This woman talks to me with her hands
she always has, since birth
I have failed to grasp them.
I have followed the voices and text
I’ve found outside the home,
words on pages in whatever language, discipline or culture
bound by libraries,
left this woman to create her own story
with soil and seeds, flour and salt,
a cloth, a needle, a pot, an oven…
her fingers are an alphabet
I had no patience for.
This is the woman who knows how to hold
with her lined and stained hands
the story of all those other women
we service with a system of pay-outs,
those women of colour on the General Motors assembly line
playing the conveyor belt like an instrument
they will never learn,
those Hispanic women wearing paper masks as they spray
jeans and their lungs into shreds,
her fingers twitch when they tell
of the Thomastown factory’s sewing machine
stitch by never-ending stitch
bleeding before a stop for break
the dip and throb of migraine fighting quota.
This is the woman
silenced by statistics.
We must search for her
not in photo albums nor newspapers,
we must go out to the wild woods
where there are trees left to grow old,
like hunting for prized truffles
we must smell, touch and taste,
and when we see her
hold out our hands
as children willing to learn.