His Empty Hand

Or here’s a story. A man just back from elsewhere tells it to me.
The place I was, he says, the law was that a thief lost his fingers,
The theory being that he could not steal again, but an accusation
Was the same as conviction. A man I knew, his son stole bottles
Of water for a friend who had a new child and basically no cash.
The son is sentenced to lose his left hand, but the dad intercedes,
Offering his hand for his son’s. His offer is accepted by the cops,
An officer comes with an axe, they bury the hand with ceremony
Out back. Now, when this father, who was a friend of mine, tells
Me this story, and sure I gaped at his empty hand, I kept thinking
What’s the meaning of this, you know? What’s the message here,
Other than savagery and what, if you were polite, you would call
Cultural disparity, you know? And it is the dad who answers this.
Why, wouldn’t you give both hands for your sons and daughters?
He asks. Wouldn’t you give anything, if they are in some trouble?
In a way I feel shame, he says, because what happened is so clear,
As if I am boasting of my love for my son. But all mothers would
Do this, and all fathers. If you would not then you are not a parent,
You are only a means through which your child entered the world.
To only be a gate, not a man willing to lose himself, that is shame.
Is that not the essence of your believing in the Father and the Son?

roberta gittens
4 years 11 months ago

OMG! What a powerful and poignant piece - my hands flew involuntarily to my face.


Thank you all for this thought provoking, emotionally moving piece.

Don't miss the best from America

Sign up for our Newsletter to get the Jesuit perspective on news, faith and culture.

The latest from america

Edward Lally (center) is joined by his schola, Sarah Coffman, Katherine Keberlein, Ngaire Bull and Sarah Beatty, at St. Edward's Catholic Church in Chicago on April 8, 2017. Photo courtesy of Sarah Beatty.
With chant “you’re expressing something in pure melody."
Judith ValenteApril 25, 2017
Vivian Tuttle holds a photo of her daughter Yvonne, who was murdered during a 2002 bank robbery in Norfolk, Neb., as she testifies in favor of the death penalty at a public hearing in Omaha, Neb. in October 2016 (AP Photo/Nati Harnik, file).
The fight against the death penalty lays bare the strengths and weaknesses of the Catholic approach to pro-life issues.
Joseph P. HooverApril 25, 2017
Bill Nye's gags are every bit as goofy as they were in the ’90s. But his new show on Netflix is weighed down by a condescending attitude.
Eric Sundrup, S.J.April 25, 2017
A rally hosted by Senator Bernie Sanders of Vermont for a Nebraska Democrat prompted a flurry of questions about the party's pro-choice orthodoxy.
Michael O'LoughlinApril 24, 2017