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.