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hands: 315 experiment poem 8/25/06

January 28, 2008

August 25 2006 315am

My mother’s hands are nothing like the sun
My hands are getting brown & dry & cracked
ok so I exaggerate

Every night my mom would wash the dishes in Palmolive soap
Was it really Palmolive soap? What a name—
conjuring up palm oil & olive oil
a small green bottle I can smell its smell
saturating her pans & plasticware after years in use
in the smell & consequences of the soap
my mother would slather her hands in jergens
the smell of jergens
was the smell of the night
it was creamy & white
with a black & white w/a little pink label
after our baths it was
almost like she was rubbing
the residue of us off
not in a yucky way
but almost like she was
reclaiming her hands
reclaiming her smell
every time her hands touched water
she rubbed the lotion in
a remedy from housework
from houselife
from housewife

this is the main memory of my mother
and having her say pulling away
lifting her hands high
no I can’t do that I just put lotion on
I don’t remember what she couldn’t do
There are so many demands on a mom’s hands
So many things a little can’t do

Rubbing her hands:
the lotion a holy water
the act a supplication
a prayer a withdrawal into
her spiritual life her internal life
rubbing her hands a prayer:
bringing her life her hands
back to her

my hands however are not so pretty
they are scarred & calloused enough
even though I may make my living with a pen
you’d think I was a day laborer
when people laugh and say I am not as old as I say
I thrust my weathered hands in their faces
insist they see I have lived
My face may be one of someone younger
but my hands look ready for retirement

My hands insist on their night of work
they reflect their wages
they are strong & brown & rough
My hands—I need
to remember
to put lotion
on them

from the 315 experiment for the poetry train

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6 Comments leave one →
  1. January 28, 2008 12:20 pm

    I could your mother’s hands. The best part was. I sneaked at my hands numerous time while reading this..

    poked angles

  2. January 28, 2008 6:39 pm

    great!! that’s happened before when i’ve read it, i see people peeking at their hands!

  3. January 28, 2008 11:43 pm

    ‘reclaiming her hands
    reclaiming her smell
    every time her hands touched water
    she rubbed the lotion in
    a remedy from housework
    from houselife
    from housewife’

    What great lines. I also love the part:
    ‘and having her say pulling away
    lifting her hands high
    no I can’t do that I just put lotion on’

    How wonderful. I love her ritual, her act of reclaiming. Great poem!

  4. January 29, 2008 2:49 am

    thanks!

    i understand the challenges she experienced a lot more now that i’m a mom too…the time’s are so different, we have so many more opportunities than our moms did. plus my mom had 3 kids in 4 years!

  5. January 29, 2008 6:23 am

    hey AP, i love the details. the things we remember about our childhood are interesting, aren’t they? these strange little details, the associations of smells and rituals.

    you have honest hands. :-)

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