March 2024

Back to Issue 15

Touched by the hand of God

By Denise O'Hagan


I imagine them banked up in the clouds,

               somewhere—those Sunday lunches,

strung airily through my memory:


the elder waiter, in deferential black,

               a fixture at the entrance, hands folded

like a priest’s, summoning the younger


to lead us in to an inner sanctum

               of tables draped in Alpine white,

but it was their cousin I was aware of,


as my parents listened to the recital of

               the plates of the day, and I dismantled

the pressed peaks of my napkin.


He moved slowly in his own space,

               navigating the uncertain waters of the

world outside his mind—the cacophony


of cutlery on china and the scrape of

               chairs, the dusky in-betweens of tables,

and the topography of conversation.


His collar and cuffs were stiff, his shoes

               held shards of light: he could have served

at a wedding. With singular focus, his hands


gripped around a bottle of mineral water,

               he laid it at our table, between the bread

and lemon wedges for the fish. All this


was important to him. The rowdiest,

               most impatient guests gentled themselves

when he was near, and I wondered whether


he brought out the best in us, this young man—

               who was, as my father had once remarked,

touched by the hand of God.