If You Are Still Listening

My grandfather's hands tell a story

If you listen, they are silent, silently working,
But if you move along like normal and make your small noises they will rest, and they will talk.
They will tell of long days in the fields pulling a team of two horses who knew you so well they responded to your every twitch.
They will tell of ditches full of milk, kept there in containers to stay cool, into which brother Adolf slipped one day, emerging a ghostly white boy. 
They will tell of drying beets to extract the sugar and making a syrupy sweet luxury with  the juice, which was slathered on bread.
They will tell you of warming themselves in the stove in the morning, of holding a hot potato to receive its warmth. 
If you are still listening but not listening, and still moving around like normal, my grandfather's hands will stop talking. 
If you are still listening but not, and still moving around like normal, my grandfather's hands will sing.
They will lament in dark unrepeatable melodies the long, longer days on the farm that left little time for school and none for error.
They will tell you of a boy, of a man, of the eldest son, of nineteen, who had the weight of a whole farm and family thrust upon him.
Whose was afraid his hands were afraid they would break, burn, rust, and fall off.
Who carried on despite the fear, because there was nothing else to do.
There was only that to do.
They sing, the way things were, the way things were done, had to do.
I hear the harmony of his hands singing, his stories talking, his words walking across continents to find me here.
 when my grandfather's hands can talk no more, and sing no more, and work no more, and when they lie silent to rest,
My hands will sing.
This poem is about: 
My family


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