Everything You Make with Your Hands


This poem tied for third place in the 2021 Clinton F. Larson Poetry Contest, sponsored by BYU Studies.

Todo lo que haces con tus manos tiene valor she said, and we knew
what she meant. That Christmas card of glitter glue
and crayon. That yarn potholder born from a tiny loom
like a lute. Even the Pinewood Derby car, blue
with a white stripe down the middle, wobbling
its way into seventeenth place. We knew the making of it
was the point, what gave it worth.
And we thought we knew all the things her hands
had made—tortillas, enchiladas, empanadas for Easter,
tamales for Christmas Eve, a Thanksgiving turkey
roasted in mole, and three dozen buñuelos to share
with my fifth-grade class. For my mom and tía Isa
she sewed dresses to match their Christmas dolls, and Isa,
knowing what they were worth, played only with my mom’s,
cutting its hair and dragging it through the dirt
until it was ragged, while the colors on hers remained bright.
Though that one is gone now. Gone, too, the bedspread she quilted
for me when I was small, a yellow ducky in a forest green border
that faded to sickly olive as I clutched it to myself for a decade,
feeling each even stitch for comfort until it disintegrated
in a slow blizzard of batting and fabric. I shiver to remember.
As for the rest—the aprons and folklórico dresses and baby
blankets with crocheted edges—it’s only a matter of time.
Only a matter of time for us. Already we have passed
the anniversary of the day when the last great-grandchild
who remembers being cradled in her trembling hands will pass
away. And then the day after, when we rise up, unabashed,
quickened by the knowledge that she meant us,
that cradling too is creation, that we were the first
and final work of her dark, refining hands.


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