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African Renaissance

I went to a Model C school in post-apartheid South Africa and only survived for a year

Abigail George

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When it comes to the issues of eating disorders, which is the topic I am addressing today. Topics such as anorexia nervosa and bulimia.

The question for me has always been (as a fellow sufferer), why aren’t we telling our daughters that to be perfectionists it is ok? It is perfectly fine for a man to understand that. I’m not here to talk about entitlement, social cohesion and good governance, and land reform in Africa and elsewhere in the world and good schools.

The rich send their children to good schools. The poor send their children to no schools. I was a product of a lot of schools, and I knew intrinsically that something was wrong. It had come to that time when you make career decision. What are you going to do with the rest of your life? I didn’t want to do anything. All I wanted was to stay at home, drink coffee, and read books. She, my mother, began to live vicariously through me. For all of my life.

I am the bone-thin sweetheart under my kitchen table, with the not so perfect hair. I listen to Karen Carpenter and get the blues. I love to die a succession of deaths in under an hour. I’m obsessed with the Bang Bang Club. I’ve become obsessed with Kevin Carter’s psyche before he killed himself. I listen to the Manic Street Preachers. They have a design for life. Always have since I did my O’ levels in Swaziland.

Life is beautiful when I write. I adore the writing life. Aren’t glaciers even beautiful, the rush of winter in the trees, birdsong in the clear of day, and the clarity of the sensibility of all of them but writing, the book stuff is something else. It’s all a part of life, my life. My mother lived her own life. When she didn’t feel satisfied or fulfilled, she put all of her sexual inadequacy, insecurities and doubts on me.

And the only things that I seem to have on my mind is that I don’t have enough time in the world during the day to write, to perfect the craft of writing, the art of it. So, wish-fulfilment has been on my mind, that and everything else that is happening to ‘the people of the south’, the people in South Africa, the vulnerable. Everything is fleeting, including your youth. At the heart of it all we’re all poets. But most of all I’m frightened of the wild, of the wilderness disappearing. I am mourning our mountains, and rivers. Topic for another discussion for another day. Body dysmorphic disorder must be realised for what it is. A poor self-image.

What are your answers on how to sell a book and save the world at the same time? And I’m frightened all the time. Frightened of being an invisible person, an invisible woman for all of my life, because I was a prodigy, or am I forgetting myself again. Fear and anxiety rise up in my throat. The voices say that I am mad, that I will never get a man, and he will never trust my judgement. The loneliness wells up inside of me. I think of the reality of my dreams, and nightmares. The men that I telephone, who accepted my friendship when I was in my early twenties, who do not return, who have stopped returning my calls. Shy away from me.

The voices worship, and adore me. They do, they do, they do. They’re fierce creatures when it comes to the burden, and care of loving me, heavenly when they play my love songs on repeat. Video did really kill the radio star. Fear is what I hold dear. Anxiety is what I cherish. I am volcano lover versus oil on my hands. I am devilish. I am exquisite. I am poet. I am lake. Sometimes I go where the mood takes me. Sometimes I am numb with cold, then freezing to death because of the air in my room, salt, and light, and energy on the forsaken summer breeze, and I think of my arms, and legs as I do branches.

I smell like a forest of trees. Ancient and cool, like driftwood spat out of the cold sea. The men I once loved are decades older, and I still long to be in their arms, to be in their bed. I search the internet for online literary journals in Scandinavia, because the voices tell me I am something of a poet. I have sorrows on my mind, the colour blue, fish fingers on my plate heavy with ketchup, chapped lips, a greasy egg breakfast. Vertigo goes to my head. I watch Pastor Joel Osteen on the television.

After the television evangelist Joseph Prince’s show, they give me the good news that I want to hear. And yes, yes, I mustn’t waste my pain.

Of course, everyone understands my situation now after watching Homeland. Poor girl, they all say, the father substitutes feel sorry for me.  Their wives, my surrogate mothers every one, roll their eyes heavenward. I know exactly how they feel about me. I replaced my own father’s affections for my mother My life is fodder for everything that I write. I just want to be happy. To be happy to me is to live on a diet of coffee and yoghurt and lettuce. Rabbit food and salad and literally eating mayonnaise out of a jar. Licking the back of the spoon makes me feel all-powerful.

