The end of the handshake

Maria Isabel Garcia
The end of the handshake
Would there ever be a gesture more 'equal'?


We cannot shake it off. 
The fear of touching another hand once again, 
gripping it firmly to seal an encounter with the other.

Would there ever be a gesture more “equal”?
More available and ready than a hand,
Swinging from the side of one’s rib
To meet another?

Ancient art depicted momentous handshakes
History reads it as a “gestruce” – an act of peace 
Unsettling hidden weapons to fall from fighter’s sleeves

Darwin bestowed credits to human hands
Noting they perfectly abided by the owner’s will
For making tools – raw grasps, fine clasps, 
For groovy (look Justin Timberlake!) locomotion worthy of claps.

Wilder Penfield drew our brain to the size of our top feelers
The hands, feet, and face were revealed as our masters
The world and the other we felt through those feeling headers.

We even naturally smell our own hands
After we have touched another!
And shaking with a firm hand, especially when you are a woman
Seals an impression, known to shoot success for a man.

But even without Googling Darwin, Penfield or ancient art
Your arm which ends with the hand, 
is what you can extend without having 
to throw off your gait’s grounding on land

Now with the crowned virus of these times
Swarming public life 
We have grown a stop signal for shaking hands.

In 1929, a nurse named Leila Given penned
“The Bacterial Significance of a Handshake”
Noting the rising fame of handshakes as a social ritual
And gasping at the things we carry right after.

The viral significance of a handshake
Is now something all of us know now know too well
Doing it now will ring deafening alarm bells.

So how do we rewire our ancient brains
To replace the handshake as a gestruce?
Do we do cartwheels or that’s too joyeuse? 
Or do we elbow, bow and up our thumbs for use?

How will we now say “hello” 
with the same hand that once shook another?
Or say “farewell” and “thank you” to an encounter?

During the black plague 6 centuries ago
Handshakes waned and so did kisses
Swept into a library of once-upon-a-time gestures 
That resurrected four hundred years later.

How do we now persuade our minds hungry to meet another
To code our bodies to tell another
“I am here”, “I am ready.”

Look at your hands.
They once met another’s. 
So many countless others. 
Say goodbye to that hand.

Birth a new gesture that speaks to another.
For now, or maybe forever.


Maria Isabel Garcia is a science writer. She has written two books, “Science Solitaire” and “Twenty One Grams of Spirit and Seven Ounces of Desire.” You can reach her at

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