What the Fingers Do

Studies of Hands by Sir Peter Lely (Pieter van der Faes), 1630–80. Courtesy of Metropolitan Museum of Art/Public Domain.


My daughter learned to point
in a cemetery.
There were many deaths that year.

The priests’ black shirts grew discolored from sweat.
Florists did well.
Pillowy, white fabric lined the open casket,

as if we were burying, with the body,
a bit of sky.
My daughter’s finger

tried to follow some common bird
hopping in the grass.
A precious thing fingers do.

They also claw at the earth in desperation.
They quiver like piano strings.

I’ve learned they’re good at clasping onto.
Less so at letting go.