Friday 2 April 2021

With your hands


With your hands

by Anne Goodwin

neat alcohol distilled from hand sanitiser


When this is over, will you remember

How you spilled from your shelters

Paused on your doorsteps

To pledge your support

Your loyalty and gratitude

With your hands?


When there’s a vaccine, will you fondly recall

How, primed by the press,

You joined with your neighbours

(Though socially distanced


In your separate booths)

You fisted your pens

You carved your crosses

For the white man who promised

To combat the virus

Of handholds and handouts,

Through immunisation from sharing, from caring, from mingling

With those who had drawn life’s short straw?




When your hairdresser’s bruised

At the hands of her husband –

Because the children were whingeing

And he’d drunk the last lager

And there’s nowhere to hide in a one-bedroom flat –

Will you glamorise your garden

Pluck out the weeds

Clip the first roses

To arrange in a vase

With your hands?


When your cleaner’s collapsed

In the queue for the food bank –

Having spent a six months’ rent

On renewing the visa

To legally wipe covid from hospital toilets –

Will you rub fat into flour

Beat eggs into sugar

With a whisk, with a spoon, with your hands?


When the rainbows have faded

Will your darlings want answers

As to why crucial contracts

For masks, gowns and testing

Were tenderly handed without competition

To party patrons and profiteers?


When scapegoating yo-yos

Between experts and migrants,

You-name-it minorities and benefit scroungers,

Will you tut at the tabloids

As you pay for your croissants

Then trot to your car

And squirt sanitiser onto your hands?




When Brand Boris-Being-Boris

Is your after-dinner speaker

Will you clap for old Eton

For boisterous Bullington

For the bow ties and tailcoats

                                         That hot-house debaters, optimists, egotists

Who chart the death toll with their hands?


When Parliament cycles

To another election

And you enter the booth,

Will your violence seem distant,

Self-interest more urgent,

Or will you discover

The power of your hands

To spread kindness





Will you repair

The damage you did with your hands?


About the author

Anne Goodwin’s debut novel, Sugar and Snails was shortlisted for the 2016 Polari First Book Prize. Her second novel, Underneath, appeared in 2017 and her short story collection, Becoming Someone, in 2018. Her third novel, Matilda Windsor Is Coming Home, will be published in May, 2021. A former clinical psychologist, Anne is also a book blogger specialising in fictional therapists.


Twitter @Annecdotist.


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