Photo & Poem: Slap Hands

Sit next to Jack, she said. Mother’s youngest
brother on leave from the Army at our kitchen
table. He pinched me hello and continued his
story, laughing too loud at his own jokes. The

center of attention with a can of beer and a full
ashtray. Oily-skin handsome, Jack goaded me into
the game, his hands palms up, squinting one eye
from the smoke of the cigarette clenched in his teeth.

Finally my small hands pushed out over his, my
shoulders cringing back, chin tucked low. Like a
door slam, his hands flipped over, slapping mine
hard enough to make my nails sting, acid tears

burned but did not fall. Not quick enough
to win, still offering out my parchment hands,
arthritic fingers stretched with the same dread,
never understanding the rules of the game.

Anna Blake for Relaxed & Forward 

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Anna Blake

12 thoughts on “Photo & Poem: Slap Hands”

  1. He still sees you as the child who is his little niece – kinda sweet. Unable to relate to you as an adult – kinda sad. Such is life.

  2. I don’t remember ever playing slap hands with an adult, maybe a childhood peer. Nonetheless, I resonate with the sentiment expressed here in your poem. I HATE it when children are lured into games they don’t understand by adults, and are bullied by the adults and their innocence exploited for the AMUSEMENT of those same adults.

    And is that so very different than how some of us treat our horses ? Setting them up to fail, then being amused by theirgullibility. Sorry, I seem to relate everything to horses these days, even when it’s not about the horse.

    Now that we are the Elders, some of us still don’t understand the “game” that is being played, except that it is wrong and the innocents, the gullible, are often hurt. We are more cautious perhaps, but still willing to play the game ?

    • Sarah, you described so well, it is being lured with the promise of contact/affection/being good, and getting punished for it. Humans or horses, right again. Dogs might get the worst of aggressive, confusing “play.” In the end, I still do it. I can’t always see it coming but I hope for the best. Thanks, my friend.

  3. The problem with being taught to be polite and respect our elders is that even if we recognize the pincher as a predator we have to good girl long enough to not embarrass ,the the opportunity ,our parents have to entertain and show just how well they are raising there family and how mannered their ,precious ,daughter is. Deep exhale, Anna .

    • How many kids feel they are surrounded by predators and no help? Even now, we don’t grow out of it and being less vulnerable isn’t any more attractive than joining in. That tension in the moment, you describe it well. Thanks Kim


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