Georgia O’Keeffe, Hands and Horse Skull.
Sometimes I sit with one sock on,
not ready for whatever’s next. Last night
I stayed up until day turned over into dawn,
taking the hourly pulse of a troubled world.
Kids are starting school today. We are not
prepared. The history lesson’s incomplete,
new civics books disguise the colors blended
into white. For art, the students need their lives.
Miss Meadows gave us time, stubs of last
year’s pencils, the thin, unbleached Manila,
the hour’s quiet freedom. I drew my left hand,
discovering the bones and shadows I still know,
and married art. These hands have winnowed
lines through raw potatoes, imitating light,
discovering the leap of salt, the laugh
of pepper, kiss of garlic after water.
My mother’s hands, her ring, are with me.
When she died, I felt the cool indifference,
looked into her gold-flecked eyes, stained green
with all the shadows that revealed their fires.
She doesn’t feel me brush her hair aside, hear
silk whisper to itself. She lifts her voice,
the wave of loosened horsehair from the bow.
The piano vibrates with her laughter.
Her hands became the cool of peace. How
can she be silent? She keeps the key
of what it means to venture and to die. Everything
before me, all I am, is still blessing her goodbye.
Rae Cobbs is a Californian made into a Kentucky keeper. She has been writing and teaching since she came to Louisville, Kentucky, over half her life ago. Through poetry, she keeps in touch with the physical world, the desert, which she misses, and her own life. Her poems carry the weight of the personal, social, and political changes that are being wrought. She lives in Louisville, Kentucky, with her partner and a house full of four-leggeds. She has twice been a recipient of a grant from The Foundation for Women.