No 14 - February 2001
Doing the little-man we called it
as we slid down the iced pavement
flat footed, square on, squatting
at speed. Kids all lining
up for a turn, candle wax
crayoned into our soles; me next,
me next. The best of us returned
to the upright, stepped away and turned
into a scooting shuffle back to the top-
again and again. Sometimes we’d flop
backwards - go arse-up and feel the cold
press through three jumpers - out of control.
And with each run, slide and little-man squat
we lengthened the time we didn’t have to stop.
I will always squat at a shoreline.
Standing, I am too man-made:
a pier-stanchion or an upright
of a wrecked tide-break.
The act of it is to raise the sea
more readily to meet the sky,
tighten the wrap of water round the Earth
and lower me into the littoral.
Keeping your back straight, lower your weight
through the fulcrum of your knees
and forward on to the balls of your feet
until your buttocks come to ease
firmly on your heels. Quite naturally
your knees will spread and your forearms
will come to rest across your thighs. You’ll see
that the space provided now holds your hands.
This position has proved useful for talking to babies
and making friends with dogs.
Soldiers go into it when whispering tactics
and golfers when eyeing the line of a put.
Remember! You need to be young or fit to squat -
an interim crouch can suffice but is never enough.
Frogs are the masters of squat.
Toads too, tend to do it a lot.
Creatures like these
practise at ease
but if we did our knees would be shot.
It’s reacquaintance -
caught short in a field somewhere,
we squat like ancients.
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- Modern Poetry in Translation
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