The Hands of Mary Joe

Her hands lift and tend King Salmon
Cherish the skin of her child
Light as willow-buds
Thread a needle's invisible eye
In dim flickering lamplight
Fingers weave patterns
In violet and amber beads

The brown-pearls hands
Etched with tiny lines
Curled into little cups
Stiffened, yet with
Delicate touch
Draw a comb of tortoise shell
Through dark-silvered hair

Hands that flowed in rhythms
Smooth as riverdrift
Attuned to daily music
Of her hidden life
Now lie folded in her lap
Trembling minutely
The hands of Mary Joe
Await
The approaching silence

for my mother,
an Athabaskan Woman

by Mary Tall Mountain