by Joanne Clarkson (Originally Published by Intima: A Journal of Narrative Medicine)
No mirrors in this too warm room.
No frames for silver strangers.
In these final, bed-confined days,
all memory comes through her hands.
They move in her sleep: kneading,
knitting, hoeing until they bleed.
At rest they bend around an invisible
wooden handle. You can think of
nothing else to honor. She believes
you are her sister, too old to be a daughter.
You choose Hollyhock pink, the hue
of summer by the back gate, and paint
each broken and ridged nail. A tender
sunset gesture. She regards her shining
fingertips as if she has never seen them.
You cannot gauge her moods these days,
relieved when she sighs, seems pleased.
She touches your chapped and reddened
palms, raw from all the washing.
“You have my hands,” she whispers.
Ms. Clarkson can be reached at:
Biographical excerpt from her website: “If this were a resume, I would say that I went to Seattle University intending to become a nurse, but failed emotionally and turned instead to literature. A few years later I earned my Master’s Degree in English. While we lived in Illinois I pursued a Master’s in Library and Information Science and worked as a professional librarian for many years. After caring for my mother through a long illness until her death, I re-careered as a RN specializing in Hospice and Geriatrics, work I continue to practice. I am a wife, a mother and a grandmother.”