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My Mother’s Right Hand

Posted: April 2nd, 2011 | Filed under: feature, random image | 13 Comments »

It’s funny, the things that stick with you when you’re a kid. I always knew my mother’s right hand was damaged. I knew there were at least two things that contributed to it — a polio infection when she was five years old, (around 1935), and some kind of freak lawn mower accident involving my grandfather, when she was about ten. Whatever the case, I was always fascinated to watch her write a letter. She just held the pencil funny. But oddly, her handwriting was always immaculate. It never added up.

Today, I drove up there to Kentucky, to check on her. She’s now almost 81. We walked around the yard, and did our customary “inspection of the grass, and the flowers”, then I asked her if I could photograph her hand. She laughed and said, “Sure, if it doesn’t take too long, because I’m hungry”. I set up the still camera and shot some frames — both the top and underside of her hand. I was looking through the viewfinder, and then I’d take her hand in mine, and I’d move it around on the tabletop, in order to compose the photograph. Was wonderful to just take her hand in my hand, like that. It was warm and soft. After the stills, I set up the other camera to shoot some video, (see below). I love just watching her talk, and watching her think, and pause to recollect the memories. I asked her to write something, to demonstrate her “penmanship”, as she calls it. And she wrote, “I love you, Mark”, unprompted by me. Promise.

Also, below is a scan of one of her letters to me. She’ll cut up anything to write on. I save the letters now that she’s getting older. Some of them I don’t even open, because I don’t want to mess up the envelope.


[Edit/Update: Last night, literally five minutes after I published this post, I received an email from my dear friend Lanie Gannon. With her permission, I’m posting this nice poem and her note].

Just one second before seeing your post about your Mother and her hand I was reading this poem and feeling the mother love… The unconditional and utterly devotional love of (my) mother…

My mother will never die.
As soon as one of her eyes grows old, I’ll rush to her
and turn her eyelids young again.
As soon as her face begins to wrinkle, I’ll immediately commission painters
to repaint her.
Without a moment’s delay, I’ll choose the greatest painters
and send them on an emergency mission
to restore her wondrous body,
fresco by fresco,
like antique friezes
in secret attics, naves, and balconies.

My mother will never die.
I’ll swallow her myself, piece by piece.
I’ll gulp her down and spit her up
more beautiful
and pure.
I’ll sprinkle her with hyssop.
And she’ll be as white as snow.

Mother won’t die because I’ll betake myself to her
and pray, and on the spot my prayer will become my mother.

Mother won’t have a chance to die
because I’ll turn into an air-bag
before the fatal accident. I’ll die in her place every time.
I’ll go and methodically rejuvenate her,
I’ll bring her the water of life
from where hills clash and rear,
the mountains battling tooth and nail.

Everyone who tells me my mother will die
I’ll butcher. I’ll put them up in the coarsest, most barbarous salt
and throw their heads to steep in a barrel,
in a sea of wine.
Of wine and Easter cake.

And Mother died. But just a little.


Chelsea Cleaners, 8th Avenue

Posted: February 14th, 2011 | Filed under: place, random image, storefront | 1 Comment »

My old dry cleaners has gone belly up, but the gorgeous neon still hangs on the wall in front. I have always love to drive by, on a super-sunny day, and watch the abstract quality of how the white neon tubing contrasts (or not) with the white brick behind it. Someone, some day, is going to steal salvage the word “beautiful”, (hopefully), and preserve it. I love the condensed typeface.