You were always tired,
weary from hard work
in the fields and barns.
I tried to follow your instructions:
How to rake new mown hay into long even rows;
How best to cultivate the field
you had turned over with the gleaming plow;
you on the big tractor,
me on the small.
I didn’t do as well as you wanted.
My eyes would stray from the field
and look up at the clouds
or off into the woods.
A soaring hawk.
A lone deer.
Neighbors driving by on the gravel road
said they’d hear me singing.
Singing the made-up songs that were my comfort.
Even when I was a child
you would lie down on the cool linoleum
and have me rub your tired feet,
your sore back,
your head bursting with dark memories of war.
We rarely spoke to each other.
Even in the evening while milking the cows.
I felt you were embarrassed by me, your son,
who liked music and books
more than cattle and crops.
I escaped as soon as I could.
Leaving the fields and woods
for sidewalks and streets;
finding myself and my people.
How I wish you had not died so young.
Maybe we would have come to know each other,
gotten past the awkward shame.
At least I arrived in time to say goodbye.
Lying on the bed with you already slipping away.
How kind of you to awaken for a moment.
Seeing me, you reached for my hand,
and for the first time told me you loved me.