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Demaree had little chanceAuthor's Notes
of becoming a father.
Oh, he understood the necessity
of producing enough children
to keep their tiny population alive,
especially when so many of them died.
Some of the women were patient
with his fumbling attempts at lovemaking,
but his heart wasn't in it and -- all too often --
that meant other essential parts weren't either.
They had better beads to spend a month on.
So Demaree turned twenty without
having added a single life to the tally,
which made the grandmothers and grandfathers
nag him summer in and winter out about it.
He noticed that the infant deaths came
not just from disease or weaning too young,
but also from accidents -- there were just too many
things for them to get into, and parents
who didn't really want to be parents
didn't always keep a close enough watch.
When his sister Danaar's baby died
less than a month after she weaned him
and went back to herding the snow-unicorns
whose company she greatly preferred to that of humans,
Demaree had an idea.
He put on the bright blue dress
that Danaar had so happily left behind.
He cut a thong and made himself a necklace
like the ones the women all wore,
and tied a "not looking" knot in the center.
Then he gathered up everyone with young children
and said to them, "We are going to pick a house
and make it completely safe for infants.
I will stay in that house and take care of them
so that parents who only had children out of duty
can go back to doing whatever they actually care about.
I think more of the infants will survive that way."
"You'll need extra firewood to keep them warm,"
said Alaharn as he handed Demaree his son.
"I will go chop and haul some for you."
"You'll need baby-safe medicines,"
said Tikava as she handed him her daughter.
"I will go gather some for you."
Melaina laughed and kept her toddler on her hip.
"I'll help you find a house and baby-proof it," she said.
So they made the first infant house,
and Demaree became the first raiser.
At the next festival, when he dressed up
in a woman's dancing gown as golden as sunrise,
untied the knot so he could string Neelor's bead on his necklace,
and spent the night in the other man's bunk,
the elders counted up the six living infants
and decided not to say anything.
This poem came out of the February 3, 2015 Poetry Fishbowl. It was inspired by prompts from ellenmillion, natasiakith, and dialecticdreamer. It also fills the "choosing a profession" square in my 12-30-14 card for the Rites of Passage Bingo fest. This poem has been sponsored by stardreamer.