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Frances’ Fingers
by Sarah Frances Moran

I drive down the highway gripping the steering wheel
so tightly my knuckles ache. I have to open and close my hands
repeatedly to get the feeling back.

The fields and fields of cotton flash by as I jet across
Central Texas.

Your soft hands
weak when you departed
felt so many things.

Your fingers curved together
like they were trying to hide each other’s age
and left you unable to pick up anything.

I look at my hands,
feel that ache already
and worry.

I think of what my hands
have done
and what yours did.

I think of all the lovers I’ve touched
and wonder about yours.

All the bolls of cotton you picked
the endless days in the sun
where your brown skin soaked up ray after ray;
did those days jumpstart your crippled fingers?

I pull over and pick a boll up off the side of the highway.
Roll its softness around in my fingers.
Look out across the vast rows of what your life was so many years ago.
Look at my hands and know the work they’ve done too.

Gripping that stolen cotton I get back inside my car.
Close the door. Turn up some Johnny Cash and recognize
I got more than my middle name from you.

PHOTOGRAPH: Frances and Sarah Frances, 1988.

NOTE FROM THE AUTHOR: I was named after both of my grandmothers but was closest to Frances.  She lived with us my whole life. She grew up in Central Texas, was a cotton picker, and later worked at a cotton gin. She blamed this for the issues in her fingers, her arthritis. I know some of it was her work, but some of it was also just genes. I think of her final year and her struggle just to hold simple things. I feel the aches already starting in my own hands and wonder how bad mine will be. I see cotton fields when I travel and think of her. The beauty of her and the pain.

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ABOUT THE AUTHOR: Sarah Frances Moran was born and raised in Houston, Texas. Writing for her came out of a desire to help others and has evolved into full blown insistence on changing the world.  Her aim is to poetically fight for love and harness the type of tender violence needed to push love forward. She strongly believes that words have immeasurable power. She is the founder/editor of Yellow Chair Review (inaugural issue, Summer 2015). Her work has appeared in Foliate Oak, Sediments Literary Arts Journal, Catching Calliope, Silver Birch Press, Elephant Journal, eFiction India, The Bitchin’ Kitsch, Digital Papercut, Harbinger Asylum, and The Boston Poetry Magazine’s online zine.  You can reach her at sarahfrancesmoran.com.