Why does it seem that prodigies never want to grow up, accept the responsibilities of a 9-to-5 job, make a positive contribution to society? If they are a daughter-child they think that they will never find a man or partner love them as much as their father. So, they find themselves in therapy (I was in therapy since I was before 8 years old, and 40 years old before I understood the intricacies of the mind, how every brain disorder worked on a rational, irrational, realistic, non-realistic, reality, non-reality level). There is a lot of thought-work being put into having the psychological traits today of both mother and father. Today we are studying aspects of the brain that have never been studied before.

Spending quality time with the mother-figure/figures in your life, if you were so unlucky never to have, or, rather have a lack of a mother-figure in your life. We only have to look at the building-bridges architype between the Duchess of Sussex and her mother. The Duchess of Sussex is an outstanding role model for children of mixed-race relationships. I follow her brand of diplomacy in my own inter-personal relationships in my public and private and personal lives. Both the Duchess and her mother are the epitome of class and elegance in public. Kudos to them for winning the hearts of the public.

Living your life in a bubble is unimaginable sometimes. The public (I have realised through singular trial and error) will never see you at your most human when you are a public figure. What will always be key in all of our lives, whether we are famous or not, is how we master diplomacy, negotiation and reconciliation in our own life. Master respect and master forgiveness. Watching Jeff Bezos, Prince William and Prince Harry, Albert Einstein, Jean Rhys, Rilke, Nikolas Tesla, Elon Musk, the late filmmaker and visionary-creative Anthony Minghella (Mr Wonderful. The Talented Mr Ripley based on a Patricia Highsmith novel.

and The English Patient).

I began to see that from inconsolable grief, isolation from your peer group, losing a loved one, or, not having the love you need in your life we can use the presence of deep and emotional pain, what hurt us in our past, every incident of trauma, and even been bullied can begin to rebuild our mindsets’. Yes, it can I believe. I can only speak from my own experience. I have empowered and uplifted myself. Now I must do this with millions. Millions of the displaced, marginalised, vulnerable, and jobless. I want everyone to have a seat at the table.

I am glad the topic of sexual violence has come up in the pages of Modern Diplomacy and child rapists.

You know, I thought to myself it was about time, and then I cried because I was so happy. Gender-based violence is another topic close to my heart. If you are a woman of colour, reach out to all woman of colour especially those who want to ask your advice. We are building a nation not of equality, but cohesion. The following step is of course rehabilitation for both parties involved. The victim being abused, and the perpetrator of abuse. My aunt was an alcoholic.

The stigma in the coloured community of a woman drowning her sorrows in addiction was so great she died of alcoholism. She will never know her granddaughters. Racism is also a form of mental cruelty. Every violence, domestic, sexual, mental is a form of cruelty of the worst kind. There was domestic violence in my family. Everybody knew what was happening in the family, but nobody did anything about it. I watched all of this from afar.

All I want you to do is to remember me. Remember that children are not in the habit of wanting a lover, that’s grown up married stuff. Rather all they for most of their lives is accepting that I just need a friend, like I need sobriety, like I need a man in my life. Women don’t want to be my friend. They rather treat me unkindly. Laugh at me behind my back. Destroy my reputation just because they can. I will always remember you, you, and you. How you said I was behaving, like I had been misbehaving, not taking my medication. How you spoke to me as if was unwell. That I needed to be treated for the depression again, or, something, or, something else this time around.

I have stopped loving you. I am not in love with you anymore. I would be a fool. I would be the insecure coward. You win traitor. You’ve got the girl now. You’ve got that woman on your arm. You made a fool out of me. Never replied to my emails. Perhaps I was lovesick, traitor.

You’re yesterday, traitor. You’re suffering, traitor. You are kismet, milk-fed, champagne snorting through your nose at the parties, and social gatherings that you go to with that girl on your arm. When you move on the dance floor at the nightclub, you move into her, grasp her in your arms as if you will never let her go. You let me go, go, go.

I really wish you would smoke. Light up that joint, fall asleep with marijuana in your bone season, but you won’t. You won’t think of snorting cocaine up your nose. You’ll drink sherry, but half-half-heartedly, just to join in with the rest of your in-crowd.

You’re still as popular as you ever were in high school. All the girls, no matter what their age, they all fall for you. They are all in love with you. I feel split right down the middle, because of you traitor, part of me calls you vulnerable, part of me remembers the intimacy of our conversations.

