She

for Carolyn Grace

When she sits at the kitchen table
while she talks her hands seem to balance
in the air faithful at the level of
her words; she is careful what she says.
The morning sun through the window strikes
her skin, shows how the faint lines in her
palms will come to deepen like corduroy
cloth to fit the weather of her age.
Still a young woman, she has to work
the graveyard shift, sleeps what is left
then wakes to get the kids to school.
It must be morning when she dreams.
Peering into her coffee’s surface
she looks back from its depth, her hands
caught holding an implement, a fossil of
her life: Alabama born, feelings
huddled north, these steel cities this cold month,
her dark soul twisting into fingers
whose motion at this brown angle
is the slow fall flight of leaves through time.
And she rises with the gesture, and
the oil in her hands is necessity’s
sweat: each hand on the tabletop
a work cloth rubbing the other fine
wooden one.

Christopher Gilbert, “She” from Across the Mutual Landscape. Copyright © 1984 by Christopher Gilbert. Reprinted by permission of Graywolf Press.
Source: Across the Mutual Landscape (Graywolf Press, 1984)