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Old Fingers, Shining Rings

Christopher Wiseman
From:   Remembering Mr. Fox. 1995


While my mother reads I watch her hands,
Rough, arthritic now, turning the pages
And think I've watched them change for fifty years.
These were girl's hands, learning how to sew,
Lover's hands, delicately sensual,
And a young mother's, gentle, efficient.
The rings, unfussy plain silver, still shine —
A matching pair, the diamond not big —
And I've never seen her without them on, ever.
Sixty years since that wedding-ring was put there.
I'm made to think of circles of love and family,
Health, happiness, sickness, long widowhood,
Old age. The way it goes. I watch her sit,
Slowly turning pages, over-used by life.

How hard rings are! How they last! And how soft
And quick to wear, so vulnerable, so
Easily ripped apart, the family.
Yet her rings flash lightning at it all,
On curled, twisted fingers, shining and circling
The living, the dear dead. I grieve for the years
She's known, we all have, and the ones to come.
Looking, I want to be harder than the flesh,
Change back these worn hands that played tennis,
Deftly dealt a hand at bridge, buttoned
Baby-clothes and stunning evening gowns.
Stupid. But the rings tell me something she knows —
To last as best you can, to be brighter than death is,
To pass round and round what shines of you, always.


Christopher Wiseman's works copyright © to the author.


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