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I read books, not cards or palms.
But I reckon I can see your life written across your hands.
Calloused skin and sinewy veins, nails blunted and cuticles in tatters,
knuckles ashy and split.
Dermatological milestones, ten fingers worth of 30 years.
If given a second chance I doubt you’d go through it all again,
but you had no option.
You fought, hand over fist, literally tooth and nail to come this far,
but you had no other option.
A man before the culmination of boyhood, protecting, disciplining, teaching your brothers the only way you knew.
Doing your best to do this father thing right, cause Lord knows you’ve been on the receiving end of heavy handed poor parenting.
He really does know though. He hangs from your rear vision mirror, dangles amidst beads and a paisley bandana. He’s tattooed in the space between thumb and forefinger, pacing and dancing along your skin. Shoulder to shoulder with marks of affiliation and a culture misunderstood.
You weren’t born for this; but you were born into this. A first born son trying to survive in an unfriendly land with no sympathy.
A leader of men and women; head high but chin down amidst brawls, holding cells, courtrooms and parole offices.
Dodging the hardest punches, ducking from every parole officer—you’re built for this. Built to outlast three rounds. To go the distance, wading through police interest, criminal charges, threats to your life, nothing in the fridge, everything and anything that broadsides you bare knuckled on a cold Tuesday night—
But it’s not like you had any other option.
Trying to get what you needed, what you deserved. And if they had it and you didn’t then you’d take it. It’s not like you had any other option.
Maybe that’s why you’re so religious. Christianity with its sleeves rolled up, its fists balled and knuckles split. Fold your hands in prayer. Clench your fists, flatten noses and crush jawbones.
Hands pulling at your ankle bracelet. Hands pressed into cuffs. Leaving a biting reminder on your wrists. This is what they want you to be. What you won’t give into, what you fight against, refusing to recognise your marred reflection in the mirror that they hold. See no evil, cast your eyes down. But one can kneel in prayer only so long before going outside to face the devil of reality.
You have a son. Raise your head from your hands because he needs to see his father’s face. See that you, that He, can be more than what we said he will be: Dole bludger. Criminal. Thug. Everything we labelled as an imperfection.
But this won’t slow the speed of your hands. Gainfully occupied so that there may be other options available.
They would tell you that even though your hands are never idle, they are still the Devil’s playthings. But Lord knows better. In the webbing of your fingers, he sees your life’s work. There are smaller hands to lead now. They will lack the knowledge you have, but maybe that’s a good thing.
Everything you have, you hold forth to offer to him. His palms will tell another story.