So, mother, like Johannesburg, you cut me in deep, imaginative and resourceful ways. A cut from you was a project. Thinking of you, staring at you, looking at you, your progress illuminated the world around me. Everything was brighter and so, I was always regaining strength. The love I had for you was lost on the pages of my journal. Lost (always lost). You laugh and say nothing and it hurts. The bright heights of it. Lying on my back I’ve been draped with a blackening world’s information. When evening comes it is even more poetic than the previous day’s evening. And when I spy the afternoon sun, that great yellow balloon, I am a woman found who dares not speak of the insanity (bipolar) found in her family. I have lived in chosen exile. On the surface prayer is like a vision, cold is a delight, the silver lining that passes by, salt and air meeting on the wind. In poverty there is always decay, the song of a choirgirl, crystals of light, a graffiti of them. I trace them on my arm, the windows and my palms. What he, the lover does not know won’t kill him like it kills me? I am slowly destroying myself. I have nowhere to go but down, down, down and there is no one to rescue me, to pull me out from under the dark towards the light.
His roses looked (for some reason) like cabbages to me. Red cabbages, a red song for the mad girl, a flower for my bleeding heart. The boy I used to play chess with in the park, sit on the grass barefoot, walk to the library with. He doesn’t have a name. His face doesn’t exist in my memory anymore. He has become a dark line, a dark fantasy although I can still hear his voice but it is from far away. All these affairs of the heart have made me feel strangely creative. They slide through me, teach me, whisper to me in the dark. I hate the dark. I need the light to burn bright even in the middle of the night. I pull sheets over mirrors. And I imagine the lover whose dark hair smelled of rain. The rain of a child’s world. This is my sky, my grass, my rage (I view the world as an Outsider). Girls are drinking beers in fancy restaurants trying to make conversation. Crystals of light evaporate in winter rain outside my window. Sexuality is really not of the flesh although most people think it is. It is of the mind. It is of the ego. It is intellectual. When is childhood ever at an end? This planet is unstable. I am unstable. I was tangled in an obsession for being a ghostly not of the flesh sexual object. I thought that that would open doors for me to humanity for humanity’s sake. I thought I would be able to hear the chords of the earth’s harmony. It kills me to say this. Madness can be as magnificent as euphoria. If only my childhood was different. Anne Sexton. Sylvia Plath. Robert Lowell. Confessional poetry down a brick lane. Confessional poetry for a coquettish girl. How beautiful and extraordinary those words seem to me now and forever more.
When is childhood ever at an end for a writer, years of history and the educating of a young girl’s mind? I saw pictures of a formidable brick wall seeming to close in on me in those affairs of the heart and the mind. Disjointed, evaporated fragments of the spirit. And every one becoming more and more apparent to me as the long days and the longer nights went by of my late adolescence and early twenties. Everything is disjointed, in fragments, there’s no clarity in what I have written down to me the reader. Everything is a journey. I’ve had enough of feeling this wretched way. Enough of the dead heat of a hot summer season, a season of fruits challenging me to think and to escape into a voyage in the dark, a sheltered experience, the blue-eyed wonder of the sky, stars falling down, stars in my lover’s eyes pleading with me with a clean perception during the midnight hour, scrutinising me openly with likeminded possibilities like clouds gathering across the sky. Everything in life is a journey. One must walk the path of inexperience to get to modernity, influence, perception and wisdom. I think a writer, writers like Virginia Woolf, Hemingway, Keats, Orson Welles, F. Scott Fitzgerald and a poet like Emily Dickinson knew this.
Two Muslim girls are standing outside my office window smoking as if their lives depended on it. I hated the taste and smell of cigarettes when I lived in my hometown before I left for Johannesburg. I don’t know where the children get the impulse to smoke from these days. At this moment I am concentrating on improving myself. Having a set routine, sleep hygiene, working on not having sleep deprivation, writing in my journal. And I wonder do they think of me, the men, as often as I think of them or do not think of them? The sexual impulse is sacred but I never saw this between a man and a woman, never grew up with it only with the realisation that sin matters. I couldn’t stand to be happy. When darkness fell upon the city of Johannesburg, I came undone under his fingertips. I didn’t know why I hated myself so. Why certain books changed my life? Why I could only surrender when a man touched me? Love comes with paradise, tears, the explanations, the words, the observations that comes with gravity, the love songs, and it will leave you wanting lying in the dark. There is no such thing as organic time or a clock. White meringue weddings are for girls, for orchids, for arum lilies, for tea light candles, delicate material like lace (not meant for a wonder guts like me, a tough cookie). I will not appear the same in the photograph as I do in memory. What do children communicate when they laugh, when they smile? Is their world not filled with joy? Why not mine?
