Rhapsody in Hand(s)


You held hands and I was there.
I was there, but my hands were in my lap.
You held hands in your mind.
You thought you held hands.
(Imagine holding the hands of the Chilean minstrel.
They were thrown away. You could not hold them.
What gets put back in its place.) My place
was not in your hands but I was there.

When we ate the apples on the fruit plate.
And if we got some money, you said.
But travelling light is not limiting
and one can, for example, buy oranges
and cashews from Mozambique where the starving
importunates travel but some people here
sell their produce in order
to get money there in the people's hands.

She said my mother holds the hand that can't
move cupped to the sky. I said my mother wrings
hers. After visiting my mother,
you wrung your hands for a week. You're becoming
my mother, I said. I'm becoming
my mother, she said. She waved her hand
before her face, which was a habit
and didn't dispell. She quoted her.

"We think back through our mothers."
A tall gaunt woman whose mother
"died of overwork easily at forty-nine."
But there was habit a leftover relic! Left behind,
she would stand at the door
waving until her brother rounded the corner.
"--a flutter of the dead hand
which lay beneath the surface of family life."

"All I do is work work work,"
my niece said, repeating her grandmother.
I am not afraid to go home.
My hands cup coffee mugs. Wash dishes.
Wring themselves. We think through our mothers.
"I am afraid to go home." In the pictures,
Marianella's hands are covered with small burns
from the cigarettes of the secret police.

I said I'd be right back, but I was still there.

Cynthia Hogue

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