My Mother’s Hands

    “My Mother’s Hands,” Ensign, Feb. 1984, 23

    My Mother’s Hands

    1. My Mother’s hands were always busy.

    My memory spans the years,

    Crowded with indelible impressions—

    Her hands were beautiful and strong.

    I watched them knead and shape

    The high, rich loaves of bread,

    The dough snapping,

    The bubbles popping,

    As she placed them in the pans

    To rest and rise in neat perfection.

    Sometimes she would pinch off

    Little knobs of dough for me,

    And I would practice her art

    With childish fascination.

    2. Her hands had special strengths

    To wash and wring the clothes,

    Rubbing and scrubbing them along the board,

    Gathering them up in pleats and puckers,

    Twisting them into coils like

    Stretched candy,

    Then shaking them loose

    For further rinsing or hanging on the lines.

    There was authority in her hands,

    And power!

    3. Tacks in her mouth,

    Hammer in her hand,

    She half-soled our shoes,

    Having cut and shaped

    The leather with the butcher knife.

    She had the iron feet to fit

    Our different sizes,

    And held them on the staff

    Between her knees

    Like other women held the harp.

    (Was hers any less an art, I wonder?)

    4. Her hands cooled fevered flesh

    And bathed sick bodies,

    Combed out tangled curls,

    Fluffed up pillows,

    Smoothed sheets,

    Arranged quilts and blanket,

    In a symphony of peace.

    And it was not uncommon for her

    To deliver babies,

    Bathe and clothe the dead,

    Home the orphan,

    Comfort the bereaved.

    Her hands were ever busy

    At the bier and bed,

    And neighbors never suffered

    If she knew their need.

    5. I watch her hands today





    The fingers busy

    On querulous errands

    Among the bed clothes.

    She does not rest.

    She lifts her hands.

    Is she praying, pleading,

    Summoning those we cannot see?

    We catch her wandering hands,

    Hold them, press them, kiss them,

    Remembering back along the years,

    And we feel the stinging of our tears.

    Painting by Annette S. Trunell