Get Your Hands
Katharine VanDewark was born in Baltimore, Maryland, and lived a bicoastal life as a child. Moves were regular—every three years—with final settlement in Southern California, where she graduated from the University of California, Santa Barbara, with a BFA in painting. She has been a fine art photographer and dancer, and has been writing poetry since the 1980s. She hosts a monthly writing group in her living room and seeks out open mike nights to read her poetry and hear that of others.
Her work has been published in the Poetry in the Garden anthology and in Coracle. She is grateful for the guidance and instruction she received from Regina O'Melveny, Peter Levitt, Jeff McDaniel, Jack Grapes, and Suzanne Lummis.
April 27, 2009
Known in Poland as "King Kristian the Glorious"
the white haired pianist said,
after almost reaching the end of his program,
something not quite audible.
Was it "keep your hands off my country" or
"get your hands"? A murmur went through the audience
flummoxed by the indistinctness of his words.
Either phrase opened a roomful of possibilities.
Did I want new ones, or would I keep
those already attached to my wrists?
"Get your hands":
I could use new ones, I thought.
Others with the same idea had left their seats
and walked down to the stage.
He sat at his piano, assembled by his hands
from pieces he packed
in Poland, checked through the baggage claim
and picked up at the disgorgement bay
of the international airport.
Ushers, caught off guard, watched
stunned to motionlessness.
People wanted new hands
and were queuing up to get them.
This wasn't covered in usher training class.
Would there be a choice of size? Shape?
Would freckle patterns be available?
"I'd like something shaped like the borders of my country"
or that approximates "the profile of my second born."
Questions hum through the audience:
How do you like your fingers? Believe it or not,
long and tapered is not the majority choice.
Many would go for the Italian sausage look,
or the strong, long kielbasa.
Cold hands, hot hands, sweaty hands,
stiff hands, dirty, clean, arthritic, young, loose, old.
Hands as weapons,
as fetish objects
as can openers
as carressors of keys.
"Keep your hands":
So, you want to maintain ownership
of your manos, mani, mains, rece?
You're attached to yours?
Do you take proper care of them?
Ask: Would they choose to remain attached to you?
Do you take them dancing; for walks on the beach;
let them dabble in ceramics, football, window washing,
sexual stimulation? Do you pamper them
with the steering wheel of a Bentley or
suffer them to be stuck to a Ford Focus
or a '73 VW micro bus?
Ladies: manicure or remain naked?
Do not think your hands could care less
because if you do, they will betray you.
They will drop your new plates or
your grandmother's crystal, repeatedly.
They will let the knife slip
leaving blood in the bell peppers
and loose flaps of skin,
cuts on your fingertips
that will take weeks to heal.
Krystian's hands are genius, the most talented to touch his
custom-designed keys and hammers since
After the final piece—Szymanowski's "Variations on a Polish Folk Theme"
there was no encore.