“your small hands precisely equal to my own- only the thumb is larger, longer- in these hands/ I could trust the world, or in many hands like these/…”
When I read this, I immediately assumed she was speaking to a another woman, possibly a lover, but initially a specific person rather than addressing women in general. She then transitions into referencing women as a whole when she says “… or in many hands like these…”. Rich then goes on to talk about “…hands like these,/ handling power-tools, or steering-wheel…” physical labor oriented tasks that would be typically attributed to men; but Rich asserts that she ‘could trust’ these jobs in the hands of women. I feel here that she is not only saying that women can do the same jobs as men, but on a grander scale, that women are equal to men, and are equally capable to “…pilot the exporters rescue-ship/ through icebergs, or piece together/ the fine, needle-like herds of a great krater-cup/…”
Towards the end of the stanza, Rich references “… figures of ecstatic women striding/ to the sibyl’s den or the Eleusinian cave-“ Both of these are allusions to important and powerful females in ancient Greece and Greek mythology. A Sibyl was a woman through which deities would communicate oracles and prophecies. An Eleusinian Cave was a secret ceremonial site in ancient Greece, at which rituals were performed in honor of the Goddess Demeter, and her daughter Persephone. I believe Rich added this reference because Demeter is the goddess of fertility.