by Elaine Edwards
A buck came to my garden
on a chilly summer’s night, and I in pyjamas for the cold,
to eat there.
In the suburban setting of my tidy flower beds
I stood by the sliding door
and must watch, must stand and watch the grysbok in the garden.
He came down shyly from the fynbos
and put his dainty feet on my lawn
and bent his head to chew on the arctotis.
He nibbled with his sharp teeth, his needle-sharp teeth,
Someone was nibbling my precious flowers
and I, like an impotent fool, watching.
He lifted his head from his eating, as cattle do,
and looked at me vaguely, as chewing cattle do,
and flicked his delicate ears, and mused a moment,
and stooped and ate a little more,
and the voice of my education said to me
Shame – he’s cute
You’re in his territory, not he in yours.
But I must confess how angry I was
and annoyed that he had come, like a thief in the night, to eat my few and meagre blossoms
and depart, peaceful, satisfied,
into his den in the fragrant fynbos.
Was it generosity that I did not chase him? Was it sentimentality that I liked his presence? Was it humility that I felt so honoured?
I did feel honoured.
He nibbled and lifted his head dreamily, as one who has eaten,
and flicked his ears,
and looked around like a god, unseeing into the air, and slowly turned his head, and slowly, very slowly
proceeded to wander over to the petunia patch.
And as he put his head down into that patch of ground, a sort of horror, a sort of protest, overcame me now his back was turned.
I moved forward, I ran forward,
gathered air into my lungs.
I shouted “Voetsak” with all my strength.
He scampered off, convulsed in undignified haste,
charged through the bushes, and was gone.
and immediately I was glad, glad about my paltry,
my vulgar, my mean act.
And so, I missed my chance with one of the more cuddlesome
of God’s creatures.
But I saved the petunias.