James Lewis's Hands

My Grand (James Lewis) loved her (Ellen) very much even though he had many lady friends.
                  -Mother's Journal

James loved the ladies.
The women came with pies, oozed
words, as sticky as their pies.
They brought fresh churned butter,
thick and fluffy as summer clouds.
They buzzed and rubbed their legs
together, queen bees, drunk with want,
drawn to honey of his Cherokee tongue
and deep-set, promising, midnight eyes.
Even after James went to Staunton, Virginia,
miles away, brought Ellen to his marriage
bed, women came, as surely as seasons.
They followed James to his ripe fields,
shadows trailing a summer sun.
There he hummed, but never sang.

His long lean shadow cast him larger
as he stroked tobacco leaves with strong
brown hands; his eyes stroked them.
They watched his hands weave baskets, 
pull cane for chair bottoms, tried to will
his hands on them even for a moment.
Evenings his fingers wandered the curve
of Ellen’s neck and throat.
They entangled themselves in her hair,
made love to her lips and eyes, followed
familiar paths of her varied textures.
His warm lips and body in full and varied
tones sang his love songs for her.
Night ears heard him say, Beloved El.
She whispered her name for him, Song Bird.

Copyright © 2006 by Constance Quarterman Bridges. Reprinted from Lions Don't Eat Us with the permission of Graywolf Press, Saint Paul, Minnesota.