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March, 2000, Volume 7 Nr. 7, Issue 79,

by JeanneE Hand-Boniakowski

I look at my hand
my arm
melanin speckles
brown splashes and clumps
among thin tundra growth
of straight hairs;
brown Rorschach blots of
genetic legacy.
my vision blurs with
ancestral imaginings
collective underconsciousness,
and the brown islands grow,
the pale pink patches dissolve;
my entire forearm is brown
and ends
without a hand,

because I could not carry gold dust
to the forts of the conquistadóres
they chopped off my hands
by order of Admirál Colón,
and I can no longer carry
not my food
not my babies.

Around me in my hallucination
I see
generations of,
centuries of
handless brown people.
We are massed in an empty place,
guests at a displaced cocktail party,
we are circulating,
we are
trading names and tales
but not business cards;
we have no hands left
to dip into inner breast pocket
and extract those thin engraved
icons of power;
we have no hands
and no business suits
and no pockets at all.
So we dip into
our inner breast
and look into each others eyes,
and share what we can still carry:
our stories.

Here are the tales
of handless people:

In Españóla,
the evil admiral
of the Niña, Pinta, Santa María
was so in love with gold
that he demanded it as tribute;
and those who did not deliver
lost their hands
whom had already lost
their home,
their health,
to the invaders;
some were able to keep their hands—
slaves lose value without the
manual tools;
some were executed—
as examples,
as threats—
in bunches of 13
as the admiral’s tribute
to his god.

In the Congo
Leopold’s well-appointed thugs
chopped off hands
in another conquest for gold,
stripping and mining
the earth and the soul
of a culture so sophisticated
that white Belgian eyes
chose not to even see;
and for 80 years they
chopped off hands,
until a slim
young black man,
Patrice Lamumba,
was elected
by many thousand
black hands
dropping stones in baskets.
For this insubordination
for this symbolic slap
on the white face of colonialism,
for these black democratic hands
so gently in the face of long terrorism!—
slapping away
the white hand of imperialism,
like a long-suffering
insisting at last
on some civility
of her offspring;
for this
the forgetful,
tragic tyrant children
committed patricide--
and elevated the postal worker
with the morphing name;
a new trend:
feel-good imperialism:
"Look! We gave them back their names,
even Mobuto himself
has a fancy new African name,
but don’t worry he’s still our G.I. Joseph."

Vietnamese hands
chopped off by French guards
at the rubber plantations.

 Iranian hands
chopped off by holy soldiers
of the ayatollahs.

Irish hands
chopped off by the monarch’s minions
for playing the harp;
prescient of Pinochet’s police
chopping off the guitarist’s fingers,
and still the poet sang
"Vientos del Pueblo"
until they killed Victor Jara
por nueva canciones.

Women’s hands
and tongues
and genitals
chopped off
by endless elements of divinely inspired patriarchs.

Transgender women
with their fingers broken
by transphobes enraged at their own confusion
offended by the long painted nails
on the strong capable hands
that look too much like
their own bloody paws.

Children’s hands
blown off
by leftover landmines
while U.S. taxes
line the many pockets
of the business suits
of Honeywell executives
who shake clean white
manicured hands
to close their sanitized satanic deals.

A pile of hands
curved in useless grasp
except where in seeming clasp.
A pile of brown hands
like 19th century tourist souvenirs:
good luck charms
unlucky monkey’s paws:
a pile of hands
like a pile of shoes
at Auschwitz..

And here we gather
in this dream
generations of,
centuries of
handless brown people
carrying no artifacts—
tool nor weapon nor art—
looking into each others eyes
and sharing what we can still carry:
our stories
our songs
our diverse voices and melodies
in miracle complex harmony
a strong river,
life and power,
and we sing the riversongs:
Peace Like a River
Down by the Riverside
No Nos Moveran;
and like the ancient subversive folktale
carried in so many cultures,
like the handless maiden,
we thrust our arms into the river
to rescue our drowning child
and come up
with our future in our hands!

In a 1983 advertising brochure one company described the new FASCAM ("Family of Scatterable Mines") as "a family of target-activated munitions which will revolutionize the modern battlefield. Yes, these mine systems...have the potential to change battlefield methods more than any innovation since guided missiles." Honeywell brochure, October 1983; HUMAN RIGHTS WATCH ARMS PROJECT REPORT April 1997, Vol. 9, No. 2 (G)

Some books you could read, that recently inspired me:

People’s History of the United States, Abridged, Howard Zinn, 1997

The Poisonwood Bible, Barbara Kingsolver. 1995

The Waking World: Classic Tales of Women and the Heroic Feminine, A.B.Chinen, M.D. 1996

The Fisher King and the Handless Maiden, Robert A. Johnson, 1995

Lies My Teacher Told Me: Everything Your American History Textbook Got Wrong, James W. Loewen, 1995

Zapata’s Disciples: Essays, Martín Espada, 1998

Imagine the Angels of Bread: Poems, Martín Espada, 1996

Transgender Warriors: Making History From Joan of Arc to Rupaul, Leslie Feinberg, 1996

Transgender Liberation: Beyond Pink or Blue, Leslie Feinberg, 1998

My Gender Workbook: How to Become a Real Man, a Real Woman, the Real You, or Something Else Entirely, Kate Bornstein, 1998

Profit Over People: Neoliberalism and the Global Order, Noam Chomsky, 1998

© 1999, 2000 JeanneE Hand-Boniakowski

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