Moya Cannon

Hands

for Eamonn and Kathleen

It was somewhere over the north-eastern coast of Brazil,
over Fortaleza, a city of which I know nothing,
except that it is full of people –
the life of each one a mystery
greater than the Amazon —
it was there, as the toy plane on the flight monitor
nudged over the equator
and veered east towards Marrakech,
that I started to think again of hands,
of how strange it is that our lives –
the life of the red-haired French girl to my left,
the life of the Argentinian boy to my right,
my life, and the lives of all the dozing passengers,
who are being carried fast in the dark
over the darkened Atlantic –
all of these lives are now being held
in the hands of the pilot,
in the consciousness of the pilot,
and I think of other hands which can hold our lives,
the hands of the surgeon
whom I will meet again when I return home,
the hands of the black-haired nurse
who unwound the birth-cord from my neck,
the soft hands of my mother,
the hands of those others
who have loved me,
until it seems almost
as though this is what a human life is:
to be passed from hand to hand,
to be borne up, improbably, over an ocean.

From Hands, Carcanet Press, 2011