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African Renaissance

Asking for forgiveness, fixing pain and the language of blood

Abigail George

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There’s alchemy in daily prayer when you release that element of the weariness of the world. Humanity when you witness the profound harm that human beings can cause to others, their folk, their tribe and their people. Beautiful boy, who are you (you meant an awful to me at one time and then we had a bad falling out). The canvas was propped up like trees. Here books taste like the sea, sea light falls through the pages, it tastes as if I’m coming up for air, doing laps in a swimming pool princely blue.

It has that image of waiting in the wings, the silhouette of forgiveness, and a portrait of the selfish, hungry me, that half-living thing I worship. With books there’s the fastening of the mother tongue, an endless stream of consciousness fascination and catapulted wonder framework, freedom of imagination in the method-actor’s abandoning all rules of engagement on the stage. Books honour tradition. They say, ‘Here is the exit route you have been following all of your life before anything wounds you any further.’ Do men also have to struggle with equality, is there a nausea to solidarity?

Putting on my ‘information science’ hat: I love Hemingway. What writer out there doesn’t? What tortured poet doesn’t? I’ve been fascinated with his life and his women, his circle of friends, In Love and War and that he used to be a journalist. I do like American writers but not as much as like books written by people who write about themselves. My favourite book that I go to all the time is ‘A Moveable Feast’. I ration it. It’s a short book so I know it is not going to take me a long time to read it. I know what it meant to be homesick, hungry, poor, starving artist that only known survival kit was ‘family’ because I’ve lived my whole twenties like that. His close-knit circle of friends and his wife who had a baby on the way.

He would sit in a French cafe and eat onion soup with big chunks of bread and drink coffee and think and think, watch the world go by, observe everything around him. His life was simple. He was a very complex, complicated man and so were his stories. He lived it. He wrote it. Some of his stories were exquisite masterpieces that were very simply written and he became a legend. His writing was a brightening force in the world. (Why do so many writers like drinking coffee? I love drinking coffee because it makes me think.)

Let it just wither away: (Whom do you love, whose writing do you keep on going back too religiously? Don’t think about copying them, their style is their style and they have their own technique. Copy them in secret. Take words out that stand out for you. Rainer Maria Rilke wrote about a lot of imaginative things. He has inspired a lot of my newer work. I would never dream of copying him because he was truly a master at what he did but I’ve begun to look at a bigger picture and all the details that God is included in. Rilke, he never lectured on his opinion on religion or God but that is not something that I want to do. When people inspire you, they want to hear ‘the outspoken you’, ‘your voice’.) All my teachers and mentors have helped me along this far. All my English teachers especially. But you must if you can speak in other languages write in your mother tongue because we don’t have enough mother tongue languages in our side of the world.

Only Moses in the Wilderness: So, all I see is young artists and they ask me how they can publish their work, how they can become better writers? It has nothing to do with becoming better at it. They are already there. You have to be committed to your craft. You have to take vows. There’s a sacred contract between a writer and a book. Some of us become so wounded in the process of rejection (we see it as

abandonment) that we never go back to what we’ve been called to do in the first place. We forget we are poets. We are writers. We are struggling iconoclasts. We are all part of the iconoclastic-family. We are futurists. We are sculptors. We’re already there. We just needed the elegant mathematics to help us along. Sometimes we neglect ‘the gift’. There’s a kind of alchemy in your head when you begin to write.

It has its own machinery and all it asks of us is this? Write anything. It might not be perfectly edited. Just don’t censor yourself. You need grit. It is going to take you far wanderer like Moses in the wilderness.

I was born into the wild of this country. A wilderness of steel wasteland; sky and street shadow me like the white sun, yellow moon, star Hiroshima, moon Nagasaki people, thumbprints trapped on pages of long overdue library books. There are incidents that cannot be accounted for and the world is still, even when coming home from the sea. Sand like diamonds in my shoes and my hair. There’s already a set rhythm, a resurrection of a child to a woman; a drowning woman in half-life, a wild flailing thing. Bloodlines visible from the neck down in peacock-blue circles, which slip beneath the surface, like threads no one can see. There was another woman in the house, my doppelganger. Grief burned her in a rush of women-speak. So, as cat wrestles with bird, a mess of feathers everywhere and as red dots appear, I feel light-headed like I could disappear into thin air, with the mercy of flight because you, the sane me is no longer here.

