thought, liftyour hands. In strobing raids, at pepper spray, with cheek
to asphalt, at fault or not, go on, lift your hands. And standthough gravel erodes to sea, don’t grovel or stop
as the chopper kicks sand, or knife unleashes shockand flow—unaided, blood rises—so lift your hands,
given this heart’s un-assisted pump, no matter the lackof water to quench a jigsaw of dirt, the belly distended—lift
your hands at the child unplanned who you cannot nurse,then at the curse of also-ran and lift your hands, when
the only man you’ll ever love has a son with someone else.Or a husband no longer knows the name of the one
you raised together: now, raise a glass instead.This is occasion for champagne, for all the aspirin
a body can take, for the glint of a chemical sunset’s blaze,and licking high-fructose glaze off those same fingers, just—
lift them now in don’t shoot please, in fluid go, to save my feet,at mile sixty when gas burns clean and you’ve made it
past your dead-end streets, with a single albumof soul on repeat—lift your hands, at the great unknown,
the bank account’s mawing O—however infinitesimalthe means become or waist will cinch—infinite—
the ways to lift our hands, to coax them overhead—                                                    limitless, our approach.

Feature Date

Series

Selected By

Share This Poem

Share on facebook
Share on twitter
Share on email

Print This Poem

Share on print

Cate Lycurgus’s poetry has appeared or is forthcoming in American Poetry Review, Third Coast, Tin House, and elsewhere. A 2014 Ruth Lilly Fellowship finalist, she has received scholarships from Bread Loaf and Sewanee Writers’ Conferences, and was recently named one of Narrative’s 30 Under 30 Featured Writers. She edits interviews for 32 Poems and teaches professional writing.

The Massachusetts Review

Winter 2017

Amherst, Massachusetts

University of Massachusetts

Executive Editor
Jim Hicks

Poetry and Translation Editor
Ellen Doré Watson

Founded in 1959 by a group of professors from the University of Massachusetts Amherst, Amherst College, Mount Holyoke, and Smith, The Massachusetts Review is one of the nation’s leading literary magazines, distinctive in joining the highest level of artistic concern with pressing public issues. As The New York Times observed, “It is amazing that so much significant writing on race and culture appears in one magazine.” MR was named one of the top ten literary journals in 2008 by the Boston Globe.

A 200-page quarterly of fiction, poetry, essays, and the visual arts by both emerging talents and established authors, including Pulitzer and Nobel prizewinners, special issues have covered women’s rights, civil rights, and Caribbean, Canadian, and Latin American literatures.

Poetry Daily Depends on You

With your support, we make reading the best contemporary poetry a treasured daily experience. Consider a contribution today.