The Poem of the Hands

THE POEM OF THE HANDS from In the Wake of Home

It is an evening,
slow, and winter blue.

The sky is tightening
behind the glass.

And in the kitchen,
in the early dark,

the woman sits
the woman holds her hands.

She watches them
like other people’s children.

The hands are restless
in the woman’s lap.

They close upon each other,
clench, unclench.

The hands are bruised
and cut with little cuts.

The woman croons to them.
She sings a song.

She sings their courage
and their soft retreats.

She strokes their pointed wings.
She kisses them.

How cold you are,
the woman tells the hands.

The hands say nothing.
What is there to say?

They close upon each other,
clench, unclench.

And still they ache,
and still they beat their wings.

The woman sits.
The woman weeps for them.

Sometimes they rush at her,
and take her throat.

They shut her face
behind a five-barred gate.

The evening darkens.
Suddenly it’s night

and through the glass
the sky is large with stars.

But in the kitchen,
in the yellow light,

the hands are working.
See how well they work.

They lay the table
and they cut the bread.

They spread the honey
and they tie the shoe.

They are the mother,
dogged, and square-thumbed.

They are the father.

And they are spades
which dig the heavy earth

and flowers grow
and flowers become the stars.

And hands are stars
which shape the empty air.

The woman stares at them.
They sing her song.