Memory of Hands by Takada Toshiko (手の記憶 / 高田敏子)

My son came by for the first time in a while
“Mom, want me to open a beer?”
“Sure, they’re not cold yet, though”
I set down one of the beers I’d picked up at the store in front of my son
And took out a corkscrew
My son picked up the corkscrew in his hands
And I watched as his hands removed the cork
Saying, “Glasses!” he jumped up
And took out two glasses
My son’s hands gave one glass to me
And I watched as they filled it with beer
Then they filled the glass in front of him
Giving a little toast
He said “Well,” threw back his glass in a gulp,
“I’m in a rush, so I’ll see you later”
“I see” After saying goodbye to my son, all I
Could think about was looking at his hands

My son’s hands were beautiful
The hands of a man just turned thirty
Young men’s hands are all beautiful
Smooth, free, strong
Holding my shoulders with his hands
He said, “Well,” and with a salute
He disappeared behind Japan’s waving flags
What did those hands do then?

I will never forget
The shape of all those hands lined up in salute
I wonder if I saw my son’s hands there among them?

No, my son’s hands did not salute
Even though they left enough time for “So long” and “See you later”
I will never forget those beautiful men’s hands
Raised in salute, as they vanished in the distance

NOTES:

Takada Toshiko (1914-1989) was a poet from Tokyo. She gained attention after publishing “In the Depths of Night’s Fresco” (夜のフラスコの底に) in the magazine New Leaves (若葉) in 1949. In 1967, her collection Wisteria (藤) won the Murou Sansei Poet Award. Her other works include Monday Poems (月曜日の詩集, 1962), Purple Flowers (むらさきの花, 1976), and Dream Hands (夢の手, 1985).

The original Japanese language poem can be found at ポエムコンシェルジュとさがす詩の世界.

5 thoughts on “Memory of Hands by Takada Toshiko (手の記憶 / 高田敏子)

  1. What a wonderfully expressive piece…. She was most certainly a gifted poet… and individual.
    I had a friend (he passed last year) and he too told the most wondrous stories in poem… I miss him and his poetry….

    • It is a great poem, and a little beguiling the way she seems to mistake her son’s hands with those of the other men going off to war. Thank you for taking the time to comment.

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