Take a look at your hands. Not just a glance – a proper look. Fingernails. Cuticles. Nicks and scars and calluses. Knuckles. And the incredible, creased flexible skin that covers them. Or maybe you started looking at the palms of your hands – if not, do it now. The lines. The veins, the changes in the colour of the skin. The intricacy of your fingerprints. Flex your fingers, and rotate your wrists. Twenty-seven bones, linked to make the most delicate and precise movements possible. Marvel for a moment at what an astonishing bit of machinery the human hand is.
Write a poem in five parts focuses on hands – yours, and other people’s. Use the following prompts to get things started, but feel free to head in a different direction if that’s where things take you.
- Describe your mother’s hands doing something for you when you were a child. Two or three sentences only, and make sure you include some tactile information in here.
- Describe a time when you hurt your hands. Again, only two or three sentences. Where, where, why, how. Be really specific.
- Think about something you like to do, that involves your hands’ dexterity. Play an instrument. Assemble a model. Garden. Weave. Change the oil filter in your car. Whatever. Describe the action, as though you were writing a set of instructions for someone else’s hands to follow. This bit is more notational than flowing, so aim for between ten and twenty items.
- Cast your mind back to the days BC (before Covid-19) when we used to shake hands with people. Describe shaking hands with two or three different people – were they limp fish handshakes? Sweaty palm? Vigorous? Friendly? Creepy? Were their hands hot, or cold, or the same as yours so you didn’t notice? Describe the handshake, more than the person. Who was the last person you shook hands with? How did you feel about shaking hands, in non-virus times? How was your handshake?
- Finish by describing your hands touching someone you love. Brushing a child’s hair. Squeezing someone’s shoulder, or at the far end of a hug. Giving someone a massage. Pressing a kiss to a grandparent’s cheek. Wiping a smudge off your partner’s face. Concentrate on the tactile aspects, as well as what your hands look like. Finish with that moment of contact.