The prodigy is frightened of the world, does not understand how critical it is to be ‘people who need people, and that they are the luckiest people in the world’. And he grows up, she grows up so focused on achieve, achieve, achieve. Accomplish, accomplish, accomplish. Give me grandchildren. Marry. But all they hear are is that they are not children anymore. They have to marry now, have sexual relations, join the adult workforce, and they think their glory days are over. That they will never be truly loved again. Then when they are not loved, they consider everybody in their adult life as traitor.

How I long for a bowl of black olives. I long to spit the stone out, like you spat me out, traitor, as if I was the criminal in this narrative. I’ll write a book about you one day, see if I don’t. I swear on my father’s wheelchair, I swear on his life, I will, I will, I will. I won’t call you sweetheart. Just remember me, please. They don’t know anything about the longevity of a career, how time-consuming it is. They just want to remember that once they were a gifted child.

So, topics today concern children. I espouse family values. This is very important to me. Children must be protected at all times. We have discussed mental wellness. Suicide is on the increase. Children must play. I was always at a drama rehearsal at a very young age. I never wanted to go home to that hellhole. A dysfunctional family who could see that I was different, told me so, destroyed my self-esteem and identity. Even the person I loved most in the world. My brother turned on me as an adult.

Do I advocate free clinics around the world dealing with issues of mental wellness for men, and young men, women, and young women, people of every age, especially widows and orphans, the homeless (when I was homeless, I stayed at the Salvation Army and a shelter for abandoned women and children).

They call themselves places of safety. Yes, I do think people should be trained to deal with people who are mentally ill. Most of all have empathy for them.  We must not fail to realise what is at stake here and all the stakeholders involved. Especially our sons and daughters.

They are of course the next generation. We must protect the most vulnerable stakeholders when it comes to mental wellness. Understand that where ignorance is bliss, it is folly to be wise.

Abigail George is a feminist, poet and short story writer. She is the recipient of two South African National Arts Council Writing Grants, one from the Centre for the Book and the Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council. She was born and raised in the coastal city of Port Elizabeth, the Eastern Cape of South Africa, educated there and in Swaziland and Johannesburg. She has written a novella, books of poetry, and collections of short stories. She is busy with her brother putting the final additions to a biography on her father’s life. Her work has recently been anthologised in the Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Anthology IV. Her work was nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She briefly studied film.

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African Renaissance

Twelve Monkeys

Abigail George

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I’ve made mistakes. More than a few. I haven’t always apologised for my behaviour, for the mistakes I made, the wrong journey I took, the path less travelled. I am broken inside. I sometimes feel numb and dead inside when I exercise. Especially when I exercise. When I’m stressed out, I exercise a lot. I watch films. I read poetry. I write poetry. But these days it just feels as if I can’t carry out the simplest of tasks. I feel that nobody really loves me for me. I think of Elvis, I think of Sinatra, I think of Sammy Davis Junior. I think of their friendship. The bonds between them. They were brothers. They had each other’s backs. They looked out for one another. They loved each other. I do not know what love is. Growing up my mother loved herself. Narcissist I think is the correct term. Always in heels and a G-string. Sexed up.My father was an absent father by all accounts. But, to all intents and purposes her gave me a happy life, a happy childhood. So, I am taking the memories wherever I go. Wherever, whenever, and I mean the happiest memories I’ve had, I still have, are the moments I spent with my father. Eating ice cream, going to the beach, visiting the clinical psychologist, buying the month’s groceries, playing under his desk at work. My father’s friends were my friends. The people that knew my father, knew me from a young age. Precocious and cute, always wanting to make people with sad eyes laugh, and if I couldn’t get them to laugh, I would get them to smile at least. When I was born before the eighties,George Botha passed away that year, from an apparent suicide. Biko slipped on a bar of soap. Then there’s Dulcie.

