Palms Open Love Fading

We used to swing my brother by his ankles in the kitchen.
And I remember looking back at how clumsy those small hands were,
hands made to weave unasked prayers into verse.
I wouldn’t know for many years later my sister was born with two extra fingers,
hands made to carry new men into blank wombs.
If my mother ever knew he almost hit his head against the oven door,
she would have tossed her hands over her face.
Those hands, made of soft sheets of sand paper,
she used them to scratch my father’s back.

Palms open, love fading.
Often, never existing at all.

Rarely did she ever use those hands to defend herself against
the brick-slap of my father’s hand;
fists and jabs constantly thrown in his voice.
My father, he used his hand to make moon craters into living room walls with her head.
My mother, her hands, overflowing with fury,
tossed her bowl full of dinner to the ground
giving up the silent protest of his war cries.
I’ll never forget how the bones in her food,
made of fish shoulders,
cut slits of crying eyes into the linoleum floor.
But most nights, my mother used those hands to keep us full and happy;
to pray when she thinks no one can hear her sobs, hands shivering with faith
to pick bottles from trash cans when the sky was painted every shade of violet,
where nothing diurnal had the audacity to be roaming.
Sometimes in spite of my mother’s racism,
her face is mirrored in the Hispanic woman who picks bottles from trash cans,
shuffling back and forth until I saw her spine turn hunch right before my eyes.
Those hands, wrapped in crinkling plastic skin, she is just like my grandmother this way.

She would always speak in broken English when she wanted anything.
“Itiola, get me water from the pump!”
Her hands were used to hit my little-big brother with her walking cane
but he never knew that she was hard on him because
she wanted him to be a stronger man than my grandfather was.
It’s a shame society has taught women to believe kindness is synonymous for weakness.

Now my sister only has ten fingers, scars from where her extras were.
My fingers, a little less clumsy & more knowing,
slight passageways to the world.