This is the third of four posts during Holy Week 2009 featuring peoms by R S Thomas.

The poem that Andrew Rudd has chosen for today - Wednesday in Holy Week, 2009 - is one called 'The Hand'.

The Hand

It was a hand. God looked at it
and looked away. There was a coldness
about his heart, as though the hand
clasped it. As at the end
of a dark tunnel, he saw cities
the hand would build, engines
that it would raze them with. His sight
dimmed. Tempted to undo the joints
of the fingers, he picked it up.
But the hand wrestled with him. "Tell
me your name," it cried, "and I will write it
in bright gold. Are there not deeds
to be done, children to make, poems
to be written. The world
is without meaning, awaiting
my coming." But God, feeling the nails
in his side, the unnerving warmth
of the contact, fought on in
silence. This was the long war with himself
always foreseen, the question not
to be answered. What is the hand
for? The immaculate conception
preceding the delivery
of the first tool? “I let you go,”
he said, “but without blessing.
Messenger to the mixed things
Of your making, tell them I am.”

Some of you, like me, may find this a difficult poem. I suggest you read it again before reading my thoughts below. Once more, I was unable to make the service in Holy Week where Andrew led the thoughts on this poem, so I am unable to summarise his words. But here are some of mine.

I had to read this poem a few times before, in any way, getting to grips with it. I then continued to reflect on it during yesterday. The progress of my thoughts followed this pattern:

  1. Incomprehension. Struggle. What is the hand?
  2. The hand signifies mankind (I am supposed to say 'humankind' here!). God is struggling with knowing the consequences of creation.
  3. The hand signifies God's own creative instinct. God struggles with the consequences of God's own creativity, which is leading towards the creation of a being in God's image and, therefore, with a creative instinct of its own.

Perhaps you have other thoughts? And what about 'without blessing'. I wonder what was going through Thomas's mind when he wrote that?

Enjoy your reflections.


  1. Anonymous  

    13 April 2009 at 14:07

    OOh I missed this one in the week somehow.
    I'd be lying if I said I totally understand but sentences resonate personally and objectively....especially around struggle and understanding.

    I guess for me the hope is always that jesus struggled..Jesus wanted to walk away...
    Maybe 'without blessing' is hard for me to too?? Or that things will happen in the world..people will hurt each other and that will not have my blessing but I have given choice...
    Might be totally off the track but I will keep reading it..

    Col x