My Mother's Hand Thinks

By Wood, Renate | TriQuarterly, Fall 1995 | Go to article overview

My Mother's Hand Thinks


Wood, Renate, TriQuarterly


It lies limp on the sheet as if dropped there, a pale yellow maple leaf. Fall shakes its branches through the window. The old stretch out on their beds after the midday meal. Do you have a home?

my mother asks through her closed eyes and through a distance where everything is whirled off from its tethering. To my quick Yes she very slowly says, You're lucky, as if she has to fetch these words

from far away, and then her mind drifts off, not sleeping but tossed in its own restless wind. That's when her hand begins to wake. A rippling first among the tendons on its wilted back, then the five

fingertips rub against the covers, and, as if touch were memory, more motion enters. The hand lifts from the sheet onto my mother's gown. Nervous antennas, the fingers quiver here and there, until they run into

the stitching of the seam. For a moment, they stop in recognition, before they sense the first smooth round of a button, then another, and another up to the first one by her throat. The thumb, on its side now, circles

the polished rim with the dip at the center. It feels the loops of threads tethering the button's disc to the fabric. All is there as it has always been, with each blouse, each dress, in each house, even

the small nightgowns she wore as a child: always a row of buttons from the throat down to the waist, a path to travel, direction, the call of something old and safe. …

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