The genius of Virginia Woolf and Vanessa Bell


Old friend, loving sister, this is goodbye. I’m journeying once again into the wilderness, but this time without you. I promise you that I won’t think of you every step of the way as I did before. I promise you that there’ll be no declarations of love this time around. You’re so obsessed with the lens, with the camera. You’re in love with everybody, that’s your kind of education, your kind of hardworking-philosophy. You’re bird with song. You say that you love her, so love her like family, your mother. One word from you, one false alarm, changed everything about our past. Old friend, so, this is goodbye. This time next year you’ll be married, and I’ll never hear from you again. I pray that you’ll have poetry in your life, stories, narratives, concepts, reminders of concepts, life in perspective, in context, sipping on Saint America’s supernatural provision. And words take on a life of their own. Let your wife shop for clothes, and when she’s pregnant let her shop for maternity-wear, your hands will drift across the waterfall of her dark hair. The path you have to go is ecstasy, touch her restless soul, and then let her touch yours, wonder boy, genius boy. You’re Zambia, Burkina Faso, Ghana, and the Ivory Coast.

You, Clive Bell, only win when you hear her talk in her sleep. There’s a shore she has to reach to get to you, whenever you close your eyes. Your sea is beautiful this time of year, the origin of your universe, baby galaxies are at rest, space is expanding back into time closer, closer. It contracts to a certain point, and returns to time, energy and matter. The flesh is just the absolute beginning of your life, your love’s tragedy, illustrations of science. Sister, I wish for a parade of family life for you. You will be most thorough when it comes to your love. I was all wrong for you from the start, could never make you happy, my emotional damages would have become your emotional damages, at night I sleep with Alba at my side, and you sleep like the gospel, the spiritual racing through all of your nocturnal molecules holding the knock, search and obey through faith and action, my old love. Your children will be your prize. Faith is risk not yet seen, a standing conviction of things not seen. I was saved through your grace, the mask that you use, the taste of red, red wine. You did not choose me after all. I have Robert Lowell, Paris, and all this madness war.

The end of August. Life is beautiful (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 is mixed with the salt of the earth, blue, sharp and intensely felt light. It grounds you and smells like dust up in the air, books that have to be launched, poets-in-the- making. July and August have passed into that ancient otherworldliness called ether and newspapers and research, writing, and study. I don’t answer the voices sometimes. I ignore the hallucinations. It’s all a part of life, my life. Sister, nothing compares to you since you took your love away. Not the pale sea, not Sussex.

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-fulfillment 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 t all we’re all poets. But most of all I’m frightened of the wild, of the wilderness disappearing. I am mourning the loss of our mountains, and rivers. 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, or am I forgetting myself again. Fear and anxiety rise up in my masculine 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. Sister, 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, the 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 need you, Vanessa. 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 that I am something of a poet. I have sorrows on my mind, the colour blue, fish fingers on my plate heavy with apricot chutney, chapped lips, a greasy egg breakfast. Vertigo goes to my head. In modern life and times,I watch Joel Osteen on the television. Afterwards the television evangelist Joseph Prince. They give me the good news that I want to hear. And yes, yes, I mustn’t waste my pain. All I want you to do is to remember me. I don’t want a lover, 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 unkind. Laugh at me behind my back. 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 won’t forget your words, or your fiancé with her hair like black silk touching her waist. Like our dead mother. Like our dead mother. 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 flirting. 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. I give you my blessing. Clive Bell, marry my sister. Grasp her in your arms as flowers. As if you will never let her go. Modern sister, you let me 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-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. I long for a bowl of black olives. They are salty and they’re all sanctioned for me.

My blues.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. I won’t call you friend. Vanessa, you took your love away. I forgive you darling sister. I need you Vanessa, but you don’t need me. Torn between Clive and your fragile sister’s desperation. It has been so lonely without you here. Lonely tears fall. I am caught by the ways of the loneliness of the river.

Abigail George
Abigail George
Pushcart Prize and Best of the Net nominated shortlisted and longlisted poet Abigail George is a recipient of four writing grants from the National Arts Council, the Centre for Book and ECPACC. She briefly studied film, writes for The Poet, is an editor at MMAP and Contributing Writer at African Writer. She is a blogger, essayist, writer of several short stories, novellas and has ventured out to write for film with two projects in development . She was recently interviewed for Sentinel, and the BBC.


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