Dulcie September (I wonder what her children would have been like, her husband, would she have settled in London, married a man who had green, or blue eyes. Rick Turner was assassinated by a man with a gun (they haven’t found him yet), Kevin Carter was killed by a stray bullet as he was taking pictures of the unrest in the townships during the brutal heights of the heyday of apartheid. Political activists of colour were being arrested at every turn. Turn the corner, walk in the opposite direction someone, someone would be following you. The Americans I think termed that phrase Big Brother is watching you, or else it could have been anyone really. I’m young, but I have an old soul. Yes, I read poetry. Yes, I read books too. Basically, anything I can get my hands on. I love getting my hands dirty in the kitchen. The cake flour, the dough I eat off my fingers, dust the doughnuts with icing sugar, or cocoa, keeping busy, busy, busy, trying not to think, trying not to think of anyone, or anything. It is a long, long way to Rapunzel, Rimbaud, Verlaine, Proust, Nabokov, Salinger, Rilke, Akhmatova, and Coco Chanel. It is an even longer distance to Billy Graham, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, Walter Sisulu, Oliver Tambo, Neville Alexander, Fikile Bam, Patrice Motsepe, ex-president Nelson Rolihlahla Mandela, ex-president Thabo Mbeki, ex-president Jacob Zuma, and president-elect Cyril Ramaphosa. Then I think of the land of the free, and the home of the brave, and the American presidents (the leaders of the free world), George Washington, Abraham Lincoln, JFK, Thomas Jefferson, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump.

Nobody knows anything really about their childhood. Rapunzel, like all fairy tales, like the Native Americans, and the Eastern Cape poets Ayanda Billie, Robert Berold, Brian Walter, Mzi Mahola, the late Arthur Nortje, the late Dennis Brutus, Mxolisi Nyezwa, they are all frozen in the snow of my memory. I want people to love me. Just like my dad. People love daddy. People loved daddy. But inside I am sad. I am not even loved in my own home. My mother hates me. How to get over the mental cruelty, her un-loveliness to me over the years, her utter humiliation of me when she saw how close me and dad were getting. She was in the house, put on a disappearing act whenever I appeared. I tell myself that nobody loves me. That I’m a rubbish-throw-away-type of person. Nobody should associate themselves with me. I have no self-esteem, then low self-esteem. Sleep around. No, not really. I just give expert hand jobs, and I never kiss. Never. Too intimate, it makes me feel vulnerable, and when you kiss someone there are just so many levels to it, you know. The first kiss. Well, you always remember that. You always remember the person who first kissed your lips. And after that, after that you open your warm mouth (I think of everything as an experiment, an adventure, an exploration of sorts). They have all gone out into the world now. The wives have done what is impossible for me. Given the boys children. That, that, that right there is too much for me to take, to handle, although I know I will survive. Believe me, I survive without cocaine and alcoholism, without sexuality and the sexual transaction (as Jean Rhys said in After Leaving Mr Mackenzie).

I endure with the best of them. I love like the greats. The great singer and songwriters (the late Karen Carpenter), musicians (Lenny Kravitz, Fiona Apple). I too have been careless with the hearts of delicate people. Some have moved on with their lives, and have forgotten all about me. I pretend to wake up in the mornings to the legends that the boys have become. They are men who rule empires now. They have forgotten all about me, forsaken me for money, prosperity, prestige, status (I’m mixing up my similes here). I miss them. I miss them like crazy. I wish I was back there, not here. Each and every day in Johannesburg was either a summer-ish day, or winter. I wish I was in love again, but I’m not. I’m a wreck. Still the same wreck I was 20 years ago. I’m growing older. I’m in my forties now. What a terrible age. The onset of menopause, flashbacks to a time and place when you were happier, when you could afford to make mistakes, behave foolishly, and love, love, love, and dance the night away with multiple partners on your arms, but I didn’t know about the world. Didn’t know anything about the world. So, mothers, be good to your daughters. They will learn to love like you do. I don’t know anything about that. I don’t know anything about love. I can smoke, I can drink when I hang out with the guys. I love men. Women ignore me. Women talk down to me. Women humiliate me in front of their children, mother-in-law, and especially, especially their boyfriends, their husbands, life partners. You know that kind of girl. You know that kind of woman. She’s beautiful, exceptional-looking.

