How Do You Do?

Guido's Hand of Music

Guido d’Arezzo, The Harmonic Hand, Venice Petri Rabani 1554.


How Do You Do?

By Jeff Dolven


All hands are out on the street today,
straining against the leashes of forearms.
Little concerned with us, they leap
to greet each other, tangle and clasp,
a subtle suction, like a kiss,
then off again in a friendly game
to overlord and underdog
we only understand in part.

Sometime later, folded in prayer,
or contemplation, right says to left,
if anything should happen to me
you’ll know, won’t you, what to do?
and left says to right, you’ve always kept me
friendless and illiterate.
We really ought to get them to shake,
but it’s not clear that they fit that way.


Jeff Dolven is Associate Professor of English and Director of the Interdiscplinary Program in the Humanities (IHUM) at Princeton University. He is also an Editor at Large at Cabinet magazine and The American Reader. His poems have appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, The TLS, The Yale Review, and elsewhere. ‘How Do You Do?’ is taken from his new collection Speculative Music, published by Sarabande Books in July, 2013.