On and on these days,
frequent washing of hands
has a sinister gloom,
fearful, mandated, unguaranteed:
Fill hands with water.
Make sure that it’s warm.
Soap up–not enough–
twenty seconds, no less.
Scrub hard, scrub harder.
Don’t you know COVID kills?

Years ago, worlds ago, my father
would lather his hands,
soap bar and warm water,
okay to keep faucet running
so heat stayed just right.
He’d perfectly cup his hands,
foamy, gentle, and snug,
around my small ones
and we would both giggle.

Instantly his soapsuds were mine,
as he held my hands,
as he held them as one.
He would wash topsides first,
enough magic fizz left
to cleanse the inside of
my fingers and palms.

I still feel his hands
enclose mine these days,
like tender, happy gloves
of bubbles and cashmere.

He rinses with perfect silver
streaming water,
glistening flow against my skin.
All the time he instructs how
to clean hands myself.
His voice caresses as he teaches
washing, rinsing…pat dry.

Such a minute touch of life.
But what difference today.
Now it’s the memory itself,
sparkling and clear,
that protects and comforts
as it washes over me.