Poems & Essays

25 Jun

What Hands Cannot Mend

General/Column 2 Responses

He brings me fistfuls of broken things:
tiny cars with wheels jammed awkwardly into hubcaps,
pieces of tumbled Duplo towers, books with torn pages.
Fix, he begs, sinking all his faith into my fingers.
I unsteeple my hands to busy his with lessons:
Tape fastens orphaned flaps, gentle hands preserve stories.
Needle and thread mend Bunny’s smile.
This is how the pieces fit together, how the cap
closes the bottle, how stubs of crayon melt
into a new whole, how life teaches what is fragile
to be fierce.

But some things stay broken.
I apologize for dropped stitches, shield his fingers
from jagged glass, bury spent balloons in the trash,
pray that he’ll forget. He doesn’t. He is attuned to absence:
the empty chair, the car that never arrives, the moon
that slips behind a cloud. Where go? he begs. My hands
cannot smooth the fret lines knotting his brow, so I fold them
over his and say: Goodnight, moon—then I hold my breath.
He turns the page. And all that my hands cannot mend
is born again as hope, and air—
and words.



Tracie Renee Amirante Padal’s words have won awards; appeared in newspapers, magazines, journals, and international anthologies (including Stories of Music, The Official Poets’ Guide to Peace, and Embers & Flames); and been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. When not writing or chasing after her preschooler, Tracie fosters a love for literature as a librarian in suburban Chicago.

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Would you like to join the discussion? Feel free to contribute!

  1. Larna Keane

    June 25, 2018 at 6:43 pm

    What is he missing? Why can’t we spare the absence?

    • Lynda

      October 1, 2018 at 7:32 pm

      For me, the poem balances on the line “the empty chair, the car that never arrives”.

      As the speaker observes, the child “is attuned to absence”.


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What is Near? June 25, 2018 After Delivery June 25, 2018