Gary Young’s first collection, Hands, mines the image of human hands for both their symbolic and quotidian significance. Like the hand that raises a curtain to illuminate a room in the book’s title poem, this collection celebrates the world and our joy at connecting with all that we find there.

Thoughts on Hands:

Young’s hands feel and ache and write. They caress: touching
a mother in distress, cupping a wife’s soft body, healing the dwarfed and the misshapen. Hands are a subtle image rendered with ease. Young eschews gimmickry for layered meanings. . . . Humans are seen vividly also, as if Young views the world around him without eyelids, or with a sharply focused telescopic lens. He is a gentle poet, of fine lyric gifts. I found many clearings of the springs in Hands.

“Mr. Young has seized upon the metaphor of hands as our
connection between the sense of physical and spiritual feeling. The variation achieved by this recurrent metaphor is a tribute to the poet’s dexterity as much as to his sensibilities. Young is a craftsman.”


Poems from Hands

Walking Home from Work

Asphalt and gravel flex with my shoes as the heel
hits and pulls the rest of my body forward.
Ahead of me, twilight is ending
and the ragged outline of the mountain
is glazed with iridescence, each tree
singular and sure.
Each night the same. Or if not
the same, then part of one long night
that leads me to my house, there
on the high ground of the foothills.
A thin streak of gray smoke
rises from the chimney,
a string from which the house
is suspended in the darkness.
I am a block away before shadows appear
moving against the fogged
windows in the kitchen.
My wife is baking bread. A hand
reaches up and wipes away the steam.
Light spills out of the kitchen
and begins to fill the world.

Secondhand Suit

In the musty racks
of the St. Vincent de Paul
I have once again fallen
in love with another man’s suit.

It is not a coincidence
of style that attracts me;
this is how I will see myself,
this is what I will be.

Between the double breasts of the jacket
is a door through which
I enter the world. I feel
the blue serge, and its texture

assures me of my own texture
and substance. I have come
to this jacket, to this material,
and discovered my place here

has been justified.
The world accommodates us.
I put on the suit
and the padded shoulders fall

evenly into place.
The baggy trousers hang
with an air of contrite

I turn slowly before the mirror
and remember my mother once saying,
you have the body
of a beggar, everything fits.

The Pears

Slumped in a broken-backed oak chair,
or leaning, in the garden, against
beanpoles and smooth-handled tools,
the summer touches and slows us until
like fruit, we swell with it. My hands
have thickened and lost their grace.
I am good now only for clearing brush
or turning compost into the dull, gray soil.
What delicate work there is
the season accomplishes without me.
Scallions carpet the field around the fig trees,
and the pears ripen into yellow bells
that fall and ring into the ground
and into our arms and legs as we bend
to gather the last fruit of the year.

Copyright © 2013 Gary Young - All rights reserved.