Hands in Translation 

Published in UNC Chapel Hill Health Humanities Journal, 2023

It took me many winters to understand

why nature crafted your hands in that way.

Even in December in Michigan,

they were soft, supple, always summery.

It seemed that your hands were infused

with elements of the earth’s core itself.

The hands of a healer, so they say.

When nature began to reclaim you,

I shut my eyes and clenched my fists.

It began with color.

Then form.

Then function.

Soon you no longer held your glass.

And strangely enough, you started saying

               Float like a butterfly, sting like a bee.

More floating than stinging, of course.

These days my hands feel colder.

Although they’re pale and rigid and often trembling, 

my memory of New Year’s Eve

still brings warmth to my hands. 

When we had looked over Reeds Lake,

you placed your hand on mine, 

and we watched the ice patches grow stiller, 

as you slowly slipped into delirium. 

In the creases of your palms 

I tried to follow your teaching. 

               Energy is neither created nor destroyed;

               it is translated, transformed,

               from the work of one’s hands to another.

And so, I wonder, sometimes,

if you overheard my patient

when she told me I had the hands of a surgeon,

and I wonder, sometimes,

if she said that out of kindness,

or if it was your energy, translated.

*    *    *


shall i look there for a moment’s peace?

peace more enchanting than an autumn day,

which inscribes walls of marbled mountains,

infuses air with temperate atmosphere,

and ignites the fertile flow of lava.

perhaps if that distant spirit yearns,

to grasp the vessel of soil and stream

and pour into its final elixir

the path of single departure,

i shall go in.

for what is peace but the thread of loss?

the fabric woven by rumble and lash,

to create silver – a gentle veil

showing the rich spectacle, 

of that blinded bluebird. 

*    *    *


it may not serve the boy,

with heavy limbs and

hungry heart,

to rest upon his mother’s lap

to live in ease, to feel no pain,

as earth erases below his feet.

how dare he please,

to live in harmony with this land,

harmed by none, questioned by few

to bathe in ceaseless waters,

and rest in ethereal silence.

he need not chase a heroic deed,

that mutes thunder and breaks storms,

only to have his name

sail beyond the twilight zone,

and glisten among the eternal heavens.

but through treasure and wane

he may create the steps of his unknown

to climb deeply within its corridors,

grasped by human thought,

damned by human woes.  

to keep his balance, though,

through time and space and

this blasted place,

may he keep his feet in rhythm:

one, two, one two.

his arms in stride:

three four, three four.

his heart in beat:

lub dub, lub dub.

his mind in tune:

            swish                           hum.

            swish                           hum.

            swish                           hum.

*    *    *


two cries on the northern shores,

and i may hear both

when one bellows, its steady tone

shudders my toes,

and the blood below my skin


but if i hear the other’s whisper

perhaps it may rain

and wash the wish of today away

through the reigns of my thirst

and cleanse my ears for


more coming soon.

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