Of a thousand hands
I’d know my father’s,
long fingers shaped like oars,
the index scar,
the flat, grooved nails,
hands that fixed the doll’s arm,
mended Whisker’s ear, checked homework.
Those hands grated Romano over Sunday pasta,
curled around glasses of wine
he toasted with at dinner,
or opened to offer the sweetest mulberries,
the ripest figs from his trees.
Once he kept a parsley caterpillar
so I could watch it emerge from its cocoon.
The jar was too small, though;
the wings dried with a crease.
It walked the long ramp of my father’s hand,
off-balance at takeoff.
It fanned and fanned,
but the crease would not unfold,
the wings could not lift.
My father set it in the grass,
and we watched it walk
the short runway of its life,
a tiny lopsided glider without wind.
My father’s hands, like long anchors,
dangled at his sides.
This is a reprint of work originally published in Bearing Witness.
Maryfrances Wagner’s books include Salvatore’s Daughter, Light Subtracts Itself, Red Silk (winner of the Thorpe Menn Award for Literary Excellence), Dioramas and Pouf. Poems have appeared in New Letters, The Midwest Quarterly, The Laurel Review, Voices in Italian Americana, Unsettling America: An Anthology of Contemporary Multicultural Poetry (Penguin Books), Literature Across Cultures (Pearson/Longman), Bearing Witness, The Dream Book: An Anthology of Writings by Italian American Women (winner of the American Book Award from the Before Columbus Foundation), et al. She co-edits the I-70 Review.