I touch my mother-in-law’s hands,

soft and cool as the tulip petals dropping

from the vase beside her chair,


small feminine hands that moved with hummingbird

speed across piano keys, that raised a fat cigar

to her lips, chin on shoulder striking an I’m-the-boss


pose recorded forever by the camera.

Rubbing my palms, I warm the lotion, begin kneading

the center of her palm, a deep push into the fatty pads.


That’s what it is to begin to know the deeper ache.

She moans. I hold each finger at its base, pull down,

twist the thumb away from its meaty responsibilities.


I ease out the hurt lodged in the hinges,

the middle’s wrinkled face, the knuckle’s bony head.

I release the thirty-four muscles,


the twenty-seven bones, her hand limp and hanging

at the closed gate of her wrist.

She winces and whispers wonderful,


I don’t want this to end.

And then I drape her hand over my fist,

a mortar and pestle, and grind her palm


as if I’m milling the pain into a fine powder

that I could simply blow away.



Jo Brachman’s work has appeared in Valparaiso Poetry Review, Cortland Review, Bellingham Review, Cimarron Review, Poet Lore, Birmingham Poetry Review, Poetry East, Tar River Poetry, Hiram Poetry Review, San Pedro River Review, Moon City Review, Town Creek Poetry, Terminus, Waccamaw, and Best New Poets 2016.

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