Wednesday, March 05, 2014
My winter hands are eternally cracked and dry:
white sheaves of skin rubbed thin by water, towels, and harsh air.
I've noticed paper cuts finely slicing the inners of my fingers;
one slit bends into the crease of flesh and bone when I curl it.
Below the loosened skin between right thumb and forefinger rests a mark of fading red.
The other night, I knocked against the pie dish when I slid it out of the oven.
Hot glass touched me, burnt, and I held a papertoweled ice cube to it to cool.
Each morning, I slip a ring with the sign of the cross on my right forefinger.
It is thick and silvery, and makes a sound if I tap it with my nail.
The smallest of reminders, that hollow sound, how metal nails might knock into wood,
and a human being between the two.
Over eight years, my nails have etched and scratched it.
Like a tree with rings, or lines on your palm.
It was the strangest, out-of-nowhere gift:
A girl gave it to me in the newspaper classroom,
two days before we graduated from high school.
We weren't close, just friendly acquaintances.
But she pulled out a box as we chatted and said:
"They gave these to all of the seniors at my church.
I thought it might mean more to you than me."
I'm not sure how I thought of it then.
Grateful, I think, and perhaps struck that
she had even thought of me and somehow seen a faith.
Some quiet wish that she had found reason to slip it on her own finger.
But I thanked her, and I hugged her, and I've worn it since.
My favorite thing about the ring is what others cannot see:
its inward part that clasps my finger.
That circle is smooth as water; no nail-knocks from the world,
no scrapes from what my hands touch.
(Originally posted on Ash Wednesday 2012.)