My Mother’s Hand
By Ann Woodbury Hafen
Today I looked on a map of the West – my mother’s hand.
Flesh geography of the old frontier was there
In the strong blue veins that ridged the furrowed skin.
In the eddied knuckles, weathered nails, and gullied palm,
I saw how the raw West shaped a woman’s hand
As that hand shaped the West.
A picture map deep etched – this hand that worked a hoe,
That scythed alfalfa bribes for evening milk,
That carried ’dobes for the long-dreamed house,
That scrubbed out irrigation’s mud and sweat.
This steady hand that pressed the danger trigger,
Delivered newborn, needled shrouds, and washed the dead.
Through ninety beauty-hungry years,
Through four generations of weddings the small hand moved –
A self-willed dynamo that generated
Sixty stitches to a minute,
Twenty pieces to a quilt block pattern,
Forty blocks to a quilt
Of rainbow wedding rings to warm the matings.
In an Old World garden, this hand, velvet-white,
Secreted seeds in a young bride’s deepest pocket,
Guarded them from hunger’s blind devouring
Through six thousand hungry miles
And fed them at last to the black volcanic ash
Of the Rocky Mountains.
Out of a woman’s bended labor,
Watered by a widow’s tearful prayers,
Stirred by courage of a mother’s hand,
The sleeping land awoke to food and flowers.
Flesh geography of the West I touched today
In the seamed erosions of a weathered palm.
I saw the raw West shape a woman’s hand
And that hand shape the West.