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Like the Back of My Hand

by Benjamin S. Grossberg

It was only that I noticed the joints—the larger ones—
on my fingers, that they resembled knots in an old oak,
and below them each hair a pinprick, the skin riddled
like an old dart board, and thought, incomprehensibly,
this was the same hand I had with me thirty-odd years ago,
like a pair of scissors or salad tongs that hadn’t worn out
or snapped or gotten lost, and were still pretty good.
And my knuckles, pale mountains, the cracked tops
dusted with snow—dryness, I guess—bled white

when the bones press against the skin, realized
how beaten up they are, though not those of a fighter,
never in fact impacted with a jaw, a wall, or clutched
a roll of quarters for ballast, never scraped into the guts
of a machine to make it work. But still, how scarred,
fractured, the kind of terrain Eliot treks through
at the end of The Waste Land. And thought,
what a strange weathered thing is attached to me,
strange leathern thing that might fit by a gutter

in November, unremarkable among gray, brown
and orange leaves: crumpled like them, small claw
curling inward, withered chicken foot. But here,
still here, after thirty-odd years, and still undeniably
functional, practical, and near, near though strange.
But not strange as I lift it, not strange as I
bring it upward, where it can do what nothing else,
what no one else seems able to do—how gently,
how reassuringly it knows to touch my face.


Benjamin S. Grossberg lives on a small farm in Ohio and teaches creative writing and literature at Antioch College. His first book, Underwater Lengths in a Single Breath, will be published by Ashland Poetry Press this fall. A chapbook, The Auctioneer Bangs His Gavel, was published by Kent State. (6/2007)

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