Your hands are not the matter here,
but make no mistake,
this is about hands—
hands that once gave sight to the blind,
hands that made legs strong again.
You have those kinds of hands.
They were given to you
when you set places,
when you poured drinks,
when you carried heavy trays.
Today, when you serve, remember this:
they will know his hand by yours,
have faith enough to walk on water.
IN THE WAITING ROOM OF A PSYCHIATRIC WARD
She has been waiting in this room since this
morning, sitting in a wheelchair next to
a table piled with month old magazines.
I wonder what she is doing here. I ask her.
She says “I told them that I saw Heaven.
They don’t believe me, but I saw it.”
She thinks she has a gift, not a sickness.
I say to her, “Who did you see when you
went to Heaven, what did you do all day?”
She leans toward me like a grass blade in the
wind and whispers, “You were there with me,
I had new feet, and we were dancing.”
The woodchips were in tall piles
when they started, a truck dumped
them yesterday and since then
the air has crowded with
the scent of pulled wood.
In hours, men spread
the shards of wood across the cold soil,
pushing with rakes and shovels,
the piles slowly chipped away.
They do this so that when the kids
move from the busses into camp
there will be fresh welcome waiting.
Kids do not see it this way, but now there
is a place for them to sit and
somewhere for cigarette breaks.
The men fill the barrows and push the
beds along the uneven surface,
the woodchips tumbling with the bumps.
Hands tip the barrows and
spill clean wood into the dirt.
The men pour out themselves along
with something to be trampled.
Dostoyevsky had them like wildfire snapping in his
head. When they were over, he would write pages.
Van Gogh used to have them. When they were over,
he would get up from the ground and paint himself again.
Sometimes they are a gift. Your body seizes when
something higher grabs hold of you and shakes you in its fist.
In other cultures, what you have isn’t a disease, it is distinction.
It is true, in other cultures, you are not sick, you are holy.
In the corner of the kitchen I watch you work,
grabbing hot metal, spraying water against it,
cleaning dirty dishes again.
Your fingers, after three hours, are flushed of color,
the pale white wrinkles of your hands pressed against
the used plates, the leftover pieces of food fall into
the sink, your smile still stands.
This evening alone you have seen each cup twice:
once for cleansing,
once to be certain.
Now they are clean enough to give
back to children at the next meal.
I see you step away from the drying rack,
clasping a moist cup and holding
it up to the light like a picture slide.
You are able to see the process of washing away:
the warmth of being made new,
the wetness of resurrection.