I hoe thawed ground with a vengeance. Winter has left my house empty of dried beans and meat. I am hungry and now that a few buds appear on the sycamore, I watch the road winding down this dark mountain not even the mule can climb without a struggle. Long daylight and nobody comes while my husband traps rabbits, chops firewood, or walks away into the thicket. Abandoned to hoot owls and copperheads, I begin to fear sickness. I wait for pneumonia and lockjaw. Each month I brew squaw tea for pain. In the stream where I scrub my own blood from rags, I see all things flow down from me into the valley. Once I climbed the ridge to the place where the sky comes. Beyond me the mountains continued like God. Is there no place to hide from His silence? A woman must work else she thinks too much. I hoe this earth until I think of nothing but the beans I will string, the sweet corn I will grind into meal. We must eat. I will learn to be grateful for whatever comes to me.
Kathryn Stripling Byer
Without hands a woman would stand at her mirror looking back only, not touching, for how could she? Eyelid. Cheek. Earlobe. Nack-hollow. The pulse points that wait to be dusted with jasmine or lavender. The lips she rubs rose with a forefinger. She tends the image she sees in her glass, the cold replication of woman, the one who dared eat from her own hand the fruit of self-knowledge.