A baby's hands are always beautiful.
I was twelve when Adrienne was born;
I was old enough to notice.

She waved her hands more urgently
than other babies.
When she was four
she could wrap chubby fingers
around a broom, and sweep,
and she did.

When she was fourteen she had lengthened out
to Mother's thin and concentrated height;
to prove she was not Mother
her long thin hands were always straightening
books on shelves, pictures on walls,
silverware on the table, the collar of my blouse,
the seam of her jeans as she sat;
she would put order into her world.

She has the fine long fingers of an artist,
of a poet,
she gestures like an actress,
like a woman who has been to Boston,
soaking up the patter of poets
with the rhythm of waves on the harbor,
a woman who has taught in artist communes in Pennsylvania,
telling them what Lou Welch said.
I could watch my sister talk for hours.

She can sell hand-decorated cakes;
make her own clothes;
dresses for her daughters;
she tried to show me how to chop vegetables properly,
but my hands are not machine guns.

Mother never gestured with Lou Welch,
decorated cakes, sewed party dresses,
or wanted to --
but the blood in Mother's hands
began to eat my sister's,
swelled in the joints,
cracked the skin,
eating outward,
opening holes --

I have felt her fingers soothe my forehead.
Even twelve years late, Adrienne
always considered herself my more mature sister.
I have seen her fingers shake in anger at me.
Red-knuckled, skin cracking, cramped around the soup ladle;
her children would always be fed.
Pale and shaking beneath the page
at one last poetry reading.

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