I. I remember shaking hands: damp sweaty hands and dry scratchy hands, bone-crushing handshakes and dead-fish handshakes, two-handed handshakes, my hand sandwiched between a pair of big beefy palms. I remember hairy hands and freckled hands, young smooth hands and old wrinkled hands, red-polished fingernails and bitten-jagged fingernails, stained hands of hairdressers who had spent all day dyeing, dirty hands of gardeners who dug down deep into the good earth. II. Thousands of years ago, a man stuck out his right hand to show a stranger he had no weapon. The stranger took his hand and shook it to make sure he had nothing up his sleeve. And that is how it began. III. I remember sharing a bucket of greasy popcorn with a boy at the movies (though I no longer remember the boy or the movie), the thrill of our hands accidentally on purpose brushing each other in the dark. IV. I remember my best girlfriend and me facing each other to play a hand-clapping game, shrieking “Miss Mary . . . Mack! Mack! Mack!” and the loud satisfying smack! as our four palms slapped. V. I remember high fives and how we’d laugh when we missed and then do a do-over. VI. I remember the elegant turn of shiny brass doorknobs cool to the touch. VII. I remember my mother’s hands tied to the railings of her hospital bed and how I untied them when the nurse wasn’t looking and held them in my lap. VIII. I remember holding my father’s hand, how the big college ring he wore rubbed against my birthstone ring and irritated my fourth finger but I never pulled away. IX. I remember the joy of offering my index finger to a new baby who wrapped it in her fist as we gazed at each other in wonder. X. I remember tapping a stranger on the shoulder and saying, “Your tag is showing. Do you mind if I tuck it in?” She didn’t mind. I tucked it in. XI. I remember salad bars and hot bars. I remember saying, “Want a bite?” and offering a forkful of food from my plate. I remember asking, “Can I have a sip?” and placing my lips on the edge of your cold frosty glass. XII. I remember passing around the kiddush cup, each of us taking a small sip of wine. I remember passing around the challah, each of us ripping off a big yeasty hunk. I remember picking up a serving spoon someone had just put down without giving it a second thought. XIII. I remember sitting with a mourner at a funeral, not saying a word, simply taking her hand.
This poem previously appeared in The New Verse News.