History of the Hand
--for Frank Niemiec
History of the ditch digger, stone mason, countless men in factories, on the line. History of abundance, of miracles because it is by our hands that we become who we are. “Marry a man for his hands,” my father said. Probably remembering his own father and the mangled right hand that was torn in half by the machine at the woolen mill. But what did the old man know about machines? He was a foreigner who couldn’t speak the language, a peasant farmer born in Poland when it wasn’t even called Poland. His hands knew only two things: black earth and how to coax the miracle of green from it. Each spring he would perform the miracle in his small American garden. His left hand did the mundane chore of clearing the winter’s debris, breaking the ground with hoe and shovel and pickaxe. His right hand--that terrible, wondrous hand--performed the ultimate magic: placed each seed in its proper spot, made sure it grew into a cabbage or pepper or summer squash. I remember how carefully he would wash that hand after the day’s work. Pat it dry. Place it almost casually on my shoulder. Luminous, enchanted.
This poem was previously published in Linda’s book, Living in the Fire Nest (Ridgeway Press, 1996).
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Linda Nemec Foster is the author of 12 collections of poetry including Talking Diamonds, Amber Necklace from Gdansk, and The Lake Michigan Mermaid (2019 Michigan Notable Book). Foster is the founder of the Contemporary Writers Series at Aquinas College and was selected to be the first Poet Laureate of Grand Rapids, MI from 2003-2005. Her most recent book, The Blue Divide, was published in 2021.
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