152. Higher Ground

          “My heart has no desire to stay
          Where doubts arise and fears dismay;
          Tho’ some may dwell where these abound,
          My prayer, my aim, is higher ground.

          “I want to live above the world,
          Tho’ Satan’s darts at me are hurled;
          For faith has caught the joyful sound,
          The song of saints on higher ground.

          “Lord, lift me up and let me stand,
          By faith, on Heaven’s table-land,
          A higher plane than I have found;
          Lord, plant my feet on higher ground.”

In the pew that
Morning, James had grinned:
“Satan’s darts.”
Riah shook her head.
Dressed today in
Billowing blue
Overalls, traipsing through
The field, she sang out
Choruses of
Hymns, and walked the fence.
She scooped
Tumbleweeds caught in
The wire,
Tied them up.
Otherwise, sand piled.
And some folks would
Buy them, using
These for feed, now
Grass was dead.
So cows can eat
Bramble-weeds, she thought.
Shoot–before long,
We’ll pan-fry them,
Too. Soup of
Riah stooped to
Pick one–soup of
Tumbleweed, but
Not today.

Summer, here at
Hand–no planning
Done! Next week, next
Month? It had not
Crossed her mind.
But it used to!
Used to plan–
Next month, next year,
We’ll do this and
That. Well. Next year’s
Too far now. It’s
Plenty to plan
Dinner. Or next day.

Her stride
Slowing, growing longer, Riah
Frowned: when we planned,
Used to see so
Clear. Each day’d
Felt like progress,
Like the hymn–
Riah stooped and
Yanked a weed–
Now it seems like
Only holding on.
Hold on one more
Day: the house. The farm.
Fill James’ mouth.
What she missed was
Hearing something
Hopeful in her ears–the Song of
Saints? Song of
Higher ground, its
Reassuring hum:
All is well.
Song of Saints. She
Crouched down to
The ground:
Could be that we
Never really heard it,
But mistook it
For that other song:
Song of Plenty.
Plenty to own
Shoes. Meat and
Oranges once a week.
Riah paused:
But there’s folks with
Nothing, who believe.
Those dark-skinned pickers
They’d hired once, backs
Breaking, singing. They
Believe? Or maybe
They just hope.
She rose,
Dusted off.
Preacher’s right then.
God will strip us
So we can be
I’m worse sinner
Than I thought I was.

The wind swelled her
Into a blue sail.
She stood upright,
Stretched a piece of twine.
Far as eye could
See: horizon
Perfect. Perfect,
Circling round.
Perfect flatness,
Dying. Perfect, hers.

Riah’s hand, a fist.
More and more she
Wanted one thing
One thing only:
Rain follows
The plow: this was their
Trusted, passed-down
Wisdom. They had
Plowed! And
Now she wanted
Food for her, the town–
She would squeeze those
Dead vines in the gardens,
Till the fruit burst out.
Riah pressed
The soil through her shoes. She
Wanted to plow
Deeper, strike good dirt,
To make–
Something!–from Heaven
Come down.
Plant. Dig down
Deep. Deep!
Why did that song
Say, above the world?

Riah sighed.
Less and less, it
Seemed, she longed to

2 Responses to “152. Higher Ground”

  1. ninjanurse Says:

    Belief, or just hope? Beautiful.

  2. sshaver Says:

    I’m delighted that you’re the first to comment on this episode. Will respond by the weekend on the Welcome Page.

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