The Hands of Joe Shanker
Bulbous nose, eyes set too wide, thick
brows, shadow of a beard that appeared
by four p.m. Sometimes, he told me,
he had to shave two or three times a day,
but his hands were something else.
Soft unmottled skin, tapered fingers
not blunt at the tips, nails carefully filed
and buffed, a swish of clear polish.
He wouldn’t shake hands.
I wanted a scar no matter how faint,
slightly swelled joint, hangnail,
some flaw, which could make me believe
the stories I’d heard that his hands
had supposedly strangled three women.
The Old Woman at the End of the Block
I was running out of time
so I decided to pay a visit
to the 103-year-old woman
who lived at the end of the block.
With measuring cup in hand,
I rang the doorbell, and asked,
Could you spare a year or two?
She invited me in for tea
and, while pouring Oolong
into chipped porcelain, said,
I could give up 1933.
It wasn’t a good year for me.
No, I’ll give you 1956 instead,
a stellar year, and you look as if
you could use some luck.
We were chatting about
the weather and such, when
she leaned over and whispered,
If you need more time,
come see me again,
because after I’m dead,
what good is it then.
I thanked her profusely,
and, with cup filled to the brim,
I took my own sweet time home.
Nancy Scott is an artist and author of five
books of poetry and managing editor of U.S.1 Worksheets, the
journal of the U.S.1 Poets’ Cooperative in New Jersey. Her most
recent book, On Location (March Street Press, 2011), is a
collection of poems about works of art from around the world.
Her poetry is widely published in online and print journals and
her artwork is frequently exhibited in Pennsylvania and New