To the woman with hands made for biscuit making

To the woman with hands made for biscuit making
This poem is a celebration of her for me.

If the only existence her hands knew was the sticky wetness of rolled dough
curled between tired fingers or the floury weight of them
painting white the grooves of her old kitchen countertop,
where would she be?

Flailing limbs dangling between the stiff January air and
the shelter of Ma’s womb was how they arrived here.
No introduction would ready them for the height of the realities;
the flattened hope of the Carolina backroads.

Despite the circumstances faced;
—–seasonal pricks by the latest crop picking down at the Brileys farm or
—–the bruising from the always fighting for their lives.
They lived and they loved and
Oh, how they danced!

Stringing the washboard at the Sunday night services,
they danced with the church-goers moving to the sounds of God’s music;
they swung and twirled with the forbidden rhythms of the packed juke joints;
slow dragged in worn corners out of step with the laughter around them.
—–All to be sure not to let Ma’ find out.

Invisible to the light airiness of life;
alive only beneath crooked southern horizons and fainted dreams,
would they ever know that they would touch entire generations?
Stand-in where voices could not be heard and words could not be felt —
     parting and plaiting pig tails for school pictures;
     rubbing black concoctions on feverish bodies;
     kneading secret hopes into batches of buttermilk biscuits.
Loving in volumes, only as they knew how.

Their beauty now erupts in the sweet folds of unfamiliar lines;
complex rarity reminds me of the blue violets she tends to in the light of the morning suns.
Deeply indented, they move in parallel paths gathering and crossing at the join;
each wrinkled line carrying her stories to life. Immeasurable. Unconquered.
All connect her to me and make the unfamiliar known.

To the woman with hands made for biscuit making;
If the only existence your hands knew was the sticky wetness of rolled dough
curled between tired fingers,
where would I be?

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