Hands


This poem has been a long time in the making.  It has taken shape slowly in my mind and I have written it at least half a dozen times without being satisfied that it captured exactly what I wanted, which in this case was so very important as this poem tries to say something about someone real, which I very rarely have set out to do.  I am still not sure if it really says all that it has to, but it is the closest I have felt yet to having a complete shape for the words I wanted to say.  It is about a man, a man that sadly I knew only slightly despite having grown up in his presence every weekend for as long as I could remember.  He was a hard man to know, although to this day I regret not taking the effort, but I didn’t know until far too late that he would not be there forever.  As a child, he seemed permanent, a fixture of the world, not so much a person as a part of the landscape of my world.  I don’t think I know of anyone that gave me the same sense of enduring, who could be more permanently fixed to the world of things.  Anyway, enough of this, I shall let the poem speak for itself, and me, and maybe in some way him as well.

 

A pair of hands,

Thick fingered, sure

Defining the shape of things

Drawing disparate parts together

Giving them form and purpose.

 

 

These hands, they could do anything

Build a home, provide in abundance,

Design wondrous machines,

Discover the shapes hidden in wood,

Make motors run and fix broken Tonka trucks.

 

 

I remember the man

For me forever old, slightly rumpled, young only in pictures

Looking out with firm glance in black and white uniform,

A mysterious figure, remote, full of history

Voice a low gravel gruff

Explaining the world one short sentence at the time, irrefutable

Between vast silences as hands put the world together.

 

 

I knew the hands so well

Shook them every Sunday

While he chuckled and I never got the joke,

Shook them for the last time, sitting beside a vast white bed

Looking at him so much more small, fragile in the center of it

Not the towering figure that had lynch pinned my childhood, but so very mortal

Except for the hands, still the same

Powerful, grip strong, as if they had taken on the nature of all that they had wrought.

 

 

There is so much I will never know

What stood behind the eyes rimmed with a subtle mirth,

Witness to eight decades on this earth,

Who he really was beneath the old sweatshirts and glue spotted trousers,

Forever in the dusty solemnity of his workshop

Cloistered in the scent of sawdust and machine oil,

A figure of awe, respect and even childish fear.

 

 

One image will remain

A pair of hands, so very real because they could make real

Confident, capable of any task their master could put them to

Slowly and surely filling the nothing with something

To me, nothing could ever be outside the grasp

Of my grandfather’s hands.

 

 

For Harry Brewes, my grandfather who in silence taught me purpose

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6 Responses to “Hands”

  1. blackwatertown Says:

    Super stuff.

  2. Really like this. Will read a few more times and provide some more substantial comments

  3. mother2rah Says:

    Matthew – I have pasted the poem here with a few different line breaks. My thoughts being that the line breaks help the image of the hands stand out a bit more. Also removed a small word or to – such as “a” to tighten here or there. It is a very moving poem. Very visual. Nicely written.
    ~ Siobhan

    A pair of hands,
    Thick fingered, sure
    Defining the shape of things
    Drawing disparate parts together
    Giving them form and purpose.

    These hands, they could do anything
    Build a home, provide in abundance,
    Design wondrous machines,
    Discover the shapes hidden in wood,
    Make motors run and fix broken Tonka trucks.

    I remember the man
    For me forever old, slightly
    rumpled, young only in pictures
    Looking out with firm glance in black and white
    uniform,
    A mysterious figure, remote, full of history
    Voice a low gravel gruff
    Between vast silences as hands put the world together.

    I knew the hands so well
    Shook them every Sunday
    While he chuckled and I never got the joke,
    Shook them for the last time, sitting beside a vast white bed
    Looking at him so much more
    small, fragile in the center of it
    Not the towering figure that had lynch pinned my childhood,
    but so very mortal
    Except for the hands,
    still the same
    Powerful, grip strong, as if they had taken on the nature of all that they had wrought.

    There is so much I will never know
    What stood behind the eyes rimmed with subtle mirth,
    Witness to eight decades on this earth,
    Who he really was beneath the old sweatshirts and glue spotted trousers,
    Forever in the dusty solemnity of his workshop
    Cloistered in the scent of sawdust and machine oil,
    A figure of awe, respect and even childish fear.

    One image will remain
    A pair of hands,
    so very real because they could make real
    Confident, capable of any task their master could put them to
    Slowly and surely filling the nothing with something
    To me, nothing could ever be outside the grasp
    Of my grandfather’s hands.

    • I do like your edits and they make the poem flow better, so I appreciate the time you took in re-working it, however I do have two remarks. The first comes at the lines:

      For me forever old, slightly
      rumpled, young only in pictures

      This may just be how I read, but the break in line seems to interrupt the thought and seems awkward. While I think the line could be shortened from what was written, I still think the flow would be better if it read:

      For me forever old, slightly rumpled
      Young only in pictures

      or

      For me forever old,
      Slightly rumpled, young only in pictures.

      My second thought is actually a question. In the third stanza your edit left out the line “Explaining the world one short sentence at a time, irrefutable”. I was wondering if you thought that didn’t work, or if it was left out when you were transcribing? In this case I can see why it could be left out, but I just want to make sure on this one point.

      As always, your comments are invaluable and I am glad you take the time and put this much thought into my stuff. Thank you.

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