Your Hands

When you were small
your hands were always dirty,
grubby from the ground
you crawled
stalking the bugs
you caught to satisfy
the appetites of the snake
or rat or
rescued bird
you kept for company in your bedroom.

Your hands were rough from stones you threw
at taunting bullies,
unsuspecting cars,
the lumbering school bus,
and the black cat that tried to eat your bird.

Your stubby fingers were grimed and hot
from crawling along the concrete driveway
with reptile stealth
to observe ants
frantically shuffling
their eternal routine,
deaf to the scraping of your cowboy belt buckle
burning its path into their neighborhood.
One soiled hand propped your red mopped head
while the other held a rock poised in the air.
Staring at the expanse of tiny creatures,
you sighed low,
and with practiced precision
smashed the unsuspecting insects
into a smear on the pavement.
A wind of a thousand years blew the ants
into the universe
while you contemplated the precarious position
of being God just once.

Your hands became dry and rough
as you grew to manhood,
the world’s dirt etched
in deep brown swirls into your palms.
Your fingernails harbored miniature composts
collected and compacted
from your life of curiosity and discovery.
The top of your hands mottled
with freckled shapes
were the same hands as our father’s.
You would be busy with abstract things
when I looked at those hands of yours
and could almost feel the softness
of Dad’s gnarled fingers on mine.

As thick mud from overturned earth
belched clumps of clay at our feet,
we sat side by side on steel chairs
at the cemetery
where our father had been buried
years before.
Rigid, our spirits stone still,
we now watch as our mother’s
casket surrenders to the earth.
The mountain of your shoulder
presses against mine.
Ice blue eyes misted, scanning
hillside tombstones,
you grip my hand in yours
and sigh heavy,
reminding me of years gone by
when you had pretended
to be God.