For great-grandpa, Will Rogers

Born in the 1800’s

 

My hand say, Pick, plow, push and pull,

‘cause it learned to curl itself around every tool

of work. The muscles say, bend yourself like the sky,

coil yourself blue around both sun and moon.

 

Listen, my back be lit by both. My hand

got its own eyes and can pick a field of cotton

in its sleep. Don’t mind the rough bumps —

the callused touch. I work this ground

 

like it was my religion and my hands

never stop praying. Some folk got a green thumb,

look at my crop and you’ll testify my whole hand

be covered. I can make dead wood grow.

 

I listen to my hand, it say, Work.

My hand got its own speech. It don’t stutter

it say, Work, Will. Though it comes to mostly nothin,

this nothin is what I be working for.

 

Come harvest time I drive the horse

and buggy to town. Settle up.

This is where my hand loses its mind,

refuses to speak.

 

Dumb-struck like the white writing page.

The same hand fluent on the land,

don’t have a thang to say around a pen.

The same fingers that can outwork any man

 

wilts. What if I could turn my letters

like I turn the soil? What if I could

make more than my mark, a wavery X

that’s supposed to speak for me?For great-grandpa, Will Rogers

Born in the 1800’s

 

My hand say, Pick, plow, push and pull,

‘cause it learned to curl itself around every tool

of work. The muscles say, bend yourself like the sky,

coil yourself blue around both sun and moon.

 

Listen, my back be lit by both. My hand

got its own eyes and can pick a field of cotton

in its sleep. Don’t mind the rough bumps —

the callused touch. I work this ground

 

like it was my religion and my hands

never stop praying. Some folk got a green thumb,

look at my crop and you’ll testify my whole hand

be covered. I can make dead wood grow.

 

I listen to my hand, it say, Work.

My hand got its own speech. It don’t stutter

it say, Work, Will. Though it comes to mostly nothin,

this nothin is what I be working for.

 

Come harvest time I drive the horse

and buggy to town. Settle up.

This is where my hand loses its mind,

refuses to speak.

 

Dumb-struck like the white writing page.

The same hand fluent on the land,

don’t have a thang to say around a pen.

The same fingers that can outwork any man

 

wilts. What if I could turn my letters

like I turn the soil? What if I could

make more than my mark, a wavery X

that’s supposed to speak for me?