hugged my mother once at the bottom of stairs in between doorway and hall. She didn’t see his gentle pressing. I see him through thick time. When my son was three, he bled. Blood-blister in his throat emptied red threads onto sheets. Man’s sheer sleeve absorbs. When my son was four, the babysitter spoke little English, watched too many children. End of hall, babies cried in a room stuffed with brown, wooden cribs. Clear plastic couches in her living room. Toddler gate my son pounded each morning, man tending to his ache. In kindergarten my son learned Spanish but couldn’t make letters on pages stay still. Man caught little-boy vowels in his collar, helped consonants dissolve: black salt in thick, pale hands pressed together lightly, fingertips pointing.
In the shower I cried, water pelting my chest, colorless, shapeless, molding into monochrome, the indefinite pulling me away. Man folded me along the edges, like fresh linen mother placed in dresser drawers, his soft eyes urging me beyond the weight.
The Music of Dead Hands
silent overtones of the past cushion the fingers
huddled like fleshy sticks ready for a bonfire
or maybe the earth: a dark, wet baritone.
You wait for a beat, slight hint of flux,
what syncopated memories feel like against white cloth,
pristine maple edges,
the force of thought:
what limbs are before arteries fill
the similar alignment of muddy wrists,
a likeness among death in coffins,
hands folded just below the waist in unison,
or maybe a leitmotif: calm persona
amid parallels of grief.
You wait for a variation, faint twist of harmony
from knuckles muffled in wood or steel:
what ache sounds like.
a room full of dead hands in hydrogel,
fingertips stiff amid indefiniteness.
You peer through the large glass wall,
wait for the air’s rush and pitch,
or maybe applause: strong dance of palms,
a rippling dissonance,
then suspension: a final holding
of clay, the mind’s last form of whole,
each hand a slow, waving cadence.
Theresa Senato Edwards' first book of poems Voices Through Skin will be published June 2011 by Sibling Rivalry Press. Works from this have been published online at Atticus Books, Pirene’s Fountain, and Touch: The Journal of Healing. Other poems appear in Boxcar Poetry Review's second print anthology (2010) and online at Stirring, Press 1, decomP, Clean Sheets, Chronogram, and elsewhere. Edwards works on a second ms titled “Painting Czeslawa Kwoka ~ Honoring Children of the Holocaust,” a collaboration with Lori Schreiner. Work from this can be found online at AdmitTwo, Autumn Sky Poetry, elimae, and Trickhouse. She teaches literature and tutors writing at Marist College and is founder/editor/publisher of Holly Rose Review.