My mother’s boyfriend, divorced like her, just as heavy with need,
would come home from always falling behind
and work his hands in the garden till they ached.

Whatever was in front of him consumed him—
juicing bags of grapefruit, watching the hockey game,
asking how my day was. His caring was overly serious,

as if repenting for whatever my mother, or I, or he,
never knew about his first marriage, or why he stayed
in it so long. I knew he was more generous than he

needed to be with his ex-wife and kids, and that they
always wanted more. We tried to help him talk about
all the mistakes he found on the construction site.

Try to forget it, for now, we’d say, you’ve done enough.
What would you do if you didn’t have to work?
Where would you go, if you could?

He never remembered his dreams, even when we asked him.
My mother dreamt of a roller coaster ride with my father,
and told him how the screaming reassured her.

That’s interesting, he said, and sounded like he meant it.
After dinner, we’d stay outside to watch the city’s
moving lights. It was strange to say nothing, but I needed

to see him this way—and maybe he needed to see me—
grieving, wanting to look past the grief in labor, or generosity.

:: Matthew Schwartz, Blessings for the Hands (2008)

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