I first became aware of you (rather than just experiencing your usefulness) when at the age of eleven, I spotted a pair of hands resting on the Formica dining table in the school dinner hall, and realised that they were attached to my arms, and that they were mine;
Sometimes I have drawn on your thumb nails and made them into the faces of the nuns from The Sound of Music;
You have carried fragments of food spat out on to my knuckles by my piano teacher every Wednesday, after her supper when she tried to teach me to read music, and failed;
I have desiccated you by swishing you about in weak nitric acid very day when I was an etcher at art college, then covering you in sticky black ink and cleaning you with a mixture of white spirit and Swarfega;
You have knitted children's jumpers to the point of getting cramp, fingers tangling up in wool and knitting needles;
You have held those children's hands, as they evolved from tiny gripping baby clamps, through fat, sticky, podgy toddlerhood to self-assured childhood, to 'don't hold my hand any more'.
You have stumbled across guitar strings, learning muscle-memory shapes, forgetting them and then learning them again;
You have held pencils and pens, channelling drawings on to paper, coaxing them out of the blankness to the surface so other people can see them apart from myself.
You have clapped: at so many gigs, and also to kill moths, over and over again;
You have been scratched while picking blackberries, and borne the stains of the juice, and suffered the weals caused by the hidden nettles that stood guard over the blackberry bushes;
I have written on you constantly- ideas, ideas, ideas (I am so sorry about defacing you every day like this);
You have worn gloves, as I tried to protect you;
You have massaged my father's feet as he lay fading from life, and mopped my mother's brow as she started to drift into the summer wind on her final journey.
Thank you hands: I salute you.