Hand To Hand
I study my hands
and recall my father’s middle finger,
severed at the first knuckle by a meat grinder.
I always wondered what he felt
and what he did with the hamburger.
I remember the smooth rounded top,
like a bald head,
and wonder now – though I did not then,
how it would have felt
to hold that finger in my small hand.
I remember when my son,
while kneading the huge lawn mower scar on my hand,
announced how much he wanted his own scar.
When a youthful misadventure with a hot glue gun
branded a crescent moon on his hand
I wondered if it was the first and mandatory wound
on his journey to manhood,
for without the wound, the hand of a boy
never grows into the hand of a man.
Now I grasp his labor-roughened ham-like hand and
feel some of the masculine he has earned;
the near miss with a worm drive circular saw,
bruising the bone but sparing the thumb.
I massage my own hands that built our lake cabin:
the never-healed hangnail
from the drill that slipped and drilled through my fingernail.
and how I screamed while my family winced helplessly.
I wish I had caressed Dad’s smooth, rounded stub
and explored the wonder of new skin
that had so replaced the old that no scar appeared.
I wish I knew the place whence
the new skin came to cover the naked bone.
I wish I had asked him if he ever healed.
I wish he had let me touch his wound.
I wish I had wrapped my small hand
around that shortened end
and felt his pain.
Because I didn’t know how to ask then
I think I bear it for him still.
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