Ode to Ten Digits

Your fingers curl, and your grip tightens ’round
the steering wheel as I sit in the back of the car
watching you drive. Through the windshield, the view
opens up to a sprawling horizon atop frozen ground,
but my eyes stay on your hands, spread equally far
apart, grasping the helm at positions ten and two.

The radio plays a crooner’s melody; your fingers drum
an accompanying rhythm upon the wheel
one at a time, bah-rump, bah-rump, a double-beat
moving all your fingers synchronously. Now one thumb
rests loosely below the bar and I watch your fingers feel
around the polyurethane molding from the back seat.

You round a curve and the car swings right; your
left hand casually rounds the wheel, making the move
to reposition the vehicle; the fingers glide up and back down,
coming to rest again at the bottom where they were before.
You flex your hands on the wheel and let them fall; you’ve
driven this road hundreds of times, on autopilot back to town.

An ache; a shift. You switch hands, left becoming pilot
and right resting gently on your thigh, fingers running parallel
to the lines that cascade down your corduroy pants.
The tendons under your skin course with violet
blood, flowing against flesh and unfurling the swell
of sheer power emanating from the grip of your hands.

My gaze is transfixed; my eyes can’t look away
from your hands’ every move as you navigate the course.
Though my mind meanders, bewitched are my eyes
by your steady hold over the chassis’ gentle sway.
A sudden flash crosses my mind, imagining the force
of that grip anywhere else, what power within lies.

Like a fist tightened around a barbell, ready
to lift the deadweight, sending a surge of might
from shoulder to fingertip, your able hand
clenches the steering wheel now, arm steady
and bold in perfect position; knuckles white
in your clutch against skin lightly tanned.

Yet the force contained within your grip is blanketed by
a softness: heightened by the ability to wreak havoc
by a mighty pull or suffocating grasp, but eased
by your empathetic caress of the wheel — satisfied
your hands will steer us gently through the traffic,
your gentle touch still keen for a squeeze.

Your hands have danced tangos in combat boots,
flown trapeze in bulletproof vests; performing a show
for my unintended benefit, here, watching from the rear.
And as you drive on, your fingers resting with poise resolute,
oblivious to the watchful eyes of your passenger in tow,
who is content to admire your hands from back here.

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