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.

Reprinted from Salvatore's Daughter (BKMK Press, 1995). Copyright © 1995 by Maryfrances Wagner. Used with permission of the author.