SAMPLES FROM THE BOOK
copyright © 2023 by Barbara DiMauro
In Praise of Ancient Hands
These hands I daresay belong
to me, much like the roots
of an ancient tree, twisted,
knotted, deformed some might
say, once with a grip as strong
as an osprey’s and lovely enough
to be adorned with jewels.
But I won’t let them be a source of
shame, these working hands that
have stacked winters of wood and
applauded unskilled musicians
for at least being brave and
cradled the heads of infants who
did not belong to me.
I’ll not think of them as dreadful,
these hands that have touched and
been touched by countless others in
comfort, in veneration, in love.
These hands that have reached
too far and not far enough, and yes,
are reaching still for that coveted
moment of precisely right.
I don’t know how I grew
a weapon tongue,
but it wasn’t my doing.
There are things that happen
to you and things you yourself
and I can say clearly that what
grew in my mouth wasn’t
No matter that I was raised by
gurus of malicious parlance
who were always fighting battles
real and imagined,
I never wanted discourse that
devolved into war.
I admit that on occasion
the power surge that came from
flying fluently from my mouth
when I sensed a threat was
But more often than not those
same knives sliced through my heart
before they reached their intended target.
And for that I am grateful.
After four weeks without rain
the cumulus clouds finally gave in
and burst open with their gift of life.
And this may sound very strange,
but I left the dryness of domestic bliss
for a walk in the woods to witness
the white pines and forest ferns and
creeping juniper quenching their thirst.
Stranger still, above the pelting of the rain
I heard the faintest humming – like the
beginning of a plainchant – which could only
be interpreted as a song of gratitude.
He knows where we’re going
as soon as we turn onto the interstate.
Can he smell the ocean
from this far away, I wonder?
He barely contains himself for the
brief ride, swiping at the steering wheel,
jumping repeatedly from front to back seat,
a muffled whimper in his throat.
It’s the perfect day for his favorite
activity, bright, balmy, windy
with gusts up to twenty miles per hour.
When we arrive at our destination
and I let him go,
he’s off and running on his crucial mission.
He watches as the waves crest – then crash
to shore, leaving a wash of foam the
color of the moon
that’s laid out on the sand like a carpet of clouds.
He’s already in position, lying on his stomach,
unmoving, eyes focused like lasers
on what’s before him, waiting for his froth to
to take flight.
And when it does he’s in the air with it,
his whole body floating momentarily,
his mouth open and biting at this marvelous
substance in a valiant attempt
to make it his own.
He chases, he leaps, he flings his body upside down
as it blows up and around him then low to
the ground, whipping across his path as he races
from one end of the beach to the other
to capture it
as it disappears just seconds before his
But it doesn’t seem to bother him at all;
words like failure and defeat are not
in his vocabulary.
But joy? That word he knows.
I know it as well.
I learned it from him.
Take Me Kindly to Oblivion
I’ve heard that such a place exists,
or is it a state of mind?
No matter, I wish to go without delay.
Will you take me there?
I’ve heard that once you arrive
you can lead an unexamined life,
which for me would be a desirable reprieve.
Can you take me there?
I understand that you become
deafened to the echoes of grief
and that the only sounds
that reach your ears are those of bliss.
I can’t comprehend such an experience
after years of resounding lament,
but if you take me there
I’d be willing to try.
Is it true that you become proficient
at unseeing tragedy or the suffering
of others and are immune to the stories
of bombs and blood that news channels
report on every hour of every day?
And that your heart becomes
small and hard and just like that,
your wearisome compassion is defeated?
Please take me kindly to Oblivion,
but only for a day.
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
It was a day that started with drinking coffee at dawn
and looking out my kitchen window, admiring the beach
roses growing wildly around my house. I was surprised
they were still blooming despite the nightly frosts.
And within hours I received phone calls from two close
friends who were distraught – both reporting the death
of a friend who had died the day before.
I’d never met either one of them, a physician and a therapist,
both in the business of healing, one terminally ill, the other
not. And they were young (according to the revised
definition of youth by a woman in her sixties) and
still engaged in life and loving.
The news washed over me like an arctic wave. It wasn’t that
I hadn’t experienced the passing of contemporaries before,
but I was reminded that such phone calls would occur more often
and suddenly death seemed closer and closer, like the
winter that was creeping into my bones and garden and my
next birthday, which I had morosely removed from my calendar.
As I readied myself for bed that evening, the day rewound itself
in a collage of images: the distressing news and my morning
reverie; kissing my husband a hundred times; calling a friend with
whom I’d lost touch; and returning to my kitchen window again
and again, for one last look at the blooms of my beach roses and
wondering if they would be there tomorrow.