There always seemed to be a need
for reckoning in early days.
What came in equaled what went out
like oscillating ocean waves.
On the farm, our wages matched
the work we did in woods and fields,
how many acres plowed and hoed,
how much syrup was distilled,
how many pounds of cotton picked,
how much cordwood cut and stacked.
All things had to balance out.
I had a pony then that lacked
a way to work and pay her way,
except that every year or two
Lady had a colt we sold,
but still for less than what was due
to buy fodder, hay, and corn
she ate at times she couldn't be
Neither feed nor colts
meant all that much that I could see,
but still there was a thing about
a creature staying on our place
that none of us could eat or plow,
did not give eggs, or even chase
a fox or rabbit, that was sure
to rile my father.
We all knew
that Lady's giving me a ride
paid some on her debt, lieu
of other ways--but there would be
some times I didn't get around
to riding in my off-work hours.
And I was sure, when Daddy frowned
at some mistake I might've made, he
would be asking when he could,
"How long sinc you rode Lady?"
From "Always a Reckoning" by Jimmy Carter. (Times Books: $18; 131 pp.)
1994 Reprinted by permission.