“Molly” by Janice N. Harrington

Janice N. Harrington


All motion is love.

Unlike the others, with her it was never rough
or quick, or half-done, and never,
because it was endless, done with anger
or jaws grinding: enough, enough.

It was done carefully, spreading thighs,
lifting the scrotum with its rope
of penis, the leaves of labia pushed aside
and then a washcloth, slick with soap,
flesh and flank washed and washed in a tide
of skin
of touch
of water.

And this was intimacy.
Its shame they couldn’t hide but did it matter?
Handmaid, menial, servant, daughter,
she washed them and touched with practiced skill.
Each movement precise, each movement ceremony,
cradling these white-fleshed raku,
each holding its fill of bitter tea.

All the exquisite parts of her work, fingers,
palms, wrists, arms, shoulders,
the motion of cleaning and drying,
the certainty that one day
she too would lie
in a County bed, waiting, compassion
taken from the hands of strangers.

from Rattle #15, Summer 2001


Janice N. Harrington: “A librarian and professional storyteller, I’ve told stories at festivals throughout the United States, specializing in participation stories and African-American folk tales. I’m also my family’s historian. Poetry is a way of saving what remains to us.”

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