April 5, 2013

thank the work of our hands | National Poetry Month

“Thank the work of our hands …”
            -Richard Blanco, One Today
                           
I never thanked the work
of my mother’s hands
that sewed clothes for my sisters and me
that made comida out of a sparse pantry
that prayed and hand-crafted rosaries,
hands that cleaned other people’s houses
and other people’s children.

I never thanked the work 
of my sisters’ hands
that dutifully cared for me
when my mother could not
and that helped me with my homework.
Often it was their young overworked hands
that scraped together the rent.
To this day, it is their hands
that mean most to me.

I never thanked the work 
of my father’s hands
that sliced the flesh from fresh carcasses
in a chilled meat packing plant,
hands that helped me move,
that changed my oil.
Tired hands that say, “I love you”
when his words cannot.

I never thanked the work 
of my Tia Noche’s hands
that showed me how to work efficiently
in my first job out of high school
at the explosives factory.
Her hands invited me to work puzzles
spread out on the dining room table,
the one only used for special occasions.

I never thanked the work 
of my friends’ hands
that offer welcoming handshakes
enthusiastic support,
and comforting hugs.
Their talented hands show me
what is possible.

I never thanked the work of the hands 
of the men I loved
skilled hands that tilled soil, picked fruit,
danced across keyboards,
and augmented machinery.
Hands that caressed my face
and whose gentle fingers
traced my lips.
Hands that, in public and in private,
searched for and enfolded mine.

All these loving, working hands
that wipe countertops,
chalkboards, and windshields,
as well as sweaty brows
and mournful tears,
reach for me when I am lost.
They proudly pat my back
or gently take my arm.
No, I have never thanked the work
of these many hands.

Nor I have ever thanked the work 
of my own hands
that clenched a garden hoe 
as I walked uneven fields,
hands that blistered, cracked,
and bled under an assiduous sun.
These hands labor so my soul can search
and my mind can reflect on and thank
the work of our hands.

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