The Table Spread


Flip-flop footprints come dusted by the path
From the long-drop guarded by the herd of cackling geese;
Crockery from the dresser leaning against white-wash
And under the unsealed roof brushed by branches
Of jacaranda swaying past corrugated ridges
Dysrhythmic against a background of cicada song;
The shotgun set down in the corner, its work now done
Resting from the quail-shoot that escaped our aim;
Chairs drawn up on the cobbled floor ready to start,
But first the Book, to check the family tree
And the verse for today before a mumbled grace
In ancestral and ancient Dutch. 

          Segen Vader, Geven eten.
          Laat ons nimmer U vergeten. [1]
Soup delivered from the Dover piping with peas;
Then yield of seed-maize and sorghum from tasselled acres
Harvested on the tractor grunting between the lines
And stirred into the dough of Afrikaner pap [2]
With roast leg of lamb – ninety-nine lost in the wilderness,
One less for the counter that puts them and us to sleep
With dreams of upside-down pudding flooded
By dairy cream separated from the milking herd
While mangoes, loquats and guavas must wait for afters
As memories and stories blend with offers of more
From Auntie Bea making sure we’ve had enough
Before we challenge those geese again.
November 2010
For Catherine, who loved visiting Bea and George Geddie on Causeway Farm, Mazabuka, Zambia where the geese presented a particular challenge to a little girl..

[1] Father, bless the food you’ve given; and let us never forget you.
[2] Maize-meal porridge of smooth, thick consistency