Poems


The Photo of Folded Hands
 
Two folded hands repose on a hoe handle’s end,
one over another, caked in fine earth,
bright brown in flecks of late sun, scores
of wrinkles line skin, hairline scars,
thin cracks, wait sweat’s emergence.
 
Shadows between fingers etch
miniature campesino cañons, thick nails capped
by curved clay like tiny tortugas, evidence of hours
hoeing, digging, planting, pushing into earth after
praying her permission with singing and pollen.
 
Hands that extend from arms and torso,
that know the rhythms from a thousand years
seeped through the genes: the cultures of compost,
the colonies of worms, the cultivations of ancient corn
colored red, blue, yellow, purple and black.
 
The photo is of hands, merely.  But I know this man—
this woman—hundreds by village, scores by face, dozens by name:
Mejicanos, Hondureños, Salvadoreños, Nicaragüenses,
Dominicanos, Chicanos with whom I’ve been compañeros,
who’ve taught the shape of hope—bend to work, stand to fight. 
 
In another space I sit at a provisioned table with other friends,
genteel pensioners, armchair anthropologists, keyboard activists
with drawn white faces who reverence science, reference Malthus,
speak of a failed species, do their bit—boycott the worst of brands—
yet, sadly, have not met the man with folded hands.
 
 
—Chuck Barrett