POETRY: “Your Knuckles” by Liz Kingsley

I hope you don’t mind that I’m holding your hand, dear sister-in-law,

I don’t want to hurt you. But these knuckles, I’d know them anywhere.

For such a delicate woman, your knuckles were always so wide, large, bony bumps.

The only large thing about you. I think this is the first time I’ve touched them. So soft.

You’re in a bed in the dining room while your boys, Keith, and your parents come and go.

You are the hub even while you lie here with your eyes closed. It’s what they call a hospice.

There’s so much to tell you. Your brother wants to buy our son Alex a car. I couldn’t believe it either. Should I let him?

I’m going to make us a Grey Goose Cosmo so we can toast our new lives; we both left our first husbands and are now step-moms with five kids.

I’ll drink for both of us. You looked at me, years ago now, over sushi, and said that you’d found peace in Keith.

I was thrilled for you, but didn’t know how to tell you I was leaving Jared for a woman with three kids.

Once at the lake, you said that if it ever came down to it, you’d keep me in the divorce.

Last September during Rosh Hashanah services, you gazed at Keith with these eyes and I thought, my girl’s in love.

We hugged outside the temple and you started crying. Did I do something? I’ll take it back.

A thousand years ago, when we were in high school, at your parents’ house, Jared came down after showering and you said loudly, “I’d do him.” Only you.

Your beautiful boys. Remember when Jeremy was choking at the house in Tenafly? You tipped him upside down and yelled, “Don’t leave me now.”

Even at 89 pounds so tough. Is this going to be our last conversation, me droning on?

It’s too soon. We’re almost us again. My sister, you can let go now. Do you know that the last text you sent me says, “huh?” We can’t end on that.

I’m going to sit here and caress your big knuckles, though I want to climb into your bed, stroke your

hair, and make little circles on your cheeks with my finger like you did to my boys when they were babies.

Liz Kingsley‘s poetry has appeared in New Ohio Review, The McNeese Review, and The Round; her fiction has appeared in The William and Mary Review; her essay appears in the collection “BLENDED: Writers on the Stepfamily Experience”; and she was nominated for a 2013 Pushcart Prize. She studies poetry with Philip Schultz at The Writers Studio. During regular business hours, she is an elementary school special education teacher. She lives with her partner, their five children, and their two dogs in Westfield, New Jersey.