Those Almost Perfect Hands


Those Almost Perfect Hands

            In my dream, my father’s rough brown hands deal me six cards: 2 3 7 7 8 8. I cast away the 2 & 3. My father cuts a six. After the pegging, my father watches as I score: 15/2, 15/4, 15/6, 15/8, and 2 are 10, and 2 are 12 …

I turn on the mini-flash light that I clip each night to my Teddy Bear’s ear and I check my watch. Three o’clock in the morning: half way through another difficult night.  Do I really I need to get up and pee? I rub my eyes with the backs of my hands. Surely the walk to the bathroom, the cool night air, the movement will be better than lying here, dozing and dreaming. I take the flashlight from Teddy and pin it on to my nightie. Supporting my bad leg with one hand and hanging on to the bottom sheet with the other, I haul myself to a sitting position, legs over the bed. Then I reach for my walking sticks and stump towards the bathroom.

Still half-asleep and wandering in dreamland, I push my left foot forward only to stub the little toe against the cane. A sudden shock of pain wakes me and I stumble forward and jam the middle toe of my right leg against the other stick. This is my bad leg, the one gripped by sciatica, and I swear out loud as a knife blade splits my flesh and sends electric shocks down my leg, through my buttock, and into my spine. Fifteen days now: when will it ever end, this attempting to sleep on my own, these nights of restlessness.

My neighbor has left his garage lights on and they cast wind-blown shadows of dancing trees and waving limbs across the bedroom walls. Hands reach out to grasp me then fade away as more shadows dance and shift. The shadows on the wall remind me of Plato’s Cave: a wonderland of myth and adventure and what if any of it were true? Falsehoods flash their alternative realities and reality and dream clash in my half-awake mind. Crazy patterns continue to trace their waves across the walls. They form and march their silent jack boots, turning them into ballroom pumps that caress unwitting partners in an eternal yin and yang of light and shade.

I look out of the window. Three deer stand in the yard beneath me. They wander through our garden each night, journeying alternately from west to east and from east to west. I think of them as a family of Hobbits, traveling there and back again. Tonight they are headed west, in search of something, somewhere, but I know not what or where. They gather round our bird feeder and the wind chimes clatter as their long black tongues lick out to feed on bird seed. My flashlight beams into the baby deer’s eyes. She snorts a warning to the others and jumps ten feet backwards, turning in mid-air, to land facing away from the house.  The other two deer follow the baby and leave reluctant steps across the snow. So beautiful: I wish I hadn’t frightened them. I wish they didn’t have to go.

In the bathroom, I reach for the analgesic balm to ease my pain. My mind is numb with all those drugs I have been taking. The alcohol hasn’t helped. It makes me clumsy and I stand thick-tongued, dull-witted. The pain in my hip is gnawing away at my mind. I know I won’t go back to sleep. My fingers fumble across the counter and I unscrew the top of the first tube I encounter. I rub toothpaste into my back and leg and now I smell of spearmint.
I wander back to bed, sit on the edge, and raise my perfectly scented dead leg with a helping hand. I pin my flashlight back on Teddy’s ear. He’s a good Teddy and doesn’t make a sound. Unlike me: I wince and moan and groan. Mars, the red planet, stalls for a moment and is framed as a circular dot at the center of my tic-tac-toe window panes. I watch as an overnight flight seeks the sun and looks for the right spot in which to place its flickering cross of sparking flame. I enter a hollow dream of scarecrows reaching with twig fingers to thumb a carrot nose at leaping deer. The old raccoon gnaws at the moon and soon it is a pared rind floating its narrow lemon boat across the sky. I snuggle in beneath the blankets that Teddy has kept warm and I enter a wonderland of half-awake dreams. My childhood lies down in a primrose hedgerow and falls asleep to the tinkling of blue bells and the wafting, newly minted scent of lily of the valley.

            … and 12 are 24.  My father checks my hand and grimaces. I take the cards and shuffle them. My father cuts. His hands are as white as fresh-brushed teeth glowing in the moonlight. My hands and the deck bear the rich scent of spearmint.

14 thoughts on “Those Almost Perfect Hands

  1. I like the toothpaste. I still remember the dark night I reached for Vicks vapo-rub and got the cortisone cream by mistake. Nothing seems to work in the middle of the night. In the writing, as you notice the deer etc. your awareness and the reader’s awareness of the pain seems to fade.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I need to do some revisions to this piece. I have them in mind. Just a little touch or two, here and there. And yes, the deer are such a blessing. They come through the garden most nights now. It was good to see you yesterday by the way. I really liked what you read. And how you read it.

      Liked by 1 person

      • Hi Roger. Thanks. I feel really self- conscious reading anything from my Meniscus series. It is really hard to take bits from the whole as so many ideas resonate from one part of the long poem to the other. As a result, I find myself wondering if the audience is just hearing isolated ideas. An example is the missing tooth … the story of the tooth is told gradually through four books! Perhaps all poems are like that, trails of ideas wandering through many separate poems … like the deer recurring in your work.

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      • I have had a lifetime of experience in public speaking. That said, I have worked with many who are petrified when they stand before an audience. The pieces you read are usually self-contained and the imagery works within the individual piece. Hence the ‘gift of the tooth’ comes over as just that: surprising in its isolation, but a strange gift from nowhere. I thought it was very effective. And yes, I too wonder how my poems are received. In the last years of my teaching career I often asked myself: “What am I teaching?” What went out and what was taken in were often two very different things!

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      • Thanks Roger. It’s all about communication … does the receiver get the message the sender intended … doesn’t really matter only the fact that human experience can be transmitted. Jane

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      • It’s the intentional fallacy, Jane: what they were actually getting wasn’t what I thought I was giving. I ended up revolutionizing my teaching by teaching what they wanted and needed to learn NOT what I wanted to teach. Big difference.

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