MANUAL LABORS

 

 

Forrest Gander

Scratch Bent

In the pocks of a
palm-size granite stone,
traces of green corn, purslane,
(purslane) and piñon fuse
with smeared roots
and the dust of beeweed
pollen (ochre dust) which rains
all summer into the swinging
braid of a woman kneeling
and (kneeling) bent over
a stone basin pressing
down from her shoulders,
her muscles flexed
trapezius to
triceps, the wrist
working a short
orbital swipe, hand-
stone taking
the curve
of the palm (the curve)
and her torso’s weight
while swallows dive
(dive) and veer along
the cliff, the warm
scabbed heel of her
palm bearing down
(heel of palm) into
and into the skirling
sound, stone
an extension
of the hand
that grinds it
wheel-wise,
the maker alive
in her tool (alive),
flies fussing and
landing, her hair
fallen across her
eyes:
inset in this rhythm
a slower rhythm
to which
she rocks her baby
when he cries
and the variable
tempo of her breath
her body’s cadences
countless (breath)
in decibels of quartz
on basalt—and all
this vesicles
into the stone
into the stone
goes a rabbit hair
brushed from the hand
that flensed
the hide in late
afternoon when red
ants poured from
holes in the rocky soil,
ticking across fluff grass
(square-headed ants) toward
the garden (a start
in the leaves)
where three turkeys
propitiously were tied
to peck at the (leaf-
eating) ants,
a minor victory
that registered
in the eyes of
the woman scuffing
stone on stone
in the (skirling) shimmering
blare of violence
and time
that turns out the light
between the hidden-
ness of God pouring
into her body (alive)
and our suspended
moment (or less) of
unveiled attentiveness.