Johnson – Robin Maunsell

The George Crabbe Memorial Poetry Competition
1971 Crabbe Memorial Competition – First Prize
Adjudicators: James Turner, Eireen Beck, Alasdair Aston

Each morning you wake me with a cup of tea
padding across the polished floor barefoot
and flatfooted in an old pair of shorts,
careless in movement yet strangely precise.

History has taught you the habits of the
European – the way to lay a table, shop,
run errands quickly, pile fresh baked
shirts upon my plate and simply wait

for further orders. Now I sit,
your so-called master, beneath the
slowly revolving fan wondering what
you really think of me a stranger in your land

demanding cans of imported beer while
you sip water from the tap
and steadily the rain descends,
a shutter between our cultures.

Here where lizards cling ominously
to the walls the garden just grows and
grows and air that thick and heavy
stuff sits happily in my lap.

Sometimes I listen to the noises,
games of football in a park nearby
or early in the morning men on their
way to work playing pat-ball

with their voices through avenues of palms
strange shrill messages, echoes vivid
in the still clear air, bird-like, African,
interspersed with long silent pauses

and one is conscious of how a national movement starts.

Copyright © Robin Maunsell 1971

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