Barb’s Healing Hands

by | Apr 18, 2015 | Poetry

“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

About The Author

Edward Harkness

Edward Harkness is the author of two full-length collections of poems, Saying the Necessary, 2000, and Beautiful Passing Lives, 2010, both from Pleasure Boat Studio press. His poems have appeared in print and online journals, including Crosscurrents, Fine Madness, Great River Review, The Humanist, The Louisville Review, Midwest Quarterly, Mudlark, Raven Chronicles, Split Lip, Switched-On Gutenberg, and The Salt River Review. His chapbook, Ice Children, was runner-up in the Upper Cut Chapbook Contest and is now available from Split Lip Press. He lives with his wife, Linda, in Shoreline, Washington.