(S)kin

This is a spoken word piece! You can see / hear it on my YouTube channel here

(S)kin

When I was a little girl my mother used to gently pinch the skin on the back of my hand.
‘Look how quickly it falls back into place,’ she would say
Then she would pinch the skin on the back of her hand and say,
‘Look how long it takes for mine to fall back into place.
That is because my skin is old.’
All my mother could see was dry skin and tired hands that cooked and cleaned, day in, day out, looking after three children, a husband, and the family home.
She saw hands that applied make-up before her husband awoke,
As she tried to save an unhappy marriage.
And hands that worked hard to make a mark
In her professional career
At a time when women were not even encouraged to work.
All I could see was the beautiful skin that covered the hands of my mother.
They were the hands that held mine to make me feel safe,
and brushed back the hair that fell in my eyes,
Or stroked my cheek
While I fell asleep,
Cosy and warm under the blankets
My mother’s hands had tucked in around my small body.

Then I grew up and became a mother,
And my mother became a grandmother.
She would gently pinch the skin on the back of her granddaughter’s hands and say,
‘Look how quickly it falls back into place.’
Then she would gently pinch the skin on the back of my hands and say,
‘Look how quickly it falls back into place.’
Then she would pinch the skin on the back of her hands and say,
‘Look how long it takes for mine to fall back into place.
That is because my skin is old.’
All my mother could see was thick skin and rough hands that cleaned an empty nest,
She saw hands that reached into the unknown, clinging to her new identity as a single, middle-aged woman,
And hands that continued to work hard to maintain the marks
She had made in her professional career
At a time when it was unusual for a woman to make marks.
All I could see was the beautiful skin that covered the hands of my mother.
They were the hands which had waved goodbye to an unhappy marriage,
and no longer applied make-up in front of her new lover,
Hands that still brushed the hair from my eyes,
and stroked the cheek of my daughter
as she fell asleep, cosy and warm
under the blankets my mother’s hands had tucked in around my daughter’s small body.

Then my daughter grew up and became a mother,
And I became a grandmother, and my mother became a great-grandmother.
She would gently pinch the skin on the back of her great-granddaughter’s hands and say,
‘Look how quickly it falls back into place.’
Then she would gently pinch the skin on the back of my daughter’s hands and say,
‘Look how quickly it falls back into place.’
Then she would gently pinch the skin on the back of my hands and say,
‘Look how quickly it falls back into place.’
Then she would pinch the skin on the back of her hands and say,
‘Look how long it takes for mine to fall back into place.
That is because my skin is old.’
All my mother can see is paper thin skin and hands that have buried the ashes of her long-time lover,
Hands that grip tight as she struggles to stand,
Or bruise too quickly with the slightest knock.
And hands that tremble as they hold the documents that record the marks she made during her career,
At a time when women were presumed to never leave any marks.
All I can see is the beautiful skin that covers the hands of my mother.
They are the hands which hold pens to write poems and trowels to plant seeds,
And hands that touch with understanding and occasionally still brush the hair from out of my eyes,
And hands that touch with understanding and occasionally brush the hair from out of my daughter’s eyes.
And they are the hands that clasp in contentment as my mother sits and watches
As I stroke the cheek of my granddaughter
While she falls asleep, cosy and warm
Under the blankets that my hands have gently tucked in around her small body.

Thoughts