The Children’s Table

Four lieutenants
Maybe ensigns
Or captains
Services combined
Took their seats
Their coats
Their caps
To chatter
While at the table
Sat admirals and generals
Discussing with their minister
Today nothing more sinister
Than how many
How many
Recruited to slay
With their toys
It took to clean
An admiral’s hat
Soiled by a pigeon
Not a cat
To clean the cover
Remove the stain
But leave those
At table
Still insane.

• 8-10 June 2017, was a national holiday (Day of Portugal, Camões and the Portuguese Community) commemorating the death of the national poet and adventurer Camões on 10 June 1580. On the Aliados — Porto’s central boulevard — it was like Armed Forces Day, full of vehicles soft and armored. About half a dozen general officers with a minister entered the traditional Cafe Guarany. Their adjutants were in train. While the generals and admirals had their coffee, three junior officers busied themselves with cleaning an admiral’s hat. Then they retired to the “children’s table” and chattered or played with their telephones until the adults finished their coffee.

Dr T.P. Wilkinson writes, teaches History and English, directs theatre and coaches cricket between the cradles of Heine and Saramago. He is also the author of Church Clothes, Land, Mission and the End of Apartheid in South Africa. Read other articles by T.P..