She dresses down, she dresses up. I’m that kind of woman now. Can someone hear my plea? Anyone, anyone? Anyone out there? All I ever wanted was for my mother to tell me how much she loved me, how proud she was of me, and she didn’t. Still doesn’t to this day. And I hate violence of any kind, even in films. I still believe in what Walt Disney proclaimed. It is my mantra still to this day. I believe in family values. I guess it is the principle behind it. Norms and values. Growing up with norms and values. A kind of belief system, even though I did go to Sunday School, and memorise Bible verses, and was indoctrinated into religion by the Union Congregational Church,(I’m not religious anymore, although I still pray, still meditate, believe in reconciliation, and as such there is evil in the world, but there is also the greater good). Anyway, I am much more of a spiritual person now, from an early age I believed in angels. Truth for some, but not truth for all. I believe in the qualities of a good Christian, Brahmin, Yogi, Hindu, Muslim, Lutheran, Baptist, Methodist, and Catholic. All religions hold truth at the cornerstones of their foundation. So, instead of making war, think instead (this is for all the world leaders, mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters out there), make peace (keep the peace in the house, reconcile your differences, sit at the table and break bread, talk about your day, don’t isolate yourself from either your family, or your community). Be kind. You can kill with kindness you know. Today that person could be your enemy, tomorrow (as the ancients, prophets, saints, angels say) that same enemy could be your friend.

Money and wealth won’t make you beautiful. Inner beauty, understanding and understanding devotion to others less fortunate than yourself, the marginalised, downtrodden, those living in poverty-stricken areas in dire straits give them your peace too, and something to eat. The game of life is made up of winners and losers. The loser always forgets about the lesson that they have learned. The winner takes it all. Always remember it is how you play the game. Life is precious. People are precious too. We are only human at the end of the day. Once, they said that someday technology will surpass humanity. Code breakers, the women and men who serve countries around the world, and who are willing to sacrifice their lives for millions of people). I think also of scientists like Sir Isaac Newton, Niels Bohr, Max Planck, Pavlov, Albert Einstein, Marie Curie (twice-winner) of the Nobel Prize. I think of researchers dealing with computers, information communication technology, indigenous knowledge systems, the great digital divide between the haves and the have nots (first world countries and third world countries). I think of intellectuals like Pliny the Elder, Aristotle, Hippocrates, Homer, and Plato. Isn’t every intellectual an authority on philosophy, education, subjects as diverse and varied (Leonardo da Vinci, Michelangelo), as the holistic vision of an educationalist, community leader, humanist, activist, volunteer, just as much as a person can be plumber, he can also be a storyteller (everybody has a story to tell), and a poet. His name can be Yusuf Agherdien, Ambrose Cato George, and Shaheed Hendricks.

(The writers of the book South End: As We Knew It, although District Six in Cape Town is more well-known when it comes to the promulgation of the Group Areas Act). They can even be the curator, and a writer-visionary-maverick of the world-famous museum, the South End Museum, that has its roots in Saint Helena. An island in the middle of the ocean, that could only in the past be reached by a Royal Mail Ship that sailed from Cape Town to Saint Helena. Are we still slaves, our minds enslaved by oppression and racism, prejudice and gangsterism, the abuse of alcohol and mental cruelty? It has become a global phenomenon. It has become a buzzword. In my mind, we are all then victims of circumstance, of trauma, of incidents that happened in our childhood. And yes, we fall prey to evil deeds, and evil thoughts, we sin, and sometimes we pray and ask for forgiveness, and sometimes we don’t. We don’t learn the lesson; we would rather abscond. Go our own way. For some of us, this is all we know. Running away from loss and grief, denial and instigation, and when we do that we are motivated by our own fear, anxiety, even insanity (which means two things, break from reality, or non-reality).When you’re in high school all you want to do is hang with the popular crowd, go out with the most popular boy in school, obtain high marks, achieve on the sports field and inside the classroom. I was an obsessive-compulsive achiever, and the only people I wanted to impress were the women in my family. The women make babies, and stay at home, cook and clean, raise their family, but in my world the husband was always marrying the mistress.

We know the affect that climate change has had on the seasons, harvests, running water, rain, sanitation, and it spells disaster in all areas. Floods, tornadoes, tsunamis, storms, drought which affects our farmers, and particular our agriculture all over the world. I digress. I come back to those two words again. Global phenomenon. We are reaching a climatic stage of events in world history. Ask yourself these questions, think about them, ponder them as you would any projectthat is highly creative, and imaginative, that needs you to focus, and concentrate. Put all your energies into it, as you would your children’s lives, and your husband’s or wife’s welfare. What is your legacy, will it be hidden from view, or be there for all to see? What is your calling, your purpose in life, what are you extremely passionate about (I must have asked myself these questions thousands of times, and so, no, I’m not exaggerating)? What are your empirical dreams, lofty goals, pre-imminent plans? Are you concerned about the spiritual welfare of others, as I am?

