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Did you know hunger in your past?
       When we had nothing else
just after the war, we could find rice grains
or potatoes in a field after the farmers were done
with harvest. At night, the furrows filled
with frogs' voices. They called and we answered;  
we went toward them in moonlight
with our shirt hems stretched open.

Did you go to school?
       Grandfather hired a man to work for him
on his garden. He was asked to carry me on his back
and wade across the river to the schoolhouse.
I wrapped my arms around his neck; his arms
held the backs of my calves. Once, not wanting
to leave, I threw myself on the floor
and wailed. He picked me up and started to walk.
Oily water thrashed around his ankles. I bit
the top of his ear. He never let go.

When did your fortune change? 
       The neighbor's daughter used to be
a teller at the bank. Now she is a general's wife
and is learning ballroom dancing. The man
who owned a dry goods store sold his business
after his only son drowned on a holiday
by the sea. It seems just yesterday I sat
on a platform, fists balled, feet
barely touching the floor,
as the auctioneer took bids.




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