But Did You Listen To All Those Stories?

All my life I tilled the fields by myself
and nobody helped me. Your grandfather
was always inventing ways to help someone else:
he built houses, ran electricity, fixed power outages,
took pictures, showed films, repaired TVs and radios,
fixed watches, knit cardigans on the machine
for the whole village, patched cauldrons,
built fences, fashioned rat traps,
carved wooden vats for plum brandy,
gave injections to everyone on this side of the mountain—
he was good with his hands like that,

yet not a coin stuck in his pockets. People didn’t pay him
with money, or if they did, not one bill have I seen
all these years. They paid him with plum brandy.
Once he brought home a dog someone gave him
in exchange for a piece of land he bartered
(it turned out it was a very good dog).

So I was left with all the work
taking the cows and sheep to the fields,
plowing the land, planting corn and beans,
bringing home the hay and bartering for the large cart,
unloading it all by myself while the water was ready
for the corn mush on the stove. So why do you say

it’s hard to write? Did you listen to all those stories
in summer when people came at the gate
to ask for him, but lingered to talk to me,
kept me at the fence, when I should have gone to lie down
for a minute before the cows got hungry
and I had to start it all over again?