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2014, Aaron Elson



My Father's Hands

2002, Elaine Kozak

Elaine Kozak

Elaine Kozak of Kenilworth, N.J., is the daughter of Jim Koerner, one of the veterans whose story is featured in "9 Lives."


So long,

So long ago there were the hands of a young child

Holding his mother's hand, his big brother's hand

His father's hand

Little hands playing with toys,

playing stickball,

Making snowmen

Making the mischief of a child.


Hands doing assignments of writing, arithmetic

in a composition book.

Hands doing chores for mother.

Hands getting in fistfights with bullies.


All too soon, the hands of a brokenhearted boy

holding his own face

crying mournful tears

for the father who took his own life.

Childhood ended abruptly, cruelly,

Now a young boy's hands

selflessly supporting

his widowed mother.

Heart and hands calloused too soon.


A little while after

A young man's hands volunteering into service

for mother country

to serve in World War II

Weary hands

that carried wounded soldiers

over frozen battlefields

Shamed hands held clasped over his head

and forced to surrender to the enemy


Hands that chronicled

A POW's personal journey of

Being to Hell and back.

Hands that couldn't mend the scars

Of secret places in the heart

memories of harrowing experiences

The inhumanity of it all --

White winters,

Blue Christmases

invading the quality of life.


Tight-fisted, angry hands

Enclosed in boxing gloves

trying to punch away the pain

Striking out at the world.


Hands of a hard-working vet

joined in matrimony to a lovely country girl

Hands that soon nervously held

A firstborn baby girl.


Hands that work, help, support, give

Hands that bring little surprises

As well as, hands that dole out spankings,

Hands of a hard-working family man.


Sometimes, hands that are skillfully wrapped

Around the trigger of a hunting rifle.

A ritual of bonding with his brother and mentor

There is tranquility in the forest

There is music in the songs of birds

Healing in the running waters of the stream.


Hands still empowered with an iron grip

Playfully engaging the younger hands of his sons

Testing their strength -- testing his own.


The sands of time sift through these hands

so quickly, so quickly into

the hands of a hard-headed Octagenarian.

Hands now gnarled and racked with arthritis

Still keeping busy, still struggling

Still strong.


Hands that now fashion lighthouse creations

Colorful blue ocean scenes

Evoking New England memories of

Happier days gone by

Hands still always outstretched

Not to receive but to give.

Not for support for himself

but to support others.


A father's hands clasped together in prayer

to the Father of All

Hands bearing the cross

fashioned with love so great

from the One whose pierced hands

forged the way for us all.


May the Good Lord always bless

my father's hands.

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