Father’s Hands

Father’s Hands  

Inspired by a little boy hid combs to save himself

As I hold the knob of my little girl’s door
I see the images of my father’s hand;
The hugeness of it when I cup her forehead to check for fever.
Like her mother, she measures her hand against mine.
They both delight in their smallness.
There is trust in this.

When I think of smallness
I remember my kid brother at four;
A comedian with canyons in his cheeks.
He had three of us,
Two big sisters and a big brother,
To protect him from the roughnecks on our block.
He made himself his own savior
In costumes of the Hulk and Spiderman.
I prided in his fearlessness
Until the day he hid all the combs in our house.

My wife is thankful that I prefer to rade the brown mattedness
Of Rudy’s hair each morning.
My girl is also glad because she is one tender-headed baby.
She trusts my hands more than her mother’s,
Who simply says, “Save your tears for your Daddy”
While snapping the tangles into place.

My father was not moved by tears.
“Boy, didn’t I tell you to get me a comb?”
And baby brother half laughing said,
“We ain’t got any;”
His hands held out without the expected fear.
The three of us watched.
We stood slack wishing we could defend him.

There was an age grade for beatings.
Five and under and you got a comb
Slapped hard against the palms of your hands.
From then until thirteen,
Father would take a belt to your behind.
He was careful about ass whippings especially with the girls.
“You all won’t be able to get married and
The hell-out-of here with scars.”
Beyond thirteen,
It wasn’t’ just about bad behavior or bad grades
But defiance.
He’s slap my sisters against their faces and
Knock me out with his fists.
“Now tell me who is the man.”
My father did not use combs.
He picked a high flying afro.

Baby brother said that we had no combs.
He did not know that this trick had been tried.
He did not know that Father would make us
Search the house to find tens of combs
Stuffed under the yellow suede of the couch.
By that time, brother’s hands were at his side
And there was fear;
The Avenger reduced to prey;
Underdog without powers.

At airports, my daughter opens my balled fists
To find gifts.
There is always candy in one hand or the other.
As Rudy eats the lemon drop,
She places her tiny paw in mine
And leads me home with her mother.

I see my father’s face in the mirror while shaving.
My fingers trace my chin for nicks;
And use toilet paper to blot out the blood.
My hands are large and long.
My women like them;
Something about their bigness;
Something about security.
I wish I did not have
My father’s hands.