She had the hands of a country woman
Hands that had reached deep into the earth,
Had known the strength of scythe yet
Could ease the ache of bloated cows
At milking, were gentle with the
New-born chicks of spring
Long before a wedding ring embedded in her flesh
Taking her to where houses grew in place of corn.

But she did not mourn the past.
Brought it with her. Her hands found roots
In the new soil.
She never hid her hands, never wore gloves
To mass on Sundays.
In child dreams I dressed them in satin
Smoothed the knotted knuckles
Into slender stems, made them fragile
As a flower.
Not seeing then the beauty they possessed
How they fashioned the living truth
Of what she was.

On my sixteenth birthday she surprised me
With a dance-frock. I watched
As cloth and hands made perfect partners,
Saw it dip through her fingers before
Spinning to a coloured pool at her feet.
I caught a startled glimpse of the woman then,
Her own dreams stitched in the red silk.