Global Lay-Correspondent Report on South Africa



Jeffrey Spahr-Summers, US





It wasn’t easy for my father to be my father, such a macho man… hunting and fishing and all the great outdoors. Ah! And sports. The poor man surrounded by daughters and me. Beyond my comprehension at the time, I know now that it wasn’t easy for him to reconcile with the fact that I was a poet, a bookworm, painfully shy and sensitive, uninterested in hunting or fishing, wanting only to be left alone to daydream, read, listen to music, climb trees or run wild for hours and days on end. For my part, I felt keenly the need to make it up to him somehow, to make him proud.

As with many boys (I suppose), I excelled in sports. Here was something we could share. I was determined to run the fastest, jump the farthest, jump the highest and swim the farthest. I became the kid that everyone would dare, “Jeff will do it!” I was as skinny as a rail and I had to be tougher than any opponent ever expected me to be. This paid off handsomely playing football as a boy. My coach would tuck me in the defensive front line (while Mom cringed on the sidelines), not because I intimidated anyone (I certainly didn’t at first glance). I was his secret weapon. The trick was to not get run over by the big guys, which did happened from time to time, but I was quick on my feet. I was quick to scramble around the blockers, or I would burst straight through their legs. I took pride in sacking quarterbacks. Then we moved to South Africa and the games all changed.

I liked soccer well enough and cricket was fun enough, but I preferred the basic track and field events. I could run (after all, I learned to run away from snakes). At the time, schools in South Africa required that everyone participate in the annual track and field competitions. I loved these events, a day of fanfare and heated competition. I ran in any race that they would allow me to enter, often winning. I was very good at long jumping and high jumping (again, thanks to the snakes). My favorite was cross-country running, I would put wet pebbles under my tongue and run dreamily wherever or however far they said to go. When I was thirteen and a student at Capital Park Primary School, I fell in love with gymnastics. We competed at many schools in Pretoria. The competitions were so intense, every instinct and muscle on alert, pushing the limit, always painful, but such exquisite joy when I performed well. Gymnastics was perfect, a little fearlessness and a wild heart were encouraged, but always, learning control, attempting to control this in me.

Jeffrey Spahr-Summers





Read the Poetry of Jeffrey Spahr-Summers


Free Verse—here is my pallet, A Burden of Worry, In Search of the Black Leopard, looking for heroes, A Frightened Sparrow, Fear of Tchaikovsky, Slice in the Sky, On Being a Man, fifteeCertainties, of which he has so few.n minutes, In the Hair Check Line, A Mother, Willie and the Salt Block,









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