With Your Artist Hands


Doorbell rings shrill and echoes.  The knob turns and clicks,

more lungs to steal my oxygen in this thick air.

Then the cousins come. And you with your smile wide,

arms open, button down shirt closed,

are the first of them to enter.

You wrap me bury me in your strong embrace.

This air is of no consequence when I’m suffocated in salmon stripes,

I don’t know you and it’s killing me.


We’re family, and your welcome is without question.

I don’t want to welcome your yesterdays or you today.

I don’t want to feel your lips brush my cheeks

in light Italian kisses from overseas

or hear your thick American shout qui è bacio.

No, no ti amo. You promised.


My fingertips clicked across the keyboard for months,

trying to piece together your broken promises. 

I floated on words you typed from far across the Atlantic. 

Sure, you returned.  To the States, to our lives, a hangover

walking through the door hours late at our last family meal with Gram. 

You swore you’d be there in days, with your work from Italy,

at her bedside before she died,

but only I was holding her hand while you were missing. 

She didn’t wait for you, and I’m done with it too.


Pick up the brush she showed you how to hold

and paint me our childhood, both sheltered by her arms

or in pendulum on those creaky swings

outside the cottage they’d painted pink.

Let the oil gather and blend, stain the canvas in thick

convicting burgundies and golds.

Sketch in gathered dots, with a pen how Italians do.

Outline a family, arms tangled together,

and make your masterpiece a fantasy –

draw yourself between us all.

If you can, sculpt for me a past.

I want to see a statue that holds stiff

time, before all of this.

Holds her life, holds you at all.

Don’t let it lean or bend or lend to any

reflection of what is. Use, instead,

what you learned when you left,

and create us anew.


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