Hands of Trees

Room 501



I am not afraid.
I have heard their voices, and seen their eyes.

With blue hands
I arrange the oranges and the pears, a still life
in three colors.
I have the wall by heart, van Gogh’s Starry Night,
the Praying Hands, and sometimes in evening’s half dark,
a frieze of gargoyles.

Six, I believe, under a high porch
I stood on my dad’s shoulders
and touched a butterfly’s golden cocoon.

Fourteen—barefoot in broom sage
I breathed the musk of old books, read in the
green shade of the June Apple
becoming Huck, Gulliver and Ishmael.

Tom, in diapers, takes three steps holding onto my finger.

It is Easter and a war is on.
They’re hiding eggs on the cemetery,
spreading cloth on the grass like a flag or a shroud,
Sharon in pink making faces at the camera.

I’m reminded it is time for my bath
and I need someone strong to guard my step,
to gather my spilled crayons
and tell me if it is only trees, and not ghosts or angels
whose hands beckon from my window.


Gayle Compton has been writing about the Appalachian experience for more than 30 years. His stories, poems, and essays have been published in numerous journals and anthologies, Tipton Poetry Journal, Kentucky Review, Trajectory Journal, and Mainstreet Rag being the most recent. He has worked as a coal miner, English teacher, radio announcer, and office factotum. Compton lives with his wife Sharon in Pike County, Kentucky.


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