A rough, work-worn wind
beat the air when my grandfather spoke
sturdy fingers contouring
his sons and daughters, blunting their days.

He liked to play life close to the chest,

his heavy-handed love
stroked his wife into a fine, carved chair.
Calloused palms landed on his daughter

trying out her legs—each time
she budged, strained her neck or let
songs stray, those hands
fixed her hard in place.

Out of duty, my mother

still speaks good-father, but imprinted
ellipses and whorls bend
her gestures, rumple the score.
As she tells how she wanted to sing,

to have lovely handwriting,

                                                her fingers

light on her cheek, rubbing
the red place where he once flattened
a loose piece of childhood laughter.

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