By Hand

“…Mangoes// are what margins like me know/ everything about, right?” ~ Tarfia Faizullah, “Self-Portrait as Mango”

And manual labor— domestic, agricultural.
Someone had to scallop mountainsides
by hand, lay out stone after stone

using primitive instruments for clearing
and scaffolding. In grade school we learned
the total length of the Banaue Rice Terraces

is a little over 20,000 kilometers,
or about half the earth’s circumference.
Except they failed to say candidate for

Eighth Wonder of the World status:
along with Niagara Falls, Angkor Wat,
the Terracotta Army, the Statue of Liberty.

In other words, still not wonderful enough.
Chaff and grain, mud in the paddies, snails
sucking through bare toes. As in the scenes

of Breughel’s harvesters, the eye
rolls forward along curved fields,
the height of grain begging to be

sheaved and stacked. It’s hard work;
the villages are tiny and far away, the coast
even farther. And not a tractor in sight.

~ after Pieter Breughel the Elder, “The Harvesters” (1565; oil on wood)

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