Susan Jo Russell: Self-Portrait with Hands

When I grip the steering wheel
in traffic, or shut a window against
a cloudburst, my gaze rests
on the veined backs, fine-lined skin
loosening on the bones—

but to regard my palms requires
a turning, a deliberate act of seeing
the valleys and mounds
that flow down to the vulnerable wrist
where I have a small scar from a cat’s tooth—

how much younger they are, my palms,
how plump and tender, unblemished
as if they’ve hibernated through a tough winter
then emerged to gorge
on summer fruit—

sometimes, in bed, my palms take stock
of my body’s naked surfaces,
gliding over the long ones,
encasing soft roundness, seeking out
its crevices—

Who is to say that I’m old?
My palms are not prayerful
like Dürer’s, yet they are holy.
They have secrets. They are full
of sighs and mischief.

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