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Poetry: Hands by Silvana Morales

Gabriel Safdie Undergraduate Creative Writing Award for Poetry
March 11, 2021

Silvana Morales is the 2019-20 recipient of the Gabriel Safdie Undergraduate Creative Writing Award for Poetry. Her winning entry, Hands, was inspired by Yoan Capote’s “Abstinencia (Libertad)”.


Your hands got you a ride to school, thumb pointing towards the hot sun.

They brought milk home for your siblings,

fought the bully who stole your only pair of shoes.

Your hands picked ticks off your little sister’s scalp,

plucked candy from the offerings your mother left out for her santos,

felt the sting of her wooden spoon on bare knuckles.


Your hands held many things:

scalpels, syringes, guavas, seashells, sometimes other hands.

Your mother’s before you boarded the plane,

the rosary beads you counted one by one

during the flight your hands shook

so you sat on them, felt the cracks in the leather seat

and wondered if this is what freedom felt like.


In your New World your hands lost their fingernails

to the cold, your hands ran their naked fingers

through snow the way they did through rice.

Your hands did the work no one else’s hands wanted;

used plungers, saws, wrenches, shovels.

Your hands learned the language of others like them,

hands not bound by accents, stutters, borders.


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