Posts Tagged ‘greeting’

What Hands Can Do




In my country, he said, we take strangers

by the hand when we greet them.

His taxi wove through the northbound cars

on Lakeshore Drive, and I watched his eyes

in the rearview mirror as they searched

the lanes for where to go. It’s strange,

perhaps, he said, to offer someone

your bare hand, but it’s a nice gesture,

I think. In the world beyond the car,

how many strangers did we pass

in one minute? How many chances

to reach toward another and say

Hello, or as they say in Bosnia,

Zdravo? How many chances

to open some small part of ourselves

and trust the other to do the same?

I wanted to disagree with the man.

I wanted to tell him, that’s what

we do in this country, too. But

clearly his experience told him otherwise.

Here, he said, people shake at the end

of a conversation to make a deal.

But not at the beginning. At least

not with strangers.

I want to start a revolution. I want

our country shake hands more.

I want us to extend ourselves

toward those we don’t know,

to offer them something of ourselves,

to be vulnerable, welcoming, kind.

When I got out of the car, I thanked the man

in his tongue, as he’d taught me, Hvala.

I paid with the credit card in the back.

I didn’t reach forward to seal the deal.

I stepped out grateful for what he gave me—

one more way to revere creation,

one more way to honor what hands can do.

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She says, How are you?

And there is no right way

to answer this. Tell her, Fine,

and she can smile and you


can smile and move on

to the business at hand.

Or tell her, Oh, you know,

and shrug, and then ask


about her day. There are

waterfalls inside you,

steep icy roads, sirens,

tall golden grass as far


as the eye can see,

and for every moment

that you might mention

to her—when he did this or they


said that, or you knew

whatever it was that you knew—

there is all the space

between those moments,


that space perhaps even

more important than

anything that happened.

How you felt the world


dissolve before it returned.

How everything spills,

ravels, pours out. It’s truer

than anything else you know.


But how do you say this?

So you say, Fine. Or you don’t.

You say, well, there’s no way

to say what you will say.


So you open your mouth,

wondering if a black bird

or a beetle or a little lie

or your heart might fly out.


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