My Grandmother's Hands

 

My grandmother’s hands always looked like ordinary flesh,

but God must have mixed them with a secret spell

He borrowed from Glynda the Good.

 

Her thumbs could pop all the peas from a pod with a single snap,

and she could pare a potato with one long swirl of a paring knife,

and pit cherries and leave them looking as if God’s imagination

always saw them without pits.

 

Her hands made roses swarm up the trellises

and lilacs fly above the hedges like blue flames in a fire.

Thorns turned blunt beneath her fingers,

and bees buzzed graciously wherever she went in her garden.

 

There was a window ledge where cardinals pecked

and scattered seeds, and watched her sew,

and on Mondays watched her scrub my grandpa’s shirts

on a washboard sloping sideways in a sudsy tub.

 

All that was long ago; but somewhere still, I think,

in a twisted fold of time’s twice turned and rumpled robe,

my grandmother sits in a morning swing and watches

ripe red nuts that fall from chestnut trees,

and the milkman, urging on his stoic horse,

as he jingles down the street.

 

September 27, 1994

Revised November 17, 1996