Wrinkles - Amy Kotthaus


People stare at the wrinkles on my hands.

I’m pretty sure they do.

These hands shouldn’t look this old;

I’m not. 

It’s the constant washing.

Change diapers- wash.

Go to the bathroom- wash.

The moisture is gone,

and the skin puckers,

especially at those knobs

of bone at the wrist.

The soap triggers a rash 

along with tiny cuts that sting 

under scalding water.


Making chicken soup leaves a mark.

Start with clean hands- wash.

Rinse and peel carrots- wash.

Repeat with celery- wash.

Cut ends off and peel onion- wash.

Dice onion with new knife- wash.

Rinse and cut chicken- wash twice.

Cook soup- wash.


The lines on my knuckles deepen

like so many hash marks

keeping track of how many times 

I’ve cleaned them today.


I wonder if people question why

there are so many bandaids

on my fingers.

I once told a phlebotomist

that I got attacked by a rooster;

to explain the bandages, I mean.

Really, I didn’t want to chance

getting blood from the last patient

in my cuts. 

It seemed more polite 

than questioning her methods. 


Cleaning bathrooms is a process.

Start with clean hands- wash.

Place clean hands in gloves.

Spray vanity with bleach cleaner.

Wipe faucet, 

then countertop,

then sink.

Throw out gloves- wash.

Don new gloves.

Apply toilet bowl cleaner.

Throw out gloves- wash.

Don new gloves.

Spray toilet and seat with bleach cleaner.

Wipe down.

Scrub toilet bowl gently

so as to avoid splashing 

toilet water up towards face.

Throw out gloves- wash twice.


I don’t touch buttons with my finger tips

but with the knuckle on my pointer finger.

Too late I forgot there was a cut there,

and I pressed the elevator button.

I called my primary care physician

to see if I should get tested for…something.


I called my OB to be sure.

They’re in the same system.

Did I just call my regular doctor? 

Yes, but the OB would want to know, 

like when I shook that moth

off my belly and thought,

perhaps, I shook the baby too.







About the Author

AMY KOTTHAUS is a writer, translator, and photographer. Her poetry has been published in Ink in Thirds, Yellow Chair Review, Haiku Journal, Glass: A Journal of Poetry, Gnarled Oak, and Section 8. Her photography has been published in Storm Cellar, Ground Fresh Thursday, Crab Fat Magazine, Quantum Fairy Tales, Foliate Oak Literary Magazine, and Digging Through the Fat.

You can also find her here - Twitter: @amy_kotthaus