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Published February 10, 2018

Winner: India Poetry Contest #1

The Nature of the Beast

by Natisha Parsons
(Johannesburg, South Africa)

The Nature of the Beast

by Natisha Parsons

Shopping was quite simple then… eternities ago.
You got your groceries and stuff from ole Patel
who owned the little shop around the block.
You’d buy for cash or on-the-book and pay the bill come Friday late.
Drums of paraffin and cooking oil stood stacked in dingy rooms out back.
Laboriously he’d fill your finger-smudged bottle.

Claustrophobic’s nightmare; carefree shopper’s delight:
Displayed fabrics dangled, swaying from the ceiling; assorted goods were
crowded on the floor and all around the shelves.
Hessian bags of rice and dhal, and beans and other pulses
Silently sat between you and the counter… on guard?
Fragrant incense filled the air stinging eyes and tingling nose.
Pots and pans and rolling pins, glassware, crockery, cutlery and blue soap
crisscrossed in piles.
Guaranteed… you
would find wha’chu looking for.
     And, Madam, if its fabric that you’re after –
     why there’s bolts an’ bolts: plain colours, florals, checks, and stripes.
Shilling rice and four pence sugar, half a bottle of paraffin;
ha'penny Zulu mottos… flat shapely sweets with love notes in different
     coloured letters.

Painstakingly Patel weighed and packaged and bottled.
Then he boxed up all your stuff.
No meat sold there – just snoek – salted thickly and then dried.
The counter, cleanly scrubbed and worn and closely packed with sundry goods.
Aah… standing proudly in that midst– THE TILL
A quaint ole brown and rackety sentinel.
Woe! Begone nostalgia!
Nostalgia, begone!
That was then…

Now…
We shop at landscaped complexes of best-selling retailers,
A myriad restaurants bring the world up close.
A great confusion of parking bays that don’t come free.
There are movie houses proudly showing different films.
Its pick, choose and refuse, my friend.
The MALL…
The world is at your feet – it’s got your cuppa cha.  
There’s aisles of canned stuff: crabs and snails and other crawlies, mind.
There’s aisles to traipse; there’s prices to compare.

And all the time Big Brother’s eye
His surreptitious little eye is in the rafters, way up there.
Oh no, Consumer, he’s not mindful of what’s lifted from your bag,
He’s seeking out them pesky shoplifters.
P. S. And if you’re here to buy just bread, be not surprised,
to hasten home with bulging plastic carriers.
Why – that’s the nature of the beast…


Biography
Natisha Parsons is South African. She recently relocated to Gauteng
Province from KwaZulu-Natal Province. She enjoys good health and
soundness of mind. She has a short story,
Granny for Tea, published by
Fanele.
Love and Revolution; other stories by Ether books, Africa Book
Club
, Brighter Light Poetry, The Flash Fiction Press, and The Voices
Project
. She is a retired school teacher who likes to say that when she was
young and foolish she taught school; now she’s older and wiser, she lives a
laid back life, writing and reading mostly.
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