The Doctor’s Hands
My grandfather paid his way
through college & medical school,
playing the piano in bars, restaurants & night clubs
in Boston, New York & Philadelphia.
In my parent’s living room
is a picture of him in a tuxedo
sitting on a piano bench,
his fingers splayed on the keys.
He looks young & handsome.
My grandmother said the first thing
she noticed about him were his hands.
Later, when he had his own practice
& could afford a piano,
he’d play for my grandmother
while she ate dinner.
Then he lost a finger in an accident
& immediately sold the piano.
In all the pictures taken afterwards,
his hands are behind his back.
I left the jade green elephant at her apartment.
She brought it back from a work trip to India as a gift
& I placed it on her dresser that night.
I enjoyed looking at it when I stayed over.
It was a handsome elephant with a strong trunk
& a wonderful color that sparkled
in the lamplight. And it had a wise expression,
like it knew something about this world.
I’m glad I never took it home.
Given the circumstances, I would’ve
placed it in a box on the second shelf in my closet
with the other things.
D. Lifland has been published in Borderlands: Texas Poetry Review, Compass Rose, descant, Iodine Poetry Journal, Red Cedar Review, and The South Carolina Review.