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Always a Reckoning, by JIMMY CARTER

There always seemed to be a need

for reckoning in early days.

What came in equaled what went out

like oscillating ocean waves.

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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,

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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

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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

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to buy fodder, hay, and corn

she ate at times she couldn’t be

on pasture.

Neither feed nor colts

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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,

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did not give eggs, or even chase

a fox or rabbit, that was sure

to rile my father.

We all knew

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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

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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,

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“How long sinc you rode Lady?”

From “Always a Reckoning” by Jimmy Carter. (Times Books: $18; 131 pp.)

1994 Reprinted by permission.


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