MY HANDS AT SIXTY-FOUR
I remember my mother looking at her hands,
marveling how they had become wrinkled, old,
explaining the scars, her crooked little finger,
then pulling the skin smooth for a glimpse of way back.
I did the same thing just this evening –
smoothed the skin back from my fingers
imagined them soft and young –
Smiled at the sun kisses across the backs of both hands
looking like age spots to anyone who does not know
I once went sailing out of San Diego
chasing the square-rigger Star of India down past Mexico,
sun burning to a crisp.
I ran a finger over the scar of a flap of skin
sliced on a broken glass in a soapy dishpan when I was a new bride.
Eyed another scar where I once caught my pointer in a truck door
requiring twenty one stitches to reattach the top of my finger.
The nail fell off, grew back sideways.
And the stitch line on my little finger, almost cut off
when I used a pair of scissors to open a bottle of wine to toast a friend dead too early.
The slash below my left thumb
where they mended my De Quervanes is thin, precisely executed.
I should have massaged it more vigorously to avoid the dent in my wrist.
The mark of Mom’s teeth where she bit me when she lost it at Ruth’s wake.
Creases on my palms? I cannot tell if my life line, or my heart line,
or the wrinkles on the sides of my palms can really tell
how full my life has been or will be,
but these hands with their protruding veins
and squat, square fingers
were my first fascination when I could not yet roll over,
propelled me across monkey bars,
felt throttled in a wedding band
smoothed my darling girl’s hair
and wiped tears from her eyes, though she does not remember.
They stroked kittens, steadied pens, tickled grand babies,
pulled the rings from my mother’s still hands,
cool and soft and lovely at the end, Ma, truly.