The Fine Art of Thumb Twiddling (poem)

I wrote the following poem at least a decade ago. I’d forgotten until this evening when I unearthed a CD from a dresser drawer and had a look.

I help my mother ease into the passenger seat,
guiding her by her elbow with one hand
and balancing her canes with the other,
I tuck her coat along her hip,
extend the seat belt to her wavering grip
and wait as she fumbles with the catch,
she's triumphant when it clicks,
I check her elbows, check her knees, check her feet
then close the door
I start the car and she shoulder checks, checks the front,
looks side to side,
I try not to look annoyed
She's quiet for a little while
before she relates some news,
summarized with a commentary from her point of view,
and I'm cutting through traffic as I explain the way
the world works
she makes a little noise, purses her lips and squints her eyes,
I turn to small talk,
she answers in monosyllables,
I swear at an old man confused by traffic lanes,
Mother bows her head,
my eyes droop with guilt when I glance at her,
she's staring at her hands neatly intertwined in her lap,
at a red light, I see her thumbs passing over each other
       forwards, backwards, forwards, backwards,
and she lifts her head defiantly,
thumb twiddling,
an ancient art,
passed through generations to delighted children,
one child being me,
through her twiddling thumbs she speaks,
and I shrink with humility
from the icon in my passenger seat

Categories: Arts and Leisure

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