by Claire Taylor
I’ve massaged the pectoralis minor. You sink your fingers into the armpit.
Layers of tissue, muscle and fat. Everyone has tight shoulders. A sore back.
No, I’ve never touched that while working, though I’ve been asked.
People moan like we’re lovers. Melt and soften beneath my palms. Does that feel okay?
But my hands already know the answer. The body doesn’t lie. Spills its secrets if you listen.
In a quiet room, sound of waves and citrus scent.
I rolled a friend’s thigh between my thumbs and fingers.
Circled her hips with my knuckles while she talked about her beach vacation,
plans for July and August. I didn’t say, you won’t be alive this summer.
Didn’t say goodbye as I ran a hand over her hair, gently cupped her cheek.
I’ll be back on Thursday. I never touched her again.
With these palms I pumped milk from my clogged breasts.
Fished my fingers through the back of a toddler’s throat to find
a penny with no value that nearly cost me the world.
When a headache starts, I press my thumbs into my brow bone, a daily practice.
My fingers can’t forget the softness of my dog’s ear.
The cool damp of his nose on my palm.
I brushed my hands along his back as his eyes closed–he’s gone—
and held the weight of his head one last time, disbelieving.
It’s been years and my ring finger sits empty. A hot day, cold river.
I’m not superstitious. My hands still climb the solid wall of his back.
Fingers intertwined like lives–at the base of his neck, in his hair, tracing the curve of his spine.
The heat of him, palm pressed to chest, touch dancing across skin.
I’ve cradled heavy heads, aching limbs, a robin’s egg held out for my son to see.
Soft blue of a spring morning crushed in an instant beneath the weight of his tiny thumb.
It is such a delicate thing, this world.
With these tired hands, I’ve tried my best to heal.
Claire Taylor (she/her) writers poetry, short fiction, and the occasional essay. Her work has appeared or is upcoming in numerous print and online journals including Capsule Stories, Kissing Dynamite, perhappened mag, and Canary Literary Journal. She is the creator of Little Thoughts, a monthly newsletter featuring original writing for children. She lives in Baltimore, Maryland, and can be found online at clairemtaylor.com, or on Twitter @ClaireM_Taylor