p
o
e
m
s

What is touch? A child
in an airport hugs grandpa’s
legs. The grownups smile.

Braiding my daughter’s
hair, drawing the strands along
my palms, smelling them,

that’s all in the past.
But my husband’s whole body
is in the present.

And holding my mom’s
hands, singing you are my sun-
shine, her favorite

song, while she died, how
grateful I am, that moment
years back, is present.

What a privilege
to lay hands on those coming
into our world, and

those taking their leave
or those who have made children
with us—privilege

unavailable
if it is covid taking
your beloved ones.

Then there is nothing
left to smooth over except
your own empty hands.

Alicia Ostriker is the author of sixteen volumes of poetry, most recently Waiting for the Light.

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