His hands are like oven mitts, large and red
from the strain of plumbing and pipefitting
and from the pressure on his heart, drawing and pushing.
In Viet Nam as a Marine Corps gunny
he cradled his M-16 in those hands tenderly
just as if cradling his two daughters.
He grew up a tough man in an unforgiving time,
boxed and wrestled in high school, enjoyed a fight
and his beer with his brothers down at Local 12.
So proud of his Irish heritage, he found heaven
in Southie when Annie from Dublin said yes
and gentled his calloused hands in her embrace.
One of his daughters was a tennis pro who taught her
father to play. I met him when he was fifty, after five
by-pass surgeries, looking out of place in tennis whites.
He wrestled his tennis racket like a pipewrench,
bludgeoning his way through matches, often as my partner,
me being designated peacekeeper for his erupting angers.
His hands are type A, veined and virile,
capable and strong but never too strong to keep
from being lent to aid a friend in need.
These hands are unclenched now and not so red.
The strain is gone and, folded across his chest,
those hands, no longer fists of rage, can finally be at rest.