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Hands have a way of shaping the history of where we’ve been: from the dimpled hands of a toddler mouthing everything in her reach, to the sinewy hands of a laborer plying his trade, to the willowy hands of a dancer enhancing her art, to the knowing hands of a father responding to his wiggly children.

And then there are other hands among us, set aside for matters of the spirit: those of the Jesuit priest James Keegan come to mind. He suffers from advanced Parkinson’s disease in a retirement home in Weston, Massachusetts. Decades of holding the Body and Blood of Christ during Mass, of holding the tormented sharing of others, of teaching others how to listen to the troubled, of holding on to his God in the face of debilitating illness that will culminate in death—all have marked his “scarred hands” with wisdom.

And even more significantly is the slim volume of his poems, These Hands (2017), drawn from the crucible of of his life. Nothing escapes his attention. The hands of his chaste spirit forage for precise words until the sought-for image bursts into consciousness and pleasures his readers. Such is God’s work firing his imagination and ours.

His concluding poem, And Give Our Best to Uncle, contains such a moment: “Before my teeth fall out/ and more joints start to click/ like a metronome collecting silence,/ I want to say, ‘I love you,’ once/ and have it understood/ the way the mirror/ understands my face.”

 

These Hands by James M. Keegan is available on Amazon. Even the book’s cover suggests a resurrection sunrise.

 

 

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Splat! Upon my hood, winds shake raindrops from overarching maples. I stop in my tracks, the sleeves of my slicker glistening with wetness like tears filming the eyes of a new mother.

I am alone.

Ahead of me mounts the asphalt trail, stippled with leaves: greens, coppers, browns, and mustards, with snatches of scarlets—denuded by fall’s encroachment. There’s no stopping her. A solitary raven caws. I look up. Clouds hover over this wetness like a seasoned gardener mulching flowerbeds. A droplet disengages a shrunken leaf from its mooring and spins it to the forest floor littered with twigs and dried stems. Musk pulsates from every pore of this wetland.

Such seasonal stripping reminds me of grace, subtly detaching us from the outworn, that which no longer sustains our spiritual growth. We dare not ignore this imperative.

 

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Sugar maple tree flames above me.

Trickster winds nudge single leaf from its mooring.

Like a gymnast, it sworls, down, down, down.

Then sticks to the glistening pavement.

Hairy veins, now empty of nutrients.

Musk steams from subsoil.

Stillness gawks.

 

Yet decay rejuvenates the cycle.

Spring will whisper under dove-gray skies.

 

 

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Available on Amazon

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