mother always called it the quick
so that was always still is its name
that bit of fingerflesh around the nail sewn
by magic into the wrapped fingerprint we all have
embossed on our extremities unique index thick
opposing thumb she might catch me gnawing and when she did

she’d say be careful or you’ll be done
chewed it all down into the quick

my teeth pulling at the splinter of skin going thicker
into the sensitive crease it should have a name
that crease but I’ve not heard should have
taught me something the way it hurt like a sewing

needle pressed and wriggled so
it reddens swells maybe bleeds she did
warn me I should have listened I should have
that moment back but watch it skitter away so quickly
what if every moment had a name
we could never remember them no matter how thick

the books where we kept them and no matter how thick
the shelves to keep the books no matter how stiff the spines are sewn
our very lives would burn them history’s fuel a comet trail of names
of moments and minutes hours and days what’s done
and undone it was years before I learned that quick
means alive versus dead and dead the part I’d chew until I had

hit nerve that bleeding cuticle sting that has
a lesson someplace about blood that nothing is thicker
and what we know about moments that nothing is quicker
see how simple children could sing it on a seesaw
tick tock up down until the shrill bathtime mothercall but do
you leave no you play until snatched awake by your full name

hurled from the kitchen door a great net woven of your name
and you’re waving goodbye to the neighbor boy who has
that same blue jacket from last year and in just a minute you don’t
quite see him in the dusk that descended so soon so thick
just the glow of clouds stretched pink raw and sewn
with veins of yellowing light and suddenly your steps are quicker

until you find yourself under the thick blanket with the soft-sewn
edge tucked under your chin quick quick tick tock sleep has
taken you alive even though it doesn’t know your name

Author: Andrew Hinton

I use information to architect better places for humans. More at andrewhinton.com.