“Letter from Georgia O’Keeffe to Alfred Stieglitz on Seeing His Photograph of Her Hands”

A Poem by Barbara Rockman from to cleave

October 4, 2019  By Barbara Rockman

Be calm, Alfred. No,
I am a plain woman. I rinse dishes,
pull weeds, and unleash the dogs on dirt trails.
I sleep in a narrow bed. I rise early.
These are hands that mix paint,
decipher sky. With these hands
I scratch my head at the improbable.
I twist them under my breasts in sleep.
Fisted against my stomach they fly
from my body in dream. Hands
at the tips of wings, Alfred.
How you splayed my fingers,
insisted I caress the absent forelock,
empty sockets, each stone molar,
imagining the horse’s rough tongue.
I want nothing of death, Alfred, nothing
of absence. These elegant hands cup seeds,
cut back echinacea, snip herbs for the sauce.
They tug knotted shirts from a basket, shake them
into light, clamp them to the line with bleached pins.
What can a man know of a woman’s hands?


to cleave poems

From to cleave: poems by Barbara Rockman. Copyright © 2019 by Barbara Rockman. Used by permission of University of New Mexico Press.

Barbara Rockman
Barbara Rockman
Barbara Rockman is author of Sting and Nest, winner of the New Mexico-Arizona Book Award and the National Press Women Book Prize. Her poems appear in numerous anthologies and journals including Calyx, Bellingham Review, Louisville Review, Cimarron, terrain.org and Nimrod. She teaches poetry in Santa Fe, NM at Santa Fe Community College, in private workshops and with victims of domestic violence as workshop coordinator for Wingspan Poetry Project. Recent residencies include PLAYA at Summer Lake and Atlantic Center for the Arts.

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