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African Renaissance

Tongue of grief

Abigail George

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Sleep. I don’t sleep anymore at night. I don’t sleep very well, or, not at all. You only see what you want to see. You only see the sum-aura of me. You have no proof of who I have loved. No one knows who I really am. And I want to be yours, but I can’t. And I want to have a child, before I am too old to have a child. But life for me. It seems as if I have already travelled halfway. And I have suffered. I think that I have suffered too much already. I have buried the renal unit far underground where you find the dead of the fairground. Where sea meets the floor of the ocean. Where river meets dust. And enemies meet up with ash heap. The waking inside the iceberg doesn’t come naturally. There are deadlines even here amongst the elements amongst poor family life, dysfunctional life stick figures. There is project management here by children. I know, because I used to be one of those children. I ask myself now, am I being value-based by this, my tiny prejudices, my dreams, the visions that I have of the moth environment that I live in, the buzzing world around me, the holistic visions that I have of my future self. I’m an actor who doesn’t care what you think of me. I live on stimulus and impulse alone. Those are the laws that I live by. I should have had those children. Shouldn’t have listened to my father. Should have payed more attention to my mother when I had the chance. Maybe my life wouldn’t be such a fine line of a mess now. Staying at home with elderly parents. Struggling to carry on with my life which is a grownup life now. My life is just an illusion now. Nobody listens to this ghost capturing the castle.

Memories they come and they go. Angels walk by me. Overwhelmed as you are by grief, there is gravity, there is, in remembering the personality-type of the people that you loved, the person you thought that you were going to spend a lifetime with, their untimely and tragic loss. When you are young you think that there is only one person cut out there for you. For a while, grief grew in everything. I could see its progress everywhere. In slices of melon at the breakfast or lunch table, flowers, in Updike’s Rabbit, in ingredients and priorities it was a mooring, a kind of lifeline, a cold-hearted and aloof buoy, it was, grief was for the longest time. Grief came in waves, in waves, in waves. The rain would make me cry, the smell of winter, my childhood, my sister who was now living and making a life for herself in Europe, and then one day I woke up and discovered that grief was a stem now. It was growing, growing inside of me. A heart filled with grief can and will burst. This is how my heart behaved in those months after a distant friend of the family, Bunny Flowers, passed away suddenly. His death had come as a shock to everyone. Poetry found me. Prose found me then in those hours. In his bare defeating and breaking silence out on the sea. Grief will break even the calmest hearts. It will make you think that you are missing out on something. It will. Everything will remind you in the early days in retrospect and in days to come about the one who left you behind. I am slowly starting to figure that out. You will shout at the walls, I certainly did.

You will through no fault of your own, but you will come to blame God, blame the hospital staff who came to the people you loved and lost who came too late to the assistance of your loved one, at the unfairness of it all. Your teeth will have grief, sink its talons into it like watching the steam from a coffee mug. Seasons will change from the present to the past and my consciousness wanders. I act and pretend Bunny is on holiday. It was my defence mechanism as a child. It is still as an adult. He’ll be coming back now any day. Clouds will part. Still I tell myself because the grief is too much for me to handle, it overtakes me on certain days to the extent that I can only fill the hours and the silences with writing. Writing about life, the celebration of life and writing about death. You go on. You must. You must remember them as they were, I was told this once, I think my mother told me this. I make lions out of them. They turn into guardian angels and I make lions out of them. I find they are as much present as they ever were. I take comfort in that afterthought that populates. Grief can make you bitter. It can make you regret what you said, what you didn’t say in the moment, what you wanted to say, desired to say to the object of your affection. It can make you angry at the world and for no apparent reason you snap at a stranger, or a child, or a loved one still very much in the world. Money, I realised will never bring them back. It is important, and somehow some people make it the root of all good, all evil, all material possessions as if they could take with them if they left this world. I am in a boat and my heart is breaking. My calm heart is breaking. I realised early on in life after I lost my paternal grandfather, I was of course much too young, much too young, well I realised that grief has an outspoken tongue and point of view when it comes to the living. Those left behind in the now less than crowded house.

