“Barb’s Healing Hands,” says the hand-painted sign
I pass each day on my neighborhood stroll.
Who’s Barb? There’s her hand-lettered phone number
in black. Those would be her hands, I gather,
pressed not quite in prayer, more like reaching—
a little swollen, the fingers crooked,
arthritic on a plywood stand propped up
on curbside grass. Apparently, Barb does not
paint well. The bouquet of florid lilacs
the hands hold, faded by the usual
erasure of sun, rain and winter wind,
seems childlike, as if she’d turned the pages
of Gardner’s Art Through the Ages, pausing
at Gauguin, her brush daubed in Prussian blue.
I could use Barb’s gnarled healing hands myself.
The world could. Every day the unspeakable occurs
somewhere, in some far country, some city,
prison, senate chamber, my city, my
neighborhood. Every blessed day Goneril
gouges out Glouster’s eyes. Soldiers fire missiles
through the windows of a family’s bedroom.
I should drop in some afternoon and see
what Barb charges, assuming she still lives,
assuming Barb’s Healing Hands still massage
those muscles knotted from living on earth.
Her hands might revive my numb lower back,
my bum left shoulder. As for the world’s aches,
Barb would need, like Maioshan, Chinese goddess
of mercy—she who hears the cries of the wretched—
every one of Maioshan’s one thousand healing hands.
Photo By: Joaquin Villaverde