(Feb. 20, 2021)
Where has the handshake gone?
That sign of trust, of human contact.
Strong, firm, fleeting,
limp and cold.
Saying more than just a physical contact.
Protective, as in Rembrandt’s Jewish Bride.
Welcoming, forgiving as in his Return of the Prodigal Son.
Clasping, grasping, as with Rodin’s anatomical studies.
An emanation of a personality, as with Rubens.
Replaced now by elbow bumps.
A sign of trust
replaced now by fear.
Hands as language.
Hands as tools.
A single hand.
One hand interacting with another.
Hands (Feb. 7, 1993)
Two people held my hand today.
The first, unasked for,
nor on my part proffered,
somehow made me cringe.
What in other circumstances
might have been a tendering of comfort,
for as a patient I was
at the mercy of the orderly –
on this occasion made me flinch,
want to retrieve my captive hand,
regain possession of my privacy.
Yet as a patient, albeit briefly,
there was little I could do.
Certain men – and somehow it is always men –
come up so close when talking
they break into our sphere of privacy,
piercing the aura of space
that surrounds each individual
like atmosphere around the earth,
piercing, forcibly penetrating,
the physical shell
it is our privilege to open
only to those we choose.
He would not have held my hand like this
had I been a man.
The second was a hand that closed on mine
in what one might ideally call
a fatherly sort of grasp,
a warm firm clasp
that told me more through touch
than words –
a language on another plane.
Neither he nor I made an attempt
to break that fleeting bond.
A contact had been made
and thoughts and feelings flowed
from one hand to the other.
Not, I think, because I was a woman,
although that may have played a part,
but because each one of us
saw the other as a friend.