So, what if I know these playing fields like the back of my hand; these frontiers and borders of my own childhood making. I wish you were here daddy. Darkness comes to me even when I am lying in a hospital bed but I’m not bitter just tired. I’m past that stage. When that wave comes there’s a thrill. They have a name for it. They’re calling it clinical depression. I am the one who has to live with it.

I am ‘the experiment’, the case study under observation who cannot sleep in the dark. There’s a mirror above the sink in my room and bars at the window. I don’t think ‘they’ the establishment wants us to think that we’re prisoners though. They want us to be safe, to feel as if we are well looked after. My mother can’t even look at me when she comes to visit with my dad.

They make excuses for the others, the rest of the family, the cousins I never see anyway, the aunts and uncles that seemed to have vanished into the thin blue air, my brother and my sister. They harp on that they’re tired, they’re studying toward their examinations and then (it took me years) before I realised, they were on their own emotional journey and I was on mine. And if three different individual’s journeys weren’t destined to meet then I had to make peace with that.

But somehow, they forgot that I bleed like they do. I’m human. Doesn’t everyone bleed? Everything tastes metallic here even the texture of the sandwiches we get served at tea and before we go to bed. The Milo makes me gag but I drink it anyway. It’s warm and milky. It fills me up. There’s a routine here like the military. I have grown accustomed to the nurses outfitted in their navy. They move like ghosts.

But the thing is the in-patients move around the building and the rooms in exactly the same way. Here in the hospital reality is blurred into a mix of auditory and visual hallucinatory images and sometimes there’s something schizophrenic about mealtimes, the scrambled eggs, fish fingers on your plate, the voices coming from the next bed or room during visiting hours. Yet it gives me a sense of comfort to know I am surrounded by the nurse’s physical health, their emotional wellbeing that I am certain they take for granted for, with their soothing choirgirl-choirboy voices, neat little haircuts and flashy, toothy ad-perfect and mint-fresh grins. You get to do a lot of imagining and resting when you’re four to a room in high care. You have all the time in the world to sketch in compositions, write notes to your self, have whole conversations with your self about the girl who left in the middle of the night with an ambulance. She wore black all the time, even black nail polish and told you to watch out for her, that she was a Goth and could invoke a higher power.

Then there was the woman who woke you up in the middle of the night and told you that she was the reincarnation of Jesus. She wanted to read Scriptures to you, quote it at you. But it was the middle of the night and you weren’t resting anymore and you didn’t want to imagine the end of the world at midnight, so you told her she could tell you in the morning what the future was going to be like. You were sleepy, your head like wool, just about to fall asleep so you told her before you turned around to go back to bed. You weren’t being brave just nonplussed. There were days when courage failed me and when I had no voice to speak of or opinion. There were just the chemicals interacting in my bloodstream nourishing me, feeding, overwhelming hospitalized me. All my stamina was leaking out of me and I was left apathetic. I didn’t want to eat with the other people. It was a pretty room with cheerful curtains at the window, wooden tables and chairs.

It was supposed to feel homey.

But I found sanctuary in my bed, the white linen with the word ‘hospital’ written in blue, bold letters with thread, with me feeling blue as well but not so bold as all that. I could feel the sky as I walked outside. It was a sensation that I thought an addict would probably feel. I remember my flight from Johannesburg as if it was yesterday and the impulse of the recollection of the powerful flow and energy of the haze that came with it. I remembered feeling that all sense had left me and all I was left with was intuition. This was wrong and that was right. Red signaled danger to me as if something not of this world, alien and subversive was trying to contact me.

There weren’t voices in my head but everything was heightened. My insomnia and confusion and when and if I was confused the world around me was a television world.

And there I was the camera, seeing, viewing everything around me as if it was a kaleidoscope or a foreign film with subtitles in a language I couldn’t understand. Noise was louder. Traffic was a line of cars blocking my way through to get back home to my parents. All I wanted was the two of them looking at me with pride and love, loving me in the state I was in and addressing it. I knew by instinct that they would know what to do. I wanted peace. I wanted quiet. I told the cab driver to turn his radio down and I refused to pay him. I said that I had no money. But he was determined in his own way. He said that I had to pay him. So, I told him to wait and knocked on my front door.

