You Start At The Top and Go Straight Down

Crouching beside a low table, and folded like a leaflet,
I help five year olds to write the alphabet.
Charlotte points her pencil: “ What’s that on your finger?”
“Something must have bitten me in the garden,” I say.
“Ugh.” She shrinks away.

Maggie asks, “Why is the skin see -through around your eyes?”
“Like very screwed up tissue paper,” adds Alice.
“Like I blew my nose on it,”  says Jason S.
Their upholstered, velvet skin is so unmarked,
The eyes, nostrils and lips seem to pop out of it, surprised.

I say, “You start your ‘I’ letter from the top and go down,
Not from the bottom up. I will show you. Again.”
They stare in horror at my knuckle bulges,  at how the grey veins
On my hand, swollen and uprisen  like worms on a brick path after rain,
Cross three bone bridges before disappearing.

“Is that a wedding ring?” asks Leo.
“Did someone give you that?” asks Aiden.
“Concentrate. You start at the top and go straight down,” I say.
“Do we have to do this?” asks Jaden.
“Everyone has to,” I say.  “And everyone does it this way.”
*

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7 thoughts on “You Start At The Top and Go Straight Down

    1. O yes. I’ve had ‘Why are you so wrinkled’ and ‘Take your blue eyes of me… please’. When I first read Annie Dillard, her chapter on Skin in “An American Childhood, just jumped off the page for me and there’ve been many times I’ve shared that piece! I was with you with those children for sure, Janice.

  1. Oh dear, reminds me of when my younger daughter picked at my mother’s crepey skin and said, “You’re so old, Nana.” Nana was unimpressed. Now, like you, it’s my turn!

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