Ballad of the Hand

Ballad of the Hand

Her lifeless hand lies there in state.
Its wrinkled skin and yellowed nails
Expose its age, recall how late
Her calling came. But death prevails.
For now is here and here is now,
Come, come, sweet youth, new life endow.

When born, that hand clasped round a chain
Her mother wore. She wrenched so fast,
It cut into her neck. In vain
They pulled her back. It healed at last.
For now is here and here is now,
Come, come, sweet youth, new life endow.

Her hands at church: the fingers’ tips
At prayer. They touched, and tingling joy
Flowed through her blood. She wet her lips,
And tongues incensed the blushing boy.
For now is here and here is now,
Come, come, sweet youth, new life endow.

Hands raised at school. Swift growth of mind
Bewitched her pen and useless verse
Besmeared her books. With thoughts refined,
She whispered hoarsely Mary’s curse.
For now is here and here is now,
Come, come, sweet youth, new life endow.

Her hand around the needle pierced
The cloth and languished listless, cold,
Its vibrancy and youth released
And gone. A female fortune told.
For now is here and here is now,
Come, come, sweet youth, new life endow.

And then he came, the chosen man
And took the hand her father gave.
Her grave response: “I think I can.”
She told the priest she would behave.
For now is here and here is now,
Come, come, sweet youth, new life endow.

Triumphantly, her silken hand
Conducted famous dinners. Light
Her laugh and at her mere command
Rough merriment writhed through the night.
For now is here and here is now,
Come, come, sweet youth, new life endow.

Her body slumps, she lets him throb
And peter out and sleep. She gnaws
Her hand. A baby grows. No sob
No moan. A perfect boy. No flaws.
For now is here and here is now,
Come, come, sweet youth, new life endow.

That hand it never rose in rage
Or worked a day or saved a man,
Or painted, never wrote a page
It just remained where it began.
For now is here and here is now,
Come, come, sweet youth, new life endow.

One morning she resolved to go
And find a love and damn this place.
Her hand turned back. She needn’t know
The way to love’s undying space.
For now is here and here is now,
Come, come, sweet youth, new life endow.

She mellowed with maturity
And quite forgave her husband’s hand.
She nestled in security
No time to settle her demand.
For now is here and here is now,
Come, come, sweet youth, new life endow.

And then he died. Her hand strayed hot
Towards his pasty, frozen skin
But ah, they taught her: “Thou shalt not
Abuse or mock your kith and kin.”
For now is here and here is now,
Come, come, sweet youth, new life endow.

This drab, tame home: domestic stage
Of able actors drowning thought
And waving, dutiful, in age.
She died, whilst drinking tawny port.
For now is here and here is now,
Come, come, sweet youth, new life endow.

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