Stern, hands on hips, the sugar bowl
Rebuked our lack of self-control
As we nine children kicked to cable
Intelligence beneath the table,
Bruising one another’s shins
With these non-verbal bulletins.

As if a kind of referee,
Like Stevens’ jar in Tennessee,
While coalitions came and went,
It was a stable referent
And from the chaos drew a meal
And brought our wilderness to heel.

I can’t remember, looking back,
What led to this or that attack,
To blows I did or didn’t strike.
I just recall it—matronlike
And arms akimbo, fixing me
With its fierce objectivity.

Timothy Steele

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This article originally appeared in The New Criterion, Volume 11 Number 3, on page 40
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