Issue Fifteen - October 2009

A tough woman

By Eleanor Burke

lifts dozens of buckets of feed
and does not wince
when the hot wire fence catches her
or when the milk cow shifts
and crushes her toe.
I only know that I come from a line of tough.

My mother has the sturdy legs I know I got,
and has birthed six girls,
one of whom she was forced to give up
at a very young age.
My father built things,
taught me to wield a hammer,
and stood up to the man from the KKK
who came in the night,
shotgun in arm.

Is it a wonder then I can carry heavy loads?
Or walk long distances
over tangled terrain
or crouch or hunch to plant
or shovel shit or dirt or rake rocks
or tote rocks or feed pigs
or gather eggs or cook dinner for a group of six?

I do not cry in the evening,
but my face is showing the weather.
One finger is swollen from who knows what
and my hands are starting to callous
and my knuckle is bloody.
My arms are sore from lifting;
it is an ache to pull on my shirt
at bed time and when I wake
I feel more tired than ever before.
But I can ride my bike up steep hills
and I can work all day
in the sun on the farm
and come home to take care of myself
in such a way
this they say
is what makes me
a tough woman.