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Our parents had more style than I
may comparably muster
on this darkened afternoon
surrounded by music of menace
indeterminate, urgent. Mumbling
a pebble noise or wanton complaint
(boulders overcharged in floodwater,
but less natural) here’s tiding hysteria,
a rugby commentator discharged
section by section at his phatic
communion. I rebel,
and the afternoon darkens.
I rebel: three alarmed sparrows
bolt from a leafless poplar
into a leafless willow.
Something the sporting announcer
cannot bear. Perhaps, a truth
narrow as that poplar tree
revealed in sudden passing light
already watered down. Learn to hate.
Excite. Feed your backs cleanly.
Announce my protest. Put
pebbles in your mouth to tame
some would-be artist of a civil fraud,
alienated, unromantic, vatic,
yet vacant. Let Voltaire try
to cultivate my garden in my day.
Here they come. Belated, the stormtroop
motormowers are gathering. We retch
the limits of their patience.
Our parents had more style than
sense can muster comparably
to darken down the afternoon.
Not too long now then television time.
An eyelid blinks a cave of shadows
where what feigns real is vaguely blue.
Switch on reality. Yawn for a time
when one might talk of style and mean it.
My father had a fashion of extravagance.
Mother declared for an incompetent
integrity, loved late, long suffered, died
of a style of living. And yours? And theirs?
This is no term for conversation’s due.
You Fairburn, boating on the harbour.
You, Reeves, covert with gin and water.
Domett, you also, alert for a social climb –
The fathers hallowed for a various folly
which falls due. Not on this
or any third day will be resurrect
into the cave of climbing against shades.
Our parents, and our ancestors.
Our parents had more style.
Argued, agreed. Domett could look
at nature, and be mazed for hours
climbing the slope of folly upsidedown.
Stick insects of our culture, thin, stiff,
adaptable, good at hiding from
reality, a guise of predators.
Yet of our ancestry – remote,
particular, articulate, predator –
also the mantis, given to praying,
which four last days has dispossessed
one kitchen windowsill, his claim
on anyone’s seven lost words affirmed
in the bitty junk of his conversations:
two or three chitinous fragments, part
of an unspeakable limb. There seems
to be reasonable supply of victims.
Watch him elegantly
confirm continuity of a jointed
structure, head bent to blue-spotted
foreleg to nibble clean the dung of mean
survival; like a cat then, up and over
about the eye; headings; repeats
the other side; is done. Folds legs under.
Goes still. Is erect. Prays.
My mother, humming gently, would insist
her huntsman tomcats should be brushed
and cleaned; at least halfway
              Shouting in the night
father shot lions in the main street
of Bulawayo, or backveld Boers.
In his truckled bed the poet would be
alienated from horses of his dreams
which, straddled, dissolved into collapse.
The mantis climbing
                                 peers into glassy darkness.
Our television’s blue films sigh, and go.
                                                                        2. 7. 66
Editor's note
Saturday July Second: first published in Balcony 6 (Summer 1967), 24; also in Flying to Palmerston; Fairburn: ARD Fairburn (1904-57), poet; Reeves: William Pember Reeves (1857-1932), poet, historian and politician; Domett: Alfred Domett (1811-87), poet and politician: Bulawayo: town in Zimbabwe; KS' father fought in the Boer War
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