To my hands

You came out clenched, like two walnuts,
when I slid into the world,
then gradually uncurled like ferns,
finding your way into mouths, eyes, porridge.

Later you wrapped yourselves round stubby pencils
to form my first As, Bs and Cs.
A few years on, I gnawed your nails
in my worried teenage mouth,
and your fingers made discoveries
in the slick coral heart of me.

Soon you moved fast enough
to make boys spill their seed.
You balanced cigarettes, held soggy joints,
trailed in rivers beside lazy boats,
fanned out like angelfish
as I swam in the South China Sea.

You wielded an editor’s blue pen:
insert, rewrite, delete, stet.
Later still, you learned to type
on an Amstrad’s qwerty keyboard,
sent faxes, never mastered texts,
graduated to desktops, laptops.

In between, you rubbed off cradle cap,
tested milk – too hot or just right,
wiped babies’ bums, smeared on cream,
combed thistledown hair, snapped poppers,
did minimal washing and ironing,
waved tall sons off to university.

You are still labouring,
pecking away on keyboards –
more stiffly now.
Your veins form a relief map.
Your papery skin has lines
that gather on your finger joints.

At night, I often wake
to find you tightly clenched.

– by Kelly Davis. This poem was Commended in our 2016 Competition 

Kelly was born in London. She studied English Literature at St Anne’s College, Oxford, and worked as an editor for Penguin Australia, Longman UK and BBC Books in the 1980s. Since 1989, she and her husband, Ian Francis, have lived in Maryport, on the West Cumbrian coast. Kelly is the author of several non-fiction children’s books and has worked as a freelance editor for nearly 30 years. Her poems have previously been commended in The Cannon Poets ‘Sonnet or Not’ Competition 2016 and published in Quirk magazine (Hay-on-Wye) and A Big Bag of Sonnets (Caldew Press). She is a member of Wigton Writers and the Market Place Poets, and chairs sessions at the annual Words by the Water Festival in Keswick.