Old hands

Martin Malone


Vein-braided landscape
Like some satellite snapshot of a tangled delta
Stippled now with brown pools,
Ridges risen between the inlet of thumb and finger.
Broken, crooked half repaired veterans
Of fighting, writing, grasping, caressing.
Red crevassed knuckles, humpback hills
Between blue river valleys,
The play of muscle contracting, raising a tendon,
Moving like a windblown dune.
These old man hands, my father’s hands,
My grandfather’s crooked tailor’s hands.

Memory resides in flesh,
Muscles and souls,
Touching a pen, a shot glass,
Stroking soft skin, marked by sharp scents,
Stretched flat on a tabletop.
The sorrow of remembering that once…

Palms have always had their sibylline lines
This other side once smooth,
Now battered unnavigable
Filled with the runoff of so many years.


Martin Malone was a professor of sociology and anthropology for 31 years. His chapbook, Simple Gifts, was published in 2014. His poems have appeared in Dream International Quarterly, Lighted CornersThe Monocacy Valley Review, ScribbleSeminary Ridge ReviewPennsylvania Bards Against Hunger 2018, Backbone Mountain Review, and are forthcoming in the Pennsylvania Poetry Society 2021 Anthology. He is one of the organizers of Gettysburg’s First Friday Poetry Series. He lives in Gettysburg, Pennsylvania.