It wasn’t pitching bales from red sky to red sky
in the mid-summer heat, or the way
the hay got under his clothes and itched.
It wasn’t bracing himself at 30 below
and fighting the shivers, holding the hammer steady,
breaking the ice off the pump-stand,
hoping to God they’d have water.
It wasn’t answering the alarm at two a.m.
to check on the bred heifers, pregnant and scared,
trying to calm the beast enough
to reach into the birth canal and rescue
the calf and the price it would fetch.
It wasn’t the annual dates with the tax man and banker,
and the pencil strokes on the big words
that told him whether he could replace the pickup
or send the oldest girl to college.
The hardest work of all, the farmer said,
was Mother sending him to the root cellar
in spring when the potatoes started to rot,
to separate supper from mulch,
and every potato was a decision.
by Mark Trechock
Editor’s note: This poem uses denial to illustrate its central point, making the closing lines all the more poignant.