Your hand opens and closes and opens and closes.
If it were always a fist or always stretched open,
you would be paralyzed.
During my mother’s stroke, her left arm swung
suddenly at her side like a stranger. She called out,
was rushed to the hospital by ambulance.
Now, recovering, her hand won’t unfold—fingers curled,
supple, but unable to fist or extend. I think of this,
standing alone outside St. Agnes Hospital in Fresno at night
by the stone statue of Jesus, at the end of a spiral stone path,
my palms extended in prayer or defense under the thousand blind eyes
of heaven, sparkling. I make a fist, then open each palm,
then fist each hand again and again, remembering.
The next morning, I wake in the Red Roof Inn’s pale room
next to the Korean Mart and the Jack-in-the-Box—the incessant
air conditioner already battling the incessant heat. I stare at a photo
of my father, dead four years now, but still speaking to me.
His hand on his tool belt, his heart full of fists, of waving palms,
the valves opening and closing, opening and closing, finally
closing. If he were always open, rather than mysterious, even dark,
I would never have questioned, never pushed into the depths,
would have been paralyzed by light.
Holding my mother’s arm as we walk now to the car, we pause
by a fountain, a statue of two young girls running to touch
six birds escaping into flight, hear the sound of falling water
on blue tile. The stone girls will never reach even one bird,
but my mother, already, begins to flex the fingers
of her stricken hand open, then closed, then open.