Pearl Pirie

the chair is more straight-backed
than mine, my head-heavy spine droops

his road burn looks like a rash
scraped under the forearm’s skin

in ICU the world is pump swish
quiet with rainbow vials for blood

I want to photograph those hands
between nurses and neurologists

you say it’s uncouth somehow.
those hands, black ground into them

dirt under the nails, long and ragged
from working baler twine and wire

I photograph on the sly the tourniquets
the number-machines, creating patterns

next time I get to watch them be still
they have thinned, been scrubbed,

nails trimmed and wrist cool to the touch.
rough hacks moisturized out.

all the arthritis disappeared in weeks
of not pushing, Sisyphus against pain.

fine, smooth, whitened glove-hands
of a gentleman, like his own father’s.

Pearl Pirie has 3 poetry collections, and is director of the Tree Reading Series. She writes from Quebec. Find out more at