My Father’s Hands

Original Text: 

Shane Neilson. Meniscus. Emeryville, Ontario: Biblioasis. 2009

1Claim a plot of land your prison: boundaries
2far as the cricks that keep a neighbour’s farm
3from creeping. The stern command to grow:
4plough and harrow, till and sow, months of hoe-
5blister turned callous. Then, time to reap
6and sell, winter’s cold repelled by summer
7skin toughened until abuse is kin.
8My prison wasn’t the seasons, nor
9was it acreage. It came in a pleated
10hide that resisted nail-pricks, absorbed
11the force of hammers.
12                                      My father’s hands
13grew large from work, thickened from crush and cut.
14Each battered nuance pressed on my face
15and chest. Blows registered like a title
16deed. Going out to the pasture, I could feel
17just where our property led. With time
18I could picture his hands in my head.
19He beat a lien in me—his legacy
20of workday pride and defeat. He carried me
21across, then turned back to serve his sentence.
RPO poem Editors: 
Jim Johnstone
RPO Edition: 
2013
Special Copyright: 

Poem used with permission of the author.