Ode to Hands
I honor your hands, those skillful bones, tendons,
knuckles and fingers: you awe me, tool-holder!
I bow down to you, my own hands inept,
little accomplishing, hardly able to fold themselves.
You who tie knots and make shelters, you
who reach into the blood of birth and turn
the breached foal's head in the womb of the mare;
woodcarver, carpenter, thrower of pots,
blacksmith, diamond cutter, pruner of fruit trees;
you who swing bats or sink three pointers,
loaf kneader, roller of noodles, whirler of pizza dough;
calligrapher allowing clouds, expressing mountain
and bamboo in wrists and fingertips, I honor you!
Squirting milk into a bucket from the goat's teat,
or fingering the Uileann pipes as you gaze inward
at the eyes of Danu, Mother of green Eirre;
you, lonely cosmetician with your palette of faces,
I do not forget, nor you foot maseuse, nor plumber,
chiropractor, nurse, laying hands on the sick at midnight
unknown to the doctor; you the surgeon as well,
you, the veterinarian who operates on puppies;
I do not forget the engineer in the ribcage of the ship,
or the navigator by stars in oceanic night
on the bridge with his sextant and compass.
I honor the greaser and breaker of rusted bolts, you,
mechanic changing my mother's tire on the highway;
you who lay brick walls in a straight line, who play
steel stringed guitar with tough delicate fingers;
poodle groomer, binder of wounds on the battlefield!
I honor your hands, sword-wielder, marksman,
backhoe driver, shaker of the shaman's rattle at the moon.
I honor the deft diaper changer and the mixer of cocktails;
the Ayurvedic pulse-reader, the miner with infernal drill;
distiller of barley malt, brewer, grafter of grape vines;
you who bless tinctures and ointments, crushing flowers
into homeopathic salve, all of you equally adept.
I honor the handyman and midwife, the builder of campfires,
mudra-weaver in your mountain shrine, you, love-maker.
With my hands that make nothing, I offer you this poem.