Are My Hands Clean?

I wear garments touched by hands from all over the world

35% cotton, 6% polyester, the journey begins in Central America

In the cotton fields of El Salvador

In a province soaked in blood,

Pesticide-sprayed workers toil in a broiling sun

Pulling cotton for two dollars a day.

Then we move on up to another rung - Cargill A top-forty trading conglomerate, takes the cotton through the Panama Canal Up the Eastern seaboard, coming to the US of A for the first time

In South Carolina At the Burlington mils Joins a shipment of polyester filament courtesy of the New Jersey petro-chemical mills of Dupont

Dupont strands of filament begin in the South American country of Venezuela Where oil riggers bring up oil from the earth for six dollars a day

Then Exxon, largest oil company in the world,

Upgrades the product in the country of Trinidad and Tobago

Then back into the Caribbean and Atlantic Seas

To the factories of Dupont

On the way to the Burlington mills

In South Carolina

To meet the cotton from the blood-soaked fields of El Salvador

In South Carolina

Burlington factories hum with the business of weaving oil and cotton into miles of fabric of Sears

Who takes this bounty back into the Caribbean Sea

Headed for Haiti this time -

May she be one day soon free -

Far from the Port-au-Prince palace

Third world women toil doing piece work to Sears specifications

For three dollars a day my sisters make my blouse

It leaves the third world for the last time

Coming back into the sea to be sealed in plastic for me

This third world sister

And I go to the Sears department store where I buy my blouse

On sale for 20% discount

Are my hands clean?

(Song composed for Winterfest, Institute for Policy Studies. The lyrics are based on an article by Institute fellow John Cavanaugh, “The Journey of the Blouse: A Global Assembly.” Lyrics and music by Bernice Johnson Reagon. Songtalk Publishing Co. 1985)