113. Tending Field

“James–that
Blade of yours! It
Sharp yet?”
Like a whip, her
Voice above his cap:
James has got a habit,
Riah thought,
Killing too much
Time at ends of
Rows–“Sharpening my
Hoe,” he always said.
With her palm she
Slowly pressed her
Back. Ached so
When she chopped.

Shook her head: so
Hard to raise him
Right. She watched
James as he inspected
His old hoe. Youngsters:
Sprouts. Must be
Taught to lose that
Tender green,
And to grow
Resilient as leather.
They must grow up
Children for all
Weathers, draw up
Water during
Drought, and bob up
In a flood–for
Warmth, must learn to
Beat their slips of
Bodies with their arms.
Children who could
Scavenge if they
Had to, or live
Off the land.
For years she’d taught
James his leaves and
Berries–eat this
Shape, not that–
Teaching as her
Parents had once taught her–
Settlers’ knowledge
Folks now might forget.

“Sharp enough now!
Son!” Near time
To head home–not
Much work here. Then
He could go out,
Play. Riah had
A horror of
Confinement for her James:
He must read all
Books, walk
Everywhere, know everyone.
It pleased her no
End on Saturdays, chores done,
When he wandered
Off this way or that….
He had favorite
Haunts, his secret paths.

“James!
I declare!” How
That boy lazed
Around! Her back
Caught. Her smile
Faded, gone.
James must be
Prepared, he must be
Ready–nothing
Shocking must befall–not
Caught off guard….
Her mind fogging,
Riah straightened,
Squinting at the light.
James, he must be
Sturdy. Wise and
Strong. And
Above all, he must
Be beyond
Surprise.

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