What to do when grief overtakes you, when you’re immersed in that space it is beyond overwhelming. If I could turn back the clock, I would have kept you safe every minute. I remember your voice, Bunny, I didn’t think that I would, but I do.

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African Renaissance

Childhood and Magda

Abigail George

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I haven’t got time for the pain. When I’m through with you, I will still hope.There’s an ocean meeting invincible ocean pouring into eyes,you are far away in another city now a devil in disguisewith sadness comes a mania of relief (it is just a part of me). There is a part of me that is an experiment. Just a playing field. I was born that way. To feel my way in this world with trepidation. To a ghost feeling her way on land. You’ve left, you’re gone, and you’re a ghost, something wickedly despicable but I understand you so much more now. The last time I spoke to my sister was a Sunday and I know that soon the months will turn into years between us.You,beauty personified with the sameness of Ezra Pound. I’ve abandoned you; you’re gone.

You’ve made history young standing with your ticket and your visa in hand at the boarding gate work for tomorrow. There’s something purified in the hoping for something sweet in the novelty of youth. So, the aftermath will come one by one. We’ll forgive each other like

the appearances of the moon. We’ll exchange gifts and we’ll remember the commodities of childhood. I’ll close that (I won’t pursue him). I hate him so much now I could spit blood. It came from childhood continued. The damage is done (what are the meanings of trauma and casualty) only this remains. When I’m through with you strangely I will still hope. I am standing in front of you asking for forgiveness. You’ve arrived on a scholarship. Left all the lions and elephants behind. Parents that you’re sick to death of the sight of, a sister who is mentally ill and who has all the sinister potential of making it anyway and a brother who doesn’t believe that smoking is for grownups. You’ve detached yourself from your childhood, grown as cool as an iceberg. Darling, you’ve made it as far as America. How far is up? To the blank slate face of the moon, the fat orange sun that shimmers and glitters in heat waves and so you stuff yourself with Chinese food and decide this is the life; to live like the rich do as you. Take their coats and hang them up with a number at an elite country club and do everything American as you can possibly do before you die. So, you forget about us. Four stone gods. Buddha-like in your consciousness, all owners of lonely hearts in a wilderness of biochemistry and decay. Once I nestled your head in my lap and breathed in the scent of your hair – of powder, scent, perfume, skin against skin, not yet old, wrinkly like fingers like prunes from a bath, smelling old; no longer an extraordinary machine. Now you can hardly bare me to touch you. I see less and less of you; you don’t ask to be taken care of; there are no longer whispers in the dark as we camp out in front of the television. There is only your magical thinking. Your purity, your humanity, your alchemy. You’re a mother, a wife waiting in the wings. Already posed in your natural habitat. Your dewy eyes are gems, once diamonds in the rough. Once you wore a crown of thorns in childhood. In those rough, tidal, shadow-boxing teenage years when bad, bad things happened to show up in your life. A yellow shout of melancholy with no bounce and of little hope and so your innocence was snuffed out and planted into a dead nothingness. And yet it still left you with the mind of an angel. Cradled you like a new-born, Magus. I think of anticipatory nostalgia. I say this with love. Caught in a trap. Once immobile. Then striding across playing fields cradled by lullabies and spent by beguiling motives. Journeys and a soul awash by winters and the glow, the matrimonial hush of seasons and so will I, goddess-like make you a daydream of a monster. I would never belong

I am not like that. Built perfectly in your world. I am poison. Not so good at navigating vertigo through sweet nothings, and flash love. I don’t cry anymore when my heart takes a dive. I wait to hear you say what you want. Your voice a soft blot. Swapping enduring stories that migrate anxiously from my mind to yours. Like a lilting, urgent freedom song. A songbird received with warmth and sincerity. I like those words memoir, smoked. Feeling my Achilles heel, my sobriety. An ache where my heart should be. You have been in my dreams all my lifemeltedmy heart made of stonewith a soul all patched up like skin. My comprehension on trial, my cowardice. This is me saying goodbye.

What does love mean to me then?Is it the winter rain here again, the machinery of haiku?

