Off the Shelf
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I know his hands so very well.

I get beneath the skin.

I discover what could make them tremble

Or cause the dorsum hairs to stand on end.


I intimately study these hands

That are—or, were—

Eighty-three years old.


An image is permanently burned into my mind.


I hold his hand to reposition his arm,

As if it were that of a living person.

I wonder who held it last

Before I released it from a white plastic bag.


I migrate through the lab,

Studying many bodies,

Unimpressed by faces or even genitals.

But one woman has fake nails

Painted barbie-doll pink.


No wonder we read fortunes in palms.

Those dermatoglyphs are unique indeed—

Formed in the womb,

Imprinted upon by all that we touch.


I see the living hands of my world:

Mother’s precise hands, comforting with their touch

Father’s wide knuckles, inherited by me

Husband’s careful hands, strumming nylon strings

Grandmother’s crippled hands, perfectly stroking a cat’s head

Friend’s talking hands, spreading their wanderlust.


These, my hands, take a scalpel and peel back the skin of another’s

With the hope that one day soon these hands will heal.

Lisa Moore Lisa Moore (2 Posts)

Contributing Writer Emeritus

Loyola University Chicago Stritch School of Medicine

Lisa grew up in Houston, Texas, went to college in the lovely town of Denton, and moved to Chicago to begin medical school in 2010. She is planning on a career in family medicine. Her academic interests include integrative medicine, mindfulness, nutrition and women's health. Her personal interests include poetry, cooking, yoga, and seeking out all the ways these areas of life overlap.