From Issue 18: My Parents’ Hands

Ellen Stone

 

I saw the way she pushed them –
flickering like river –
into the mound, turning what
was almost weightless
into substance, flour of air,
pinch of sea, sludge of yeast
she drained, slight foam
from the narrow bowl,
hard plane of her wide palm
pressing on counter, leaning
with her urgent weight, making
something live that was static.
The way her brain flew, fingers
turning dough into baby, white
dusting cabinets, floor, her face
a studied countenance of care.

The manner in which he held a hoe
as if it were a loved thing, what
can be leaned or relied on, his
intention sharp as a pine’s outline
on the ridge over the dark swamp.
Then swung it, swift cuts into dirt,
precise, methodical as a church bell
but sharp enough to kill a helpless
small thing. How he let me help
hammer iron stakes, string line
to make the rows. His hands
that raised the sledge above
our heads & released it over
& over. How I thought life would
always be like this, measured
even in cruelty, even in death.

 

Ellen Stone teaches at Community High School in Ann Arbor, Michigan. Her poems have appeared in Passages North, The Collagist, The Museum of Americana, The Citron Review, and Fifth Wednesday. Ellen’s poetry has been nominated twice for a Pushcart prize, as well as twice for Best of the Net.