When I was very young, a woman we called Mammy Hanlon came weekly to visit my Nana. She lived in one of those huge old folk’s homes run by a religious order where she worked in the laundry. She was allowed out on her own one day a week, which is when she came to visit. I often went to see her there. It was not a nice experience for a young boy. Anyway, one day when I came home from school, she was at home. In the course of chatting, she commented on how long my fingers were and said I should learn to play the violin.
I was reminded of that comment this summer for no particular reason and it sparked off the following poem. I am aware of the ageing process both physical and mental as I approach another birthday and the life changes that are occurring.
The picture here is called “Figures Lying on the Sand” by Salvador Dali and, it must be said, the hands bear no resemblance to my own.
An old woman once told me
that I should play the violin because
of my long slender fingers.
My palms now are lined and wizened,
spots, on the back, speak
of ageing, like the rings of trees.
A Russian ring, on my left
wedding finger, a sign of wide
wealth received across years.
My fingers do serve important work,
a grandson clings to one per hand,
marches on to independence.
Their healing gift, pressured
across aching backs and limbs,
remove knots, bring rest.