My hand opens,
Fanning fingers splayed
Before my face.
Like the morning sun
As I wake:
So stressed, my hand, expanded,
Wears wrinkled skin
Flesh separating from bone.
Seen this way it says,
miming ancestors’ gestures in ancient caves,
evidence of will pressed on stone,
centuries old intent.
Now aging spots,
not lichen or moss,
speak of time lost or lent.
Then my fingers close on themselves,
fist squeezes a memory of punch,
skin stretches youth back over old bones.
now my mother’s angry hand
that tells of fear and vanity,
pulling privacy into a hospital blanket,
waiting to be clipped,
or covering lips to mask a laugh.
And later, gripping a cane,
then shielding eyes from shame.
Her hands were rubbed rough with life
and bent with disappointment,
avoiding touch, troubled by others’,
keeping love and hurt at a distance.
Feeling at the extremities
and at the end
holding those stranger’s hands,
she eluded me.
-Susan L. Brown