ARTHRITIS OF THE HAND IN WINTER

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Three vertebrae in the mid back that once were tender as willow, cracked in a fall from a three story building. Now they hold to each other as three widows would,  living in a one bedroom apartment. I have a nose broken in four places and a ring finger that can not bend, as a swan will, to its own reflection in a palm full of water. The body worships with a child’s faith every illusion of safety but, with age, begins letting go of faith, learning to make do with common sense and the support of a brace.

This morning the moon is the color of a mule’s hip bone, the one I found in a field of crowder peas outside New Waverly, Texas in 1959. The sky is white as the face of a man in his sixties, raised on pork. I am walking to the White Salmon again, following the circle of my breath. Hear the spangled screech of hawk or eagle hunting ground squirrel in the fog. Sounds like a tambourine or the ornate rowel of a Mexican spur suddenly set spinning.

Walking in snow a hundred feet above the river, I recognize my own boot prints coming toward me from yesterday. Cloud fills the narrow gorge to its limits. Crows caw to each other over the rapids, swell their breasts and make the popping sounds of courtship. In the shadow of an overhang, egrets are murmuring and their murmur is a twin to the murmur of the river.

Without gloves on, the cold moves ‘cross the swollen knuckles of my right hand, as a wind that circumambulates five sacred hills where little fires are built. This fire is how I know the sky comes down to the riverbed and enters into bone. My hand, the color of a slice of wonder bread, is open, offering the sky back to itself. The One without a name who takes the shape of water and of air is also present in fire and in bone.

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