Ode to Hands
With hands like this she could be an artist.
The thumb small,
with wrinkled knuckle and cracked nail.
The fingers long, thick, hairless.
The skin on the back of the hand
crisscrossed with fine lines,
old scars, and dark squiggles of blood
as they go down to do their work.
These hands have an energy,
that flows into them and through them
to whatever they touch, a piece of clay
to be shaped, a canvas to be painted,
A print to be pressed, or someone
to be loved.
Small hands are made for reaching
into the cookie jar. Big hands
are for chopping wood, painting houses,
Milking cows, shooting basketballs,
and the like.
A helping hand is what anyone
would hope for, in times of trouble.
The thought of her, beaten down
By life, makes my hand tremble.
A drowning man,
to save himself, might reach his hand
towards an imagined rescue,
before going down for good.
In the painting the man lays his hand,
ever so lightly,
on the breast of his wife,
while she rests her hand on his.
The Last Thing She Wants
She doesn’t growl at me any more than usual.
Hardly at all.
A gentle – or not so gentle – reminder
that it has been how many days now
Since I last did the laundry.
The basket’s full
and smells when she opens it.
She has nothing to wear, not even
a bra, on the off chance that she might
Want to go out. There’s dirt everywhere,
dustballs on the stairs,
cat hairs floating in the rays of the sun,
and she has trouble breathing.
When was the last time I vacuumed?
She can’t remember, nor can I.
A week, at least.
And why do I cook the same thing
night after night when I know
she has no appetite. If only
She would tell me what she likes.
it’s either too dry or too oily, seldom
the right mix. Maybe, she thinks,
we should call Meals on Wheels.
Give ourselves a break. She appreciates
everything I do,
but it’s too much for one person,
as witness the house crumbling,
and the last thing she wants,
She says, is to live (or die) in squalor.
I can deny
the obvious, if I want, that’s my
business. Life is what happens when
we look the other way, or something
Like that. In the kitchen window, under
the spruce tree,
six female pheasants are digging
and digging for yesterday’s seeds.
Ode to Ice
The man thinks of stepping on the ice.
He thinks of falling.
The woman thinks of calling a friend.
She thinks of the burden she will carry.
Ice covers the ground but does not
protect what’s already in the ground,
the way snowfall protects.
Ice makes venturing forth less
tempting; breeds stasis.
Under the ice the earth turns
in on itself. Things look dead,
but somehow, for the most part,
live on. Birds die when
they don’t get enough to eat.
Plants die when they are left
unprotected and unloved. Hold
my arm; if one falls, both fall.
The distance from the house to the car
seems as far as the nearest star.
The promise of spring, slowly
awakening, is an invitation
to dream. The days grow longer,
the sun shines more brightly,
the ice melts. The future, she thinks,
Begins any time now. It’s always
possible, he thinks, notwithstanding
appearances. The cracks in the tips
of his fingers start to heal.
The Art of Camouflage
I will change names, places, dates,
I will change tenses, persons, voices,
I will change genders,
I will change days of the week,
I will change months of the year,
I will change seasons if need be,
I will conceal my sources,
I will become an expert
in the art of camouflage.
No one but myself will know
the words I have been given,
in the beginning, to look at,
to interrogate, and to find
the story they hide,
Which is there for me and me alone,
the story I want to tell, about her,
about us, about our life together,
about how we look after each other.
Although it starts with someone else,
The story will be my own.
I will tell it the way I see it
and the way I feel it. No one
has heard it before, or suspected
that it could be so. I will say
What I have to say, even if I expose
myself, or her, like the pheasant
behind the japonica bush, hiding among
bare branches, in plain sight, visible to all.