The Explorers

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Once he sees into the landscape of their minds,
All those nice young girls, so properly brought up
To be sensible and attract, the poet finds
Not a street in the suburbs, gossip at the tennis club,

But a primitive world of unnecessary hurt
And ignorance, where words like wild beasts wander.
They go, like savages, always on the alert
Placating shadows, foreboding thunder.

Enormous jungles full of eyes and fears
Mumble and gulp around them as they walk
Out after school—“Have a nice walk, dears,
Hustled through that huge succulent, twisting dark?”—

They prowl, the terrible man-eating words; stare;
Snuffle in the tangles. The path slides like a snake.
“It’s worse if you hurry, dear. Don’t look! There’s nothing there
I tell you.” “Can they climb trees too?” “Oh don’t, Oh don’t look
back!”

Walking in a tight herd the odd safari comes
Wearing incongruous elegance of spring fashions,
“Is my face on right, dear?” Silk stockings harnessed to their bums
Buck on high heels. And squeezing under rubber foundations

Giggles the uneasy blood. Between the trees
Eyes on long stalks come swivelling. Something awful
Dabs at the ladies’ handbags. “Clutch your virginities
Closer, closer, my dear. A girl can’t be too careful.”

In these steaming forests, rotting as they grow.
Stanley would have turned back: Livingstone never had such
courage.
“It may come any minute now, you never know.
Look out for it. I think a girl should keep herself for marriage.”

The miraculous clearing in the jungle, the end of the hunt
And O, the relief at last and O, how safe is
The little brick cottage, the ration of lawn in front
And a kiss at the gate and a pair of trousers walking daily to the
office.

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