Calloused Hands

Written by Mhraf Worku


One day, in bed,
with the air delirious of lust and need
you say, I stump you.
it confuses you that,
I love to hold delicate things
but only with my calloused hands.

My calloused hands:

I come from a line of strong women
I reek of them
I come from a place where
women go to battle
then return home, drenched in blood,
to sow the seeds of teff.

I come from a place
mothers breastfeed their sons
while their daughters milk the cows.
A place where
men are taught to be indulgent,
with woman to serve their indulgence.

I come from a line of strong women:
whose hands bear mark
of the weeds they have plucked
and of the demons they’ve tamed

No, I don’t know what softness tastes like
or how it would feel in my palms

but I still seek it
with my calloused hands.


Artwork by Carol McIntyre, “Healing Hands”