The faded leaves of grass under school shoes, bubble-gum stuck under a school desk, reading Athol Fugard’s A Road to Mecca, remembering all of these childhood things brings something temporary to the surface. Not tension, not indifference, but a feeling of love for being young and not being in an adult world yet. A feeling of being fearless, so motivated that I got the lead role of an archaeologist (or anthropologist, I forget) in a house play. I don’t know what courage means anymore. Can you see the fragments now? How disjointed the narrative is? But is it enough? Is it enough to want desire? Sometimes I think that is enough. The sexual transaction can be far removed from being ‘a moveable feast’. Dampness seeps into the lining of my coat as I enter the hotel in Johannesburg (fifteen years ago) with someone else this time. He does not put his hand in the small of my back. He does not offer to buy me a drink. He falls asleep almost immediately as his head hits the pillow. The relationship is over before I know it for sure.
They don’t come back to me. Am I so forlorn? Is youth and wisdom wasted upon me? Maybe they’re seeking much more high maintenance girls. I just wanted someone to understand me. It wasn’t so much the educating part of it that I wanted. Dead writers have taught me that the pinnacle of creative expression is to challenge conventional wisdom always. I’ve surrounded myself, invoking their spirit, reading and rereading lines of their work, succumbing to their world of madness. The world is not the same for women as it is for men. The role that women plays is still a diminished one in the equilibrium of space and time although there have been women who have been visionaries just as much as men have been. Women have taught by example, led by example just as much as men have but what these women have known is that wisdom comes later rather than sooner. It comes with maturity. Darkness falls and I feel an emptiness inside. I am alone and I’ve finally surrendered to it. I am more in love with love than being in love with someone. I am Eve taken from Adam’s rib. A daughter doing what her mother did and did not do.
Secrets, keeping secrets is a demanding world. And then there is the rural countryside filled with patches of grass, the history of how to grow pomegranates, catch fish, the heritage of ruins, rain pouring down like a ritual taking its place in the hierarchy of the food chain, seasons that come upon us and pass, steps, leaps, stars, human stains, animal stains, blood, shark teeth, a school of fish, whales. This world is meant for sessions of personal injury, hurt, deep pain, smiling laughter, you calling your daughter darling, the grim existence, and the caged existence of the young poet. I am capable (every young poet is) even though the cigarette smoke’s vapour’s injury starts with a mocking signal. I am not lost. Bold heaven is pulling at vital me. I am a romantic as I become more and more curious and the objects around me transfix me. The death of a relationship is in the air like horses in a race to the finish line, an aloe’s sap and tears, mirrors, your reflections, encounters with angels above and angels below on the earth’s alchemic plane as consciousness travels the globe, alongside the dimensions of spirit, the elements of soul.
The poems of Ted Hughes is the music that has shaped my nutritious isolation, my night swimming, my eternal waiting, and my frantic, hysterical weeping. My night swimming comes with its own frequency and rhythm. My limbs take on a life of its own (so poetic, I am guarded against humanity, my imagination, inspiration, the Milky Way, the knowledge of other galaxies, the light of the shy laughter of a couple not far off from me swimming in the dark), suspended between the pull of gravity on earth’s plane and other parallel dimensions. The parallel dimension of my pure flesh and intricate bloodwork, my dreams and goals, the gift of my personal space (that most private area), an arena that so few have viewed. Daughters do not always become mothers and mothers are not always perfect. They have their flaws. Ordinary mothers. Extraordinary mothers. Put them in a box. Every goddess-mother. I see my mother’s brilliance pick a valuable and beautiful object up and suddenly I’m transported to the room in a mansion. And there I shut Pandora’s Box. Plant a flag there. If only God could hand out a medal for every birth-pang. Every mother has pulled funny faces when she was a child, held a cloud of a helium-filled balloon in her fist by its string before it became a shred, dreamed of a childhood continued when she became a youth in her sleep, as she paged through fashion magazines reading her horoscope not knowing yet that her future was predestined, that she was predestined to be a sexual object on her wedding night, a friend and confidante when she was wooed by her future husband, that her eldest daughter would be a failure, her second a major success and her third child would be a Scout, a quiet, bookish, loner as a boy who suffered from asthma and a beautiful intellectual, funny and sweet, a deeply imaginative-thinker, oh-so-serious who would be charming and artistic, sensitive and understanding as he grew older, and that this introverted leader would be both spiritual and show humility when it was called for in political meetings, a man after Winston Churchill’s and Abraham Lincoln’s own heart.
