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.