Sunday, July 19, 2009

Against the Grain!

In the Rice Fields
By Angelo Morbelli



How picturesque!
I hear you say it!
The eyes have it, every time!
Now imagine!
Feel the mud squelching
Between your toes.
Is it cold?
Maybe your feet are numb.
When you dry them by the fire tonight
They will ache,
A deep-in-the-bone
Maybe today's mud is warm,
Warm from the bright sun
Beating on your back.
Maybe creatures from that warm soil
Are squeezing between your toes.
Do you shudder?
Peasant dresses
Add charm to the scene.
The hems are always wet,
Muddy wet.
Tomorrow morning today's mud will be caked-on.
Leave it!
Sponge it off on Sunday
For Mass.
You are always walking backwards,
Avoiding the young rice shoots.
You jostle the girl by your side;
You exchange angry words.
'Get on with it!'
Shouts the overseer.
Your back is bent so often
It wants to remain bent.
'Straighten-up!' says Mother
'Or you'll never get a husband!'
But your back aches!
How it aches!
Lucetta has straightened, briefly.
She pretends to fix her scarf,
In reality, she is easing her back.
The Overseer is not fooled.
'Keep up, that girl!'
He bellows.
She bends once more.
You glance at your hands.
Are they young?
Are they old?
They are pale, puffy, childlike.
Yet they are deeply wrinkled and aged.
So are your feet.
You will rub bacon fat into the lines when you reach home.
What a pretty picture!

A more lighthearted look at womens' labours here:

1 comment:

Kat said...

What lovely poem... as we are an agricultural country, I felt so touched reading this poem.

there's a quote in tamil, which when roughly translated reads....

Unless we put our feet in the mud
you can't put your fingers in the rice (in the plate)