My great-grandfather’s hands fold
over his chest light as paper wings
all the brownness drained out of them.
Folded as we fold dishcloths,
as we fold newspapers
after they’ve been read, the creases
misaligned and quiet. Under the stillness
a flurry of fingers stained with shoe polish
nails black with oil. Palms caked in cool earth,
rabbit fur, cactus spines
plant, pick, skin. Kneading
masa to make tortillas turns hands white
with flour and lard, turned
his cuticles and knuckles white
white like I came out—white
as the powder on his paper casket hands.
My uncle stands before him
with full liquor bottle eyes. Calls him
old man as he reaches in to shake his hand,
finding it brittle as a pile of sticks
hard an organ calcified. Uncle reels
slurs his steps, staggers into the pew.
My great-grandfather’s hands
lay gently as a bird dormido.