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My Father’s Hands / Las manos de mi padre

By Alison Roh Park

My daddy's hands were scarred
and though the smallest details escaped
years ago I remember them a strong
brown like here is the axe that missed
the chopping block and here
is the sharp metal sizzle from the hotel
boiler room in America and here are the
paper cuts from my learned books
and here are the burdens I lifted hardened
into a new layer of skin and here is
the unruly child and here is the moment
I took your mother's hand into mine
and here are the hands that held
for as long as I could these hands that
struck and healed and labored and soothed
these hands will you please remember.


Las manos de mi padre

Las manos de mi papá estaban marcadas
y aunque escaparon los más pequeños detalles
hace años atras me acuerdo de una fuerte marrón como
aquí está el hacha que se perdió la madera
y aquí estan las maquinas de America que me quemaron
y aquí están las cicatrices de las hojas de mis libros y aquí
estan las cargas pesadas que yo llevaba y que creciaban
a una piel nueva y aquí está la niña indolente
y aquí es cuando tomé la mano de tu mama en la mía
y aquí están las manos que sostuvieron
por el tiempo que podían, estas manos que golpeaban
y rescataban y laboraban y tranquilizaban
estas manos por favor recuerda



Listen as Alison Roh Park reads her poem, "My Father's Hands," in English.


Listen as Alison Roh Park reads this poem, "Las manos de mi padre," in Spanish.

Added: Tuesday, September 8, 2015  /  The English version of Park's poem published as the Third Place poem in Split This Rock's 2014 Annual Poetry Contest (now named the Sonia Sanchez-Langston Hughes Poetry Contest), graciously adjudicated by Tim Seibles. Upon republication as Poem of the Week in October 2019, the author added the Spanish version. Used with permission.
Alison Roh Park

Alison Roh Park teaches Asian American Studies at Hunter College and is founder of Urbanity LLC, a social change enterprise. She is a past Kundiman fellow and winner of the Poets and Writers Magazine Amy Award and Poetry Society of America New York Chapbook Fellowship for her collection of poetry What We Push Against. She lives in Queens, New York, with her dog Kush.

Other poems by this author