at 15 i discovered in class
the hands of young women:
how their fingers cradle a pencil
how those fingers have smooth knuckles and
long nails and
how those nails are long windows
with half moons rising.
i saw delicate symmetry
in the way their fingers
taper down to the tips,
in the way their hands
float like gliders,
and i dreamed their touch on my skin.
then mom got sick and i,
eldest of three sons,
tried to train my hands to do
what hers had done for us:
to separate colors from whites
to pour bleach as the agitator churns
to hang shirts on the line so not
to be pinched by the pin
to spread the collar flat before the iron
to chop the onion without blood
to mop the swirling dust.
years have passed.
last week at the home i watched her hands
knuckles thickened with calcium
fingers stiffened with pain
deftly feed father
then wipe his chin,
her hands blue-veined,
her nails with half-moons rising.