Betrayal is lethal. Plath a gone girl in young womanhood reaching dazzling heights like me. Live or die. Those were Anne Sexton’s words. Pure. Introspective. Demanding a haunting interpretation. Yet their craft and bittersweet verse still defies terrifying and manipulative electricity, attachment, movement. Clever girls. Mother had daughters who were clever girls. You were no woman in black, mother. I put my suicidal illness inside a jar like a butterfly and leave it there for the moment. I escape into the pages of my journal, those hard lines, the physical, emotional, and mental appetite beckoning. The landscape changes every day in leaps from green. Once I was in pursuit of Hughes, advancing upon him, closer to the flame in his psychological framework’s psyche, harvesting his cool gaze, that tower, that secret winter. His throne burns me, my guilt flares lap after lap in the Olympic-sized local swimming pool like diamonds in the sky marking the distance to the stairway to Heaven, the ladder to the Milky Way. Hughes sits at my table (I want to say that he should explain himself). Mice in the kitchen, tails between their legs in the universal-solitary-shape of death after being wounded by the mousetrap, no survival guide for them, escape-route, seductive exit and their whiskers no longer move baffled by the world around them, there’s just an ode to the mute and I begin reading my letter from home that serves to improve the fragile, loved half-lie I’ve been living.
Where, when did Pablo Neruda find the time to write twenty love poems and a song of despair? Hughes is in my life again. His Winter Pollen. I’m staring at his photograph. He comes to me as if in a dream sequence. He is even more handsome than I remembered. I remember going back to the city’s elements. The city of Johannesburg. The watery-prophetic eyes of women and children, decay, dirt, spiritual poverty and that there’s nothing pretty or picturesque about the pain of the mind. It can be more acute than the pain of the body. Johannesburg to me is a kind of Hemingway Paris. A psychological construct made up of childhood dialogue, the female writer who speaks in code, the young women who would slip away in the early hours of the morning arm-in-arm with their dream man of the night after a nightclub closed. Johannesburg was a Freedom Land’s anchor, a feast where the abnormal became normal, running with scissors, poetry in my twenties, knives, guns in the air. Sacrifice is not effortless. Midnight is but a voyage into the goal of a dream. Laughter keeps me alive. I seem to have been born with this intuition. Even now Johannesburg makes me think of the stale smoke of a cigarette and men who have moustaches.
Boats have become arks. Girls have become quiet women. Here there are no ducks in the park in their own world of silence marking time with their song. My sister adores her reflection, her face is a lake, the face of a scholarship girl. I watch her swallow shiny things, flicker, go up in flames, rise towards truth in the flesh and the spirit, her celestial madness and I ask myself does she never feel fear or vulnerable, does she never meditate on the sun only on our silence. She was a pianist when she was younger, tap-tap-tapping the clouds of the keys. I can only survive with the memory of my Johannesburg. I can no longer kill the sirens with their elegant-shapes. The sirens who slit their wrists, jump off bridges, leave the car running, and hang themselves. They’re becoming as rare as the rainforest, pilgrims. Perhaps they were too pure for this world, the heat of their sensitivity could not withstand any thing, withstand a pilgrimage, listening to the noise in a glitter-ball-world, arrows of ballads flying through the air landing at their feet like dew, sounding like a symphony or Beethoven. Every dress, every heel, silk stockings, perfume is a gift but who will receive them? Daughters? Orphans? The Salvation Army? A fete’s jumble sale? Is it for a wedding, a baby’s christening? Beautiful women become ghosts of themselves like leaves. Now, weaving delicious spice sinking inside a curry-pot, (wet masala, mother-in-law, ginger and garlic, turmeric, fragrant curry leaves), I concentrate on the bowl, open my mouth wide to taste.
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?
Tongue of grief
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.
Childhood and Magda
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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