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Corey Pentoney - Soft Hands

My father has hard hands.
Machine-forged iron nails in place of keratin,
chain-link callouses where
pads should be,
on fingers and thumbs and palms,
steel tendons run beneath wood-grain
skin, and tree-sap sweat seeps
from his pores;
and it is with these hands that he has built

His hard hands have mastered techniques,
long lost, that turn wood –
ash, beech, oak –
into water and back again,
his hardwood will telling the trees
what they will become:
a chair, a house, a child.

He turns legs and arms and spindle-ribs
on the lathe with carving-knife nails,
forming each finger, each toe
of his child, every strand
of chestnut hair and, once assembled
they are flesh and blood,
not bark and sap.

No matter what anyone says –
geneticist of priest,
carpenter or prophet –
I cannot inherit my father’s flesh.
I cannot forge my hands from branches,
skin and bone from tree trunks.
Flesh must be earned,
day by day.

My father will die with a soft, pulpy heart,
but his hard hands,
made all the harder
from lifetimes of scars and splinters,
will live on, so that when
the world
the house
the chair
the child
burns to cinders,
they will be there to catch the ashes
and press them together again
with sticky-sap sweat,
and nothing will have been