My Hands

Tariq Latif

All day I have wiped paste inks
From auxiliary rollers, ink ducts,
Rubber stamps and the work top. Dabbing
My fingers in trichloroethane.

The cleaning solution is clear as water
And smells like methylated spirits.
My fingers are numb. When I squeeze
Them they tingle, letting loose

Tiny electric bolts. The top part
Of the fingerprints is grained with inks.
My fingers are like lighthouses
Granulating under a storm of acids.

Fissures straddle across them.
Some cuts run deep as valleys.
The air is loaded with missile-shaped
Atoms that bombard the surface.

Dust plumes up. I shed flesh flakes.
My hands are ageing, faster
Than the rest of me, mummified
In the corrosive vapours of my vocation.