Shelling The Pecans by Lorna Dee Cervantes

Shelling the Pecans

I knew what a woman’s hand could do:
shred the husk into threads, weave lips
together at the seam. Rock to hard body,
empire to thrust into knave—the native
touch tocando música up the spine
of the violin, some song of silk and gut.
I knew race was a matter of degree,
that inch in the face, that notice
of dismissal. How to work all day
at a posture, at a stance, at attention
paying attention to none but the awl.

I put my hole into you, this notch
between the breasts, this discovery
and treason. Hembra a macho. Fixed.
O defined in the still shell of history,
a destiny written in the charts and lost. Lost
in the unnoticed memories of you, a flicker
of change, some small scrimp
of light. Tu luz. Ahí allá—a la ala
and the scoop. Your aguila eyes sweeping
up the dawn’s desire. This night. I remember

shelling the pecans. Nothing but a bucket.
No ride exceptional. Nothing but a dream
to entertain us. I dreamed this moment—
all the sweet meats in a risen weight going
higher to the rim. The price and the pricing.
I could eat what I missed or messed. Outside,
the birds bending to it on a summer day.
The great age of my grandmother’s banded
hand weighing me down. The paper
of tutelage blasting me away

at that age. Now, I still remember
how to shuck, how to fetch it, how to
step it. Stepping up to you, I ask.
The point enters the ventricle without
shattering the meat. How a woman
on a good day can rip out the heart
whole.

OCHO#6, 2006. Poem later won a Pushcart Prize: Best of the Small Press 2007.

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