Hand, or Specimen?

Grandma, I just love your veins,
touching one protruding on my left hand,
watching it sully from side to side.
Grandma, your hands are like specimens,
my own interpretation.
Veins reminiscent of invertebrates
in the Natural History Museum—
earthworms, centipedes,
those that squirm and seek shelter.

If a museum object:
Left hand, mature female homo sapiens,
Caucasus, sepia-colored sun spots
likely from teen exposure at the beach,
Attempted camouflage using
twenty-first century manicure technique.
Specimen drawer, Anthropology,
basement level.

If an autopsy:
Note middle finger third joint
bent from over-zealous gardening
with existential dreams of paradise.
Surgical scar, stitches required after pierced
by a tea rose when chemo number five of six
depleted white cells, septic hand
ballooned to a boxing glove.
Vintage J.C. Penney gold wedding band,
c1970, third finger, non-removable
due to alpine knuckles.

If on eBay:
Well-used hand, original, without tags,
average lifeline, free shipping.
Vining veins and signs of wear
from births, miscarriages, weddings.
Gripped by kids and loved ones,
on occasion kissed.
Deterioration from sustained grief
over parents’ slow demise.
Retains loving touch after dosing
morphine under father’s tongue,
their roles reversed in the end.

In a little girl’s eyes:
The hand that steadied her
on a maiden voyage down a slide,
sometimes strums a guitar for fun,
bends pipe cleaners into peculiar shapes.
Wrapped in tissue paper skin
with a glimpse of the gift inside—

skin the girl can look through and beyond
to where life comes straight and alarmingly
from the heart.


2 thoughts on “Hand, or Specimen?”

  1. I loved my grandmother’s tissue paper hands, too. Your poem is so heartbreakingly touching, poignant… and unexpectedly funny, Sally. Truly provocative. i.e. I cried.

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