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A Wise Baby Wises Up


AS ALL HUMAN existence begins, I began

with a catastrophe—the shock of becoming,

quickly followed by quack-brained circumcision, supposèd

preventative of future “self-abuse.”

(That insult having been endured by

Sigmund Freud in Moravian Příbor in 1856 at eight days old, he

was surely just as outraged as I,

but his Interpretation of Dreams

in 1899 records no memory of baby Beschneidung screams.)

Time went by—it’s boring, lying in a cradle—

but soon enough I toddled. Daddy by then

was in the Western Desert (a waste in Libya)

fighting the only war that’s properly called “Good”--

the one against Hitler’s evil brotherhood.


They’d sent my darling Leni away—the brown

meisietjie I loved, and she me—that’s trauma number three!

And since Mommy had to go to work all day,

she left me to the mercies of her own progenitor,

a Torquemada in the nursery—

she, I think, was likely number four!

Returned from the War, Daddy bore me on his back

far out on his surfboard, and we rode in,

shining sea water on his shoulders’ skin, to the False Bay beach

at Muizenberg, and on the drive home, went by reedy Seekooivlei.

But him, it seems, war had fitted up with feet of clay.

What happened I’ll never know—he’d never say.

The passage behind the Carlton Hotel’s bar—it’s

gone today, the prospect given him to fumble,

—reeked of booze (as well a pub corridor may),

a misplaced bit of memory’s ancient jumble.

Women weren’t legal in SA bars

back then, you see, I wonder if they had been, she . . .

no matter, let’s get back to knowledgeable me!

With my other Granny (the two grannies hated

each other), I played at sheltering, in ’42, or was it ’43?

under the kitchen table from Emperor Hirohito's submarines,

which were to bombard us for some reason it seems.

They didn’t—it was just foolery the grown-ups felt funny.

Unamused I took this thought away:

Never believe the things the big ones say!

Albeit thus, today, in 2023, fourscore and some birthdays later,

I don’t despise (heigh-ho) my place on Fortune’s escalator.

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