Everyone was still sleeping. No one knew I had come home. No one knew that anything was wrong yet. I still had the ghost of a blue shirt and cigarettes and the language of first love inside my heart, parading around my head as if I had given it permission to be there.

Of course, when they took one hard and long look at me they knew something was wrong. Was it drugs? No, it wasn’t drugs. I had to say that with commitment. My mother gave me money to pay for the cab. In the days that followed I wrote on walls (my own brand of graffiti), I drew pictures in my own blood. I pasted broken glass on cardboard and called it ‘art’, flipped out when I was confronted and colored as if I was in school for beginners again, calling the faces in a rainbow of watercolors ‘my angels’. I would take a knife when everyone in the house had gone to bed, the one with the sharpest edge in the kitchen drawer and just to take ‘the heat off of things’ I would ‘cut’ myself (though not very deep). Just enough to wound my spirit, to remind myself I was alive, part of the living, a human being. My parents were nice about it in a sane way. They would tell me how sick I was making myself.

I had to stop doing that (they didn’t like the pictures I was drawing), that I was still their child, their daughter and that they loved me. I wished they had said that over and over again. I wish I could remember them saying that they loved me over and over again but my mother began to see past the things that I was doing and on the whole my father ignored me. He had his own depression and his own questions. For my mother it was obvious that all the turn of events in the household since I returned from Johannesburg was psychological in origin. So the role she had played in my father’s life since they were married was one she had to repeat with me. I don’t know who brought up the discussion of ‘going to see the psychiatrist’ first. I can’t remember very well how I got there only that I was in a hospital.

There was a passage with lots of white doors and names of doctors on them.

Receptionists sat with ledgers in front of them writing down the name of the next appointment, soon this scrawny, lovely face though one with her hair bobbing around her face would write down my name and the date for my next appointment. Soon I came to one of those doors and it was my mother who opened the door. I can’t remember if the door was already open but I do know this. She was the one who was holding my hand, leading me in, into my future and not my father. It has taken me over a decade to confess this and no one thing, unfortunate event, a death in the family has led up to it. She’s gone, gone, gone, a lot of people who knew the private and the public persona of me could have said. I didn’t listen to anyone’s negativity but my own. People stopped talking to me. It was then that I decided on the doppelganger, the two me’s, the blue, depressed me with the sorrowful face and the intense writer of ‘into the black divide’ poetry.

Then there was the other me, the manic interloper intertwined with that most intense part of me together like yin and yang. The one couldn’t exist without the other. I was all of nineteen with youth being ‘the grass is always greener’ side on the one hand and on the other side darkness was always visible. And at some point food in all of this, the ‘wasted decade’, all that time I had lost became my friend, the best friend with the sweet face I never had. Food would smile at me all the time, love me when I was up or down, reward me when I was anxious or raging, furious at myself most of all because all I had to do was to take a pill. There was one for sleeping, one to stabilize the mood and then there was one for the depression. Other people’s lot in life was hell and compared to theirs mine was a corner of paradise. Before I became ill, diagnosed and really started to suffer I liked eating cake and then I started loving it up too much.

Stuffing the cream and the butter icing in my mouth and licking my lips. Broccoli was boring and vegetables too nutritious. I slowly started to hate the mirror, that most perfect looking glass. If the eyes are the windows to the soul I soon felt that I could never meet that gaze that was once so fiercely independent of other people around her again. I had failed so many people, my grandmother, my mother and my sister, modern society. I had wounded my self with serious intent.

Lesser, although I don’t like to think of any person in this human race as being lesser, mortals have been punished for that. I still do not like to think of what women my age are doing. The wild, single life or the quiet home life of newlywed bliss.

Those who are of the marrying kind and who celebrate their birthdays with their friends eating restaurant suppers in seafood restaurants. I am not that kind of woman. I left that power-driven, power-hungry world behind me. It didn’t embrace me anyway. I know what other people think of me and the way I live in. It doesn’t fit in with society’s norms and values. I do not value the material things of this life.

I sense more the spiritual basis and home of things. I hold that dear.

I hold onto it for life. It moves me in this golden aftermath, graces the internal, what I feel is most pure. It is what I hope to glide on from this world to the one in the hereafter.

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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