Leaves softly whispering on the ground. Words, words and more words. In imagination a purified Dadaist reality. Restored in a manner with alchemy and humanity. You are soul you know and that’s enough for me. The book on us is finished. The diaries burnt. I’ve got my head under a primitive sky. The sun’s impoverished. Walt Whitman’s blades of grass all lost on me. You’re as remote to me as an American utopia. The cogs and wheels are spinning. But what does that mean? There’s nothing sublime to it if you’re not here to hold me. Did cancer or illness that interrupted your life?Why did you not marry,or, find the right man?Why don’t you have children?Why aren’t you normal?All I can see is destruction mingled with burnt diaries. Where are the seeds yourMother originally sowed?Who anchored the roots of grief?And, introduced the weight of the world’s weariness. Your mother drinks lilac wine

Purple blooms upend themselves in the glass much more than a stain. But you don’t like that kind of distraction that stills nerves. The grownup kind of love. The kind of pain children bring with them into the world. The starry anticipation of tiredness. As people make closer contact with you, they become illusions. Fiercely torment you vulnerable-thinker.

You can never take off that hat. The psychological framework. The quality of your conversation. Is it heroic, stoic, and maladroit?It needs a wiser understanding. Your laughter needs no shelter. You walk the sky in a swimming pool. Conquer lap after lap after lap. At the end of the day you smell of rain. Your mouth keeps on after opinion. It keeps changing perspective. Are you really a poet (or is that a guise)?Where is your mask for the ball?You need food, sleep and a feast. You’re hungry for it all. You are hungry for everything. A network of business cards and data. Where is young Hemingway’s Diary?Where are the seeds Buddha planted?Where are the seeds Plath and Sexton planted?Your speech is rapid (just let it go to the palace and tribe of boredom). Like air in the bloodstream of an apricot.

Finding myself in the tender sea. (There’s no ignorance and confusion here). I listen to its brilliant blues murmur so varied. Tasting the salt in the eternal profound light.And when I leave that spirited energy there’s the night wind. There’s the man on the moon. There’s the television. There are giants, monsters, and talking heads. But there’s also a sense of quietness of peace in this paradise. No glut of shaking flight, fancy, fight that I’m anchored or terrified by. The newness of it all – because I am known in all of these territories. These regions, these districts. Storms will come but I will not be done in by their edges that tides simply fall off of and come undone by. The problem of pain is like the meaning of a river. It will pass. Summer will soon be here in this paradise. My brother is doing what he did when he was a boy. He used to steal my books, my Milan Kundera. That philosopher who was a writer. A philosopher who wrote books. And now he is turning the tables on us. Being a philosopher who is becoming a writer who writes and edits books. Pictures can tell you a thousand stories. The weather forecast or the change in climate. Currents that are trending in this paradise. I am a metallic stream-of-consciousness worshiper. Look how I’ve made it into an art. I’ve discovered it’s no longer strange to me. I’m channelling it and all its rituals. There’s a poignant sadness in its image. Aching dream of what could have been. And madness bordering on the useless storm of dark and suburban mania. Look at how birds will remind you of song. When you played truant and your parent’s inertia. And of water, the weight of it in this paradise.

Sinners never disappoint. And I do not envy them. Their crowning glory, their shape. Their smell lacks innocence, their unemployment. The lack of skills to put bread on the table to feed hungry mouths. I do not envy their presence. Where drunkards kiss the ligaments of the cold earth of the pavement. Mouth meeting another. The beer’s mouth both just imagining things. A better life for all, world peace. Once there was the unbearable lightness of youth. Chips and steak are on the menu. I can also talk of love, many things.Now young guys lie in the street. Face down like carrion. We’re young still and there’s an unbearable lightness that comes with it; poverty, unemployment. A silence so pure while a mouth defies gravity and neutral ground. Lectures on how the revolution must hurry up after speech after speech! It is not that this generation is speechless. Kevin Carter has been dead a long time. Photographers can drift. They drift like driftwood. Ribs, beer and dancing (darts for the men) are on the menu. I can also talk of the love of many finer things. Damn married fever but not as committed. Soon Magda will be forgotten like a wallflower. It’s not in my power to change that. Conjure it up. Only an echo followed her death. It played itself out at the graveside and inside the church. The music. The outside of me is built like a wallflower. Winter bright white light there’s an echo coming from somewhere. Shoes on the floor cold night a starry sky. Those shoes belong to me and I’ll lace them up in the morning. The echoes vibrate under the soles of my feet. Instead of going to bars and clubbing, she poured herself into reading her books. She cooked up a storm furiously. Imagining it was for two. Funny girl. Magda that shiny fractured thing.

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