Paper Whites
by Ricki Mandeville

Each night at bedtime Grandmère sits on the side of her bed
and opens her expensive jars, their labels—some in French—

struck gold by lamplight. She slathers crèmes in lavish layers
onto her pale parchment hands, anointing them with long

round strokes across her knobbed knuckles, the wandering
blue highways of her veins. Her hands embarrass her.

They look so ancient, she says, like old tissue paper
saved and smoothed and used again. After tea she moves

her hands so quickly they blur as she covers the sugar
and rinses my cup. I grab the left one, press the dry petals

of her fingers to my cheek, thinking it unfair that these hands
must age like everyone else’s. These hands that wiped my tears

and stroked my hair. These hands that set pots of paper white
narcissus along my mother’s sill the morning I was born.

Illya's Honey Literary Journal

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