My father’s hands were not like mine.
There was no relation at all
Between his working hands with their turpentine smell
And my hands which had done nothing.
His were an artist’s hands, you could tell.

After dinner sometimes he would stretch his arms out straight
Showing us a steadiness we would try to emulate
But never could.
He’d take the pencil from my homework pad and draw.
His sketches tripped across the page,
His fingers pushing lines where, just before, nothing stood.

I’d try to do the same and use my hands as he had done,
But nothing ever came.
Years later, thinking how he used his hands to fill a page,
I thought of how I watched and asked him to explain.
He never did.
But now I watch across another page a strength and skill I recognize
And smile a bit and understand
My daughter has my father’s hands.

Liebmann, a psychologist and educator, has been a Princeton resident for more than 30 years. She currently teaches at the Pennington School. Liebmann is a graduate of Sarah Lawrence College and earned her doctorate from the University of Pennsylvania.

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