This Living Hand
By John Keats
This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calm'd -- see here it is --
I hold it towards you.
From Poet's Choice in The Washington Post Book World, in which Mary Karr recalls visiting the museum where Keats died and meeting by coincidence a former student who had never forgotten the poem above. "Try reading it slow, out loud, pausing a bit at line ends and punctuation. In doing so, you'll be sipping breath in time with Keats himself...not a blockbuster -- that fragment -- but the depth charge it set off in us may well trump any action-movie explosion viewed by millions."
Hello from New Jersey, where we are staying overnight after an afternoon in Brooklyn, visiting my uncle who is very much improved -- thanks so much for all the good wishes. Traffic to New York was no fun but it wasn't so bad in New York, particularly once we got over the Verrazano Narrows Bridge and drove up Ocean Parkway -- always a nostalgic experience for me, since it reminds me of visiting my grandparents in Brooklyn as a child; I still have trouble looking at the hole in the Manhattan skyline. My uncle is in a hospital in a largely Orthodox Jewish neighborhood where girls in black skirts and men in black hats were sitting on porches and parks waiting for the latest Havdalah of the year; there were bagel places open as we left Brooklyn that had been closed when we arrived.
My parents were at the hospital and hung out with our kids, who weren't allowed in the ICU, while we went to see my uncle in gowns, gloves and masks. He'd been unconscious most of the day before, but although he was very weak, he was perfectly comprehensible and in surprisingly good spirits, so I am really glad we came to see him -- we'll go back in the morning. After we talked to him for a while, we went for a ride with my parents past the house in Flatbush where my mother grew up, then out to dinner at the El Greco diner in Sheepshead Bay right on the water, with fishing boats returning and dinner boats just leaving. It was a beautiful cool evening and we walked a bit along the water after the meal.
The house where my mother and uncle grew up on East 8th Street, now a shul downstairs and residence upstairs.
Swans and boats in Sheepshead Bay. Brighton Beach is in the distance across the water.
We saw both fancy dinner boats carrying prom dates...
...and commercial fishing boats, though that industry is being crowded out by the posh homes and sailboats in nearby Manhattan Beach.
This footbridge connects the neighborhoods.
Seagulls wheeled near the restaurants and fishing boats looking for leftovers and handouts.
Change the models of the cars and some of these street corners haven't changed much in decades.