A hand is not four fingers and a thumb. Nor is it palm and knuckles, not ligaments or the fat's yellow pillow, not tendons, star of the wristbone, meander of veins. A hand is not the thick thatch of its lines with their infinite dramas, nor what it has written, not on the page, not on the ecstatic body. Nor is the hand its meadows of holding, of shaping— not sponge of rising yeast-bread, not rotor pin's smoothness, not ink. The maple's green hands do not cup the proliferant rain. What empties itself falls into the place that is open. A hand turned upward holds only a single, transparent question. Unanswerable, humming like bees, it rises, swarms, departs.
For fertility, a new bride is lifted to touch it with her left hand,
or possibly kiss it.
The sound close in, my friend told me later, is almost silent.
At ten kilometers, even those who have never heard it know what it is.
If you stand near during thunder, she said,
you will hear a reply.
Six weeks and six days from the phone’s small ringing,
replying was over.
She who cooked lamb and loved wine and wild mushroom pastas.
She who when I saw her last was silent as the great Zygmunt mostly is,
a ventilator’s clapper between her dry lips.
Because I could, I spoke. She laid her palm on my cheek to answer.
And soon again, to say it was time to leave.
I put my lips near the place a tube went into
the back of one hand.
The kiss—as if it knew what I did not yet—both full and formal.
As one would kiss the ring of a cardinal, or the rim
of that cold iron bell, whose speech can mean “Great joy,”
or—equally—“The city is burning. Come.”