Anxious for the nine o'clock break,
at eight-thirty I would light the porch,
line the sink with gauze, cotton balls, peroxide-
austere tools of love-
wanting him to bring his hands to me—
small, delicate hands
an artist's or surgeon's
displaced by the lack of a diploma,
twisting wires ten hours a day.
When his Grand Prix rumbled into the drive,
I would look not at his face
but his hands
and nightly make the same, sharp sigh
when I had counted ten
like a new mother,
knowing that metal which cuts bricks
could lay siege to fingers too.
I'd fold his hands in mine
like folding sugar into butter
and lead him past my disapproving parents
to my makeshift triage
under the fluorescent buzz of bathroom lights.
Awed by the horrid beauty
of minuscule rivulets of blood,
the muted glitter of metal shards
just under the skin,
I'd begin my gentle ritual
of tweezing out steel slivers,
flooding the red rivers white with peroxide,
softly blowing away the sting—
then, I would send him back, bandaged,
with a sandwich,
to the big, block building just outside of town
and return to my geometry.
—From A Brief History of Time
Shaindel Beers is a Professor of English at Blue Mountain Community College in Pendleton, Oregon; the Poetry Editor of Contrary; and the host of talk radio’s Translated By. Her work has appeared in numerous journals and anthologies. A Brief History of Time, her first book of poetry, is available here.