August 19, 2014

Hope and Shit

by me

My grandfather said
You can shit in one hand
and hope in the other
and see which one fills up
faster. His hands were large
thick-fingered and broad.
One wore a wedding ring
the other age spots. One
knew by heart the wispy silk
of infant hair—children made way
for grandchildren—the other choreographed 
swinging cracked leather belts at their backsides.
In the hungry years, one picked
dandelions from the front yard—
that week's supper—the other
felled trees, dug ditches, cleared roads
for cash which both hands
fed to an envelope home.
One hand gripped all day
the steering wheels of big rigs,
buses, buicks, and at night wore 
threadbare the armrest of his favorite 
blue rocker. In the late years, 
when the quiet of home swelled like his knuckles
and his feet paced each room,
both hands rested in trouser pockets
disoriented and limp.
When he lay in the funeral home
I stared at his hands.
Tell me, Papa
what filled them?

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