My Fathers Hands - Poem by Joseph Enright
Large calloused shovel like hands
Gnarled knuckles on fingers
With chipped nails
Kept clean with small bladed ivory handled penknife.
Strong tanned arms and hands
That gripped long handled shovel
And drove it with practised ease
Into a pile of unforgiving limestone.
The same hands that gripped
Iron handle of a stubborn starting
Diesel concrete mixer
On cold frosty winter mornings.
'Bitch of a thing wont start 'hed mutter
Tearing up empty cement bags
And lighting them
To heat the engine.
Then, a quick swing of the handle
And with a lifelike shudder
It coughed into life.
Its steady puth puth puth
Shattering the earky morning silence.
'RIGHT, LADS 'hed say 'LETS GET A MOVE ON
TIS EIGHT OCLOCK
HALF THE DAY IS GONE '
His arms moved at a steady measured pace all day
At six or later hed call it a day.
At home in the scullery
Hed scrub his hands in the earthenware sink
With lifebuoy soap, before sitting down to eat.
He crossed himself, muttering thanks
To his God before eating.
Later, in the evening
The family in a circle
His fingers caressed his beads
As he recited the Rosary
Same strong hands that lifted me
As achild, never raised in anger.
The day my mother died
He shrouded his face with his hands as he wept,
I couldnt help but notice his bruised fingers,
A stone had fallen on them earlier.
His hands carried her coffin to her final earthly resting place.
At eighty seven his hands were still big
Translucent mottled skin
Covered his now callous free soft hands.
We folded them on his breast
With his beads
Intertwined in his fingers
Before laying him in the dank earth.
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