That is a pair of white hands I seefloating in the mirror, the fingers on the leftare blunt and rounded, the ones on the right are raisedas if in thought. They are almost like gloves,the lines are gone, they are abstracted, the sufferingis in the creases, somewhere in the foldsunderneath the knuckles, or somewhere in the spacesover the fingertips. I choose them this timeover the mouth, the mouth with two great trenchesand two great cheeks beyond the trenches, the mouthwith a curled smile, and I choose them over the eyes,surrounded by wrinkles, wounded and bloodshot. The handsare permanent and heavy, they are the meansboth to pain and pleasure, thus the ancientPeruvians buried them inside their clothes,thus the Arabs cut them off and fedthem to their dogs. Our age is weak—and vague—in what it does with hands, there is a historyboth of terror and loathing. My first forty years,were an agony. I lived by touching and holding.It was my ruin.
—Gerald Stern, “A Pair of Hands”Art Credit Tommy Nease

That is a pair of white hands I see
floating in the mirror, the fingers on the left
are blunt and rounded, the ones on the right are raised
as if in thought. They are almost like gloves,
the lines are gone, they are abstracted, the suffering
is in the creases, somewhere in the folds
underneath the knuckles, or somewhere in the spaces
over the fingertips. I choose them this time
over the mouth, the mouth with two great trenches
and two great cheeks beyond the trenches, the mouth
with a curled smile, and I choose them over the eyes,
surrounded by wrinkles, wounded and bloodshot. The hands
are permanent and heavy, they are the means
both to pain and pleasure, thus the ancient
Peruvians buried them inside their clothes,
thus the Arabs cut them off and fed
them to their dogs. Our age is weak—and vague—
in what it does with hands, there is a history
both of terror and loathing. My first forty years,
were an agony. I lived by touching and holding.
It was my ruin.

Gerald Stern, “A Pair of Hands”
Art Credit Tommy Nease

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