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After all, these were good hands,
hands that could play Beethoven,
Bach, Brahms, or Debussy;
even Rachmaninoff was easy for his hands.
Some said he had genius hands,
like the hands of Helfgott or Horowitz;
others loved his Ragtime hands
that made him rise from the bench,
coattails flying as he wildly played.
Somehow his hands had a way
of making a room full of people
stop talking, listen, and even weep—
but these were not the hands we saw at home.
At home his hands were red and dry,
his bony fingers cracked and bled
and had to be wrapped in bandages.
And at home his hands were always practicing,
arching, crackling like strange crustaceans,
then scuttling up and down the piano keys.
Perhaps then they were happy;
but otherwise his hands stayed hidden
in the dark pockets of his slacks,
avoiding his wife’s hands,
the hands of own kids,
and seeming only to ache
for the applause of strangers’ hands.