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In Praise of Hands

I miss hands. I miss their flimsy, awkward quality –

the way one looks when offered while still searching

for a reason. I miss being young, lining up after the baseball

game, waiting to shake the hands of the players on the other

team. I miss the way we would joke about spitting in our palms,

& the way almost no one ever did. Why was that? Something

about a hand, I think. At night, when I can’t sleep, I play

the piano against my thigh. Sometimes I hold a baseball

so tight against my palm it becomes, like it had once been

for so long, part of my hand. Sometimes I poke the soft spot

of your nose with my thumb. Sometimes I put my own fingers

in my mouth, sometimes inside your own. It’s something

against loneliness, the use of a hand. It’s a way to say I’m here.

Or see me. Or I’m sorry. Or don’t worry. Or never mind. Or

come, come, please hurry, I need you, you won’t understand

until you arrive. I miss the flagging down, the high five. I miss,

most of all, goodbyes. Today at the airport I saw one for the first

time in years. It was like it’d always been: the hands around

the body, & then each pair of hands in each pair of hands,

& then, finally, one face pulled closer to the other, & then held

in the hands. No words. Only the way those hands might’ve said:

I love you, or don’t go, or go if you must. But love, I want to tell you

why I stood there for so long, missing what I will always miss

of touch. It was the way each hand said love when the mouth

had no words for love, & how that was more than enough.

 

When I Think of How Chuck Knoblauch Sometimes Could Not Throw the Ball to First Base

It’s hard, I think, to do one small thing well.

Sometimes I wake in the soft light of just-after-dark

to make the coffee & spill the grinds from the day before

all over the floor. I stop at the store on the way home

from work & forget the oil when all I really needed

was oil. I’ve lost twelve plants to neglect when they

only cared for just the slightest bit of water. As a kid,

I watched Chuck Knoblauch double pump his arm

toward first. I watched him sail a throw far over every

player’s head. I watched him stand alone in disbelief.

I laughed then, & pretended I could be someone

better than someone failing. There is one story

of the world that I have spent my whole life trying

to erase. I still cry a little bit at every ache of me

that feels like a blemish. I still hurl every small cliché

at my waking body to tell myself I am alright even

when the world is a wound I am wound up in.

If it possible, as some say, for life to be perfect,

then why does the rhythm of a heart sound

so anxious? Dear god of the stubbed toe, god

of the friend’s birthday once forgotten, god

of the missed call, the bad memory you cannot

shake, the jostled stranger’s shoulder, the one day

you are too tired to be joyful – dear god of the recipe

that calls for one more pinch of salt than you have,

forgive us this world that leaves us unforgiven.

 

image: Stuart Buck


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