Take Heart 25 September 2013

Posted Wednesday, September 25, 2013 in Culture

Take Heart 25 September 2013

A Conversation in Poetry

Edited and Introduced by Wesley McNair, Maine Poet Laureate


Richard Blanco of Bethel read his poem “One Today” at the second inauguration of President Obama. Here, he explores the connections between his hands and the hands of his father.


My Father, My Hands

by Richard Blanco


My father gave my these hands, fingers

inch-wide and muscular like his, the same

folds of skin like squinted eyes looking

back at me whenever I wash my hands

in the kitchen sink and remember him

washing garden dirt off his, or helping

my mother dry the dishes every night.


These are his fingernails—square, flat—

ten small mirrors I look into and see him

signing my report card, or mixing batter

for our pancakes on Sunday mornings.

His same whorls of hair near my wrists,

magnetic lines that pull me back to him

tying my shoelaces, pointing at words

as I learned to read, and years later:

greasy hands teaching me to change

the oil in my car, immaculate hands

showing me how to tie my necktie.


These are his knuckles—rising, falling

like hills between my veins—his veins,

his pulse at my wrist under the watch

he left for me ticking since his death,

alive when I hold another man’s hand

and remember mine around his thumb

through the carnival at Tamiami Park,

how he lifted me up on his shoulders,

his hands wrapped around my ankles

keeping me steady above the world, still. 


Take Heart: A Conversation in Poetry is produced in collaboration with the Maine Writers & Publishers Alliance. Poem copyright © 2012 Richard Blanco. Reprinted from Looking for The Gulf Motel, University of Pittsburg Press, 2012, by permission of Richard Blanco. Questions about submitting to Take Heart may be directed to Gibson Fay-LeBlanc, Special Consultant to the Maine Poet Laureate, at mainepoetlaureate@gmail.com or 207-228-8263. Take Heart: Poems from Maine, an anthology collecting the first two years of this column, is now available from Down East Books.

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