Posts Tagged ‘hands’

While I Could

We arrive empty handed, and leave empty handed. So then, how do we want to spend the time in between?
            —Nimo, Empty Hands Music

For a time, I held
him. Before he
could walk, before
he could stand,
before he could
speak, I held
his full weight
in my hands.
Day became night
became day became
night became day
and I held him
and rocked him
and soothed him
and bathed him
and cradled
his beautiful face.
It didn’t last.
It never lasts.
But before he could run,
before he could
fall, before
he could choose
what I never
would have chosen for him,
I held him.
Oh, this gift,
to know the heft
of his life, to have been
the one—though
never again—
to have been the one
for a time, sweet time,
to hold him.

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Drinking Assam Tea



Malty, bright and voluptuous,

the tea meets me this morning,

and though I’m alone, the kitchen


is filled with other hands—the

potter’s, for instance, that threw

and trimmed and pulled and glazed


this favorite mug into mugness.

And the hands of the harvesters

in India who gathered the fresh green leaves


of the second flush, then

spread them on a tray and left them

to dry in the sun. And who rolled the leaves?


And who gathered them after they aged?

I wrap both hands around the mug

and inhale the musky scent of tea


and marvel at how much humanity

went into this simple cup. I stare

at my knuckles, my fingers, my palms.


It’s your turn, I tell them.

Serve the world well. Can you make something

so bold, so strong?


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It’s something the hands learn

with practice—how thin to slice

the apples for drying, how close

to cut to the core. In the same way

the hands learn to touch a lover,

how gently, how firmly, just where.

Oh the apple. What it knows

of desire. What it knows

of bruising, of bite. Oh the hands,

what they know of precision.

Of the pleasure of practice.

Of the joy in getting it right.

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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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Imagine that your hands are an extension of your heart. Because they are.

—Clea Willow, yoga instructor



While slipping coins into the meter

I remind my hands they are doing

the work of the heart. They fumble

to find another quarter in my coin purse,

then drop it on the sidewalk

where it shines against the gray.

Isn’t that just like the heart, I think,

to bumble even the simplest of routines.

It could be so easy to search for, hold closely,

and let go at just the right time.

Come on hands, I tell them, do what

what the heart must do. Reach.

Recover. Try again.

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Like a boot takes the shape

of the foot that wears it, I imagine

my hand might come to take the shape

of yours, your hand—something

I was made to hold, made to move with,

made to let go.

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My mother’s hands are now
my hands—blue cords
of veins, brown thinning skin,
the fingerpads rough from gardening,
and dirt in the fingernails.
My hands, like hers, raise on their own
to gently touch a loved one’s cheek,
to pull the hair away from their eyes,
and to pull the loved one close.
These hands love to make pie
and do puzzles and pinch back dead flowers.
These hands are seldom still.
I do not know how to read a palm,
but I can read her story here
in these hands that were taught
to love the world, to stay open,
to find bells that long to be rung
and to ring them, these hands,
they are her hands, what a gift
to confuse them, to use them
as if they were hers.

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Down by the Riverside Haiku

so cold I could al-
most forget about your hands—
not quite.

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