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Monkey Hands


My mother's hands are wrinkled now.

"Guarda", she says, "Mani di scimmia", and laughs.

These hands have soothed a thousand sheets on tousled, troubled beds,

Touched a hundred foreheads - my world's most accurate thermometer,

Cupped a dozen little faces, reading the pain in worried, confused

Eyes.

Today her busy hands are calm.

We make our own beds now - and lie in them.

Medicate ourselves - for good - or ill.

Our eyes still bear the pain, confusion and worry

But it hurts less.

My son goes to her for mending - a shirt torn in a fight, a heart broken in one of life's skirmishes.

She cooks for him - fusilli, gnocchi, lasagna - the menu board of her love.

"Mangia, bello, mangia", as if her food could save him from all of life's pain - an elixir, a remedy, a salve.

And it is.

With the younger one it is different. Like peas in a pod.

The same stillness reaches out as my daughter soothes my hair.

The same searching eyes as she scans my face for the tracks of my tears.

I left my mother's house only to come home.

My own hands are wrinkled, too.

But not with my mother's soothing magic,

Just from work and wear and tear.

My daughter's hands are long, slender and smooth.

They are not my mother's hands, nor mine.

They are her own.