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Every day is one-of-a-kind, special in its very own way. But last Sunday was extra special in the U.S., where many of us celebrated both Father’s Day and Juneteenth.

To honor the occasion, I offer you two gifts: “Hands,” a new poem, written with thoughts of my late father; and “Juneteenth Celebration,” by the Grammy Award-winning Sounds of Blackness. Their performance will get you dancing, if only on the inside!

May kinship ties be strengthened among us all!





            for my father


The last time I’m with you,
I make peace with your hands.
They’re big like the rest of you, now;
stiff and swollen, frozen midway
between holding on and letting go.
Their flesh is dead, robbed of all
feeling. But, deep inside, you still feel
the burn of nerves, magma boiling
beneath your crust, pushing up
to the surface. You erupt in moans.
No drug can touch this. You sit heavy
in your wheelchair, old king on
a terrible throne, right hand clawing
at the left, your eyes a glaze of misery.

My mother knows best how to love
you. In imitation, I pour lotion
from the bottle to anoint the pain.
Is this the first time I’ve ever held
your hand? So hard, so light.
I hold it like the shell of you might
break, though it’s impossible to hurt
you more. This tending is remedy
enough. Feel how love soaks into skin.


Phyllis Cole-Dai

Phyllis Cole-Dai has authored or edited eleven books in multiple genres, including historical fiction, spiritual nonfiction and poetry. She lives in Brookings, South Dakota, USA.

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