My classmates were assigned

to slice the skin off

your forearm, so I took

your hand in mine.


Your right hand not

unlike my right hand,

a thenar eminence still cushioning impact, and

palm up, as if expecting my acquaintance

Nice to meet you, Ms…


A life line, broken,

and a 10-year-old’s bright pink polish

hidden on the other side

of 75-year-old fingers.

How old are your grandkids now?


I took your hand

gingerly at first just

steadying a stiff old limb

on a phenol slick table


but later, after a while

of feeling what dying could mean,

how cold it could be,

how lonely,


I held your hand wondering

if someone had been there to hold you,

your nerves and vessels, your organs and muscles,

to receive this blessing of your outstretched palm

before your kidneys left you

a body

with grandchildren somewhere.


-Rachel Kelley