“What are you running away from? I’m sad too, you know. Leaving behind the only world that I’ve ever known. Scooter’s the name by the way,” said a thickset guy who had bagged himself a window seat. His muscles showed through his Sunday shirt.
There was an awkward pause before the response came.
“The woman I love doesn’t love me. We’re distant cousins. She wants to become a nun as a matter of fact.” There was another pause. “And Hulk’s the name”.
Hulk wasn’t in the mood for conversation. He was thinking of the great-uncle he had just buried, so, he closed his eyes and pretended to sleep.
“Is she beautiful, or is she a plain Jane, ordinary, or a choir-singing church girl?” Scooter prodded seemingly oblivious to Hulk’s antics.
Hulk shifted in his seat. “Of course, she’s beautiful.She can dance, she can sing, she does needlepoint, and she is a staunch Catholic who attends Mass like clockwork.” Hulk threw a curious glance at his questioner, a hint of interest brewing up in him. Women were a tricky subject for him. All his previous love attempts had been just that—attempts. Perhaps if there was anything he could talk about, it was that. Share his woes with this petulant stranger he was meeting for the first time in his life.
“You do know that there are only two ways we’re going home, right?We go home alive or dead,”Scooter paused as if to allow the message sink in. “We either go back as heroes, or dismal failures at protecting our country. At protecting the innocent men, women, and children of our country.” There was another pause. It’s not just our lives on the line here.”
“Soldier boy, we’re in the army now. What are you running away from?”Hulk scowled dismissively, the spark of interest beginning to fade.
Scooter turned to look at the other young people in the bus who had just finished high school as if to see if someone had been listening in on their conversation.
“In my own case, I’m running away from boring Sundays. Church on Sundays. There was never anything nice to eat at home, you know.I‘m running away from poverty, from being classed as being from a different race.”Scooter was speaking casually like he hadn’t noticed the Hulk’s disinterest.
“Can you believe this class system? They want to call you white, or black, or brown, or Hottentot, or native.” Scooter was not looking at anyone in particular as he spoke. His head kept moving from the window to a face, back to the window, to Hulk, back to the window.
“I’m thinking of my mother. She cleans churches for a living. She cried when I left in my uniform. She told me, between sobs, that I looked good and handsome in it. She just stood there in the doorway of my bedroom sobbing into one of my father’s handkerchiefs.”A nostalgic smile was beginning to develop at the edges of Scooter’s lips. He paused to gaze out of the window again at the night sky.
“I believe in Kingdom Come. I’m Catholic. Was an altar boy. My whole life is the church. After the war, I’m going to Italy. I’m going to become a priest. Even though I know it will break my mother’s heart.” Hulk blurted outin a melancholic, almost remorseful, tone. Something about Scooter’s monologue had stirred up the nostalgia in him.
The bus was quiet now. The incessant chatter had all but disappeared. Everyone was lost in their own world. Most of them were thinking of the start of basic training in Cape Town. Scooter turned to look at him, the hint of a smile still on his face. He didn’t appear surprised at all that the his hitherto disinterested neighbour had responded to his speech. Then he began his rotation again—this time even slower and more methodical— from the window, to Hulk, to a random face and back to the window.
“I think of my dad, and my brothers when I read the Book of Job,”he said. “My eldest brother sells vetkoek on the golf course on weekends. Dad was a barman on a Friday and Saturday night.”He had a faraway look on his face as he spoke, like he wasn’t really seeing anyone as his head turned from one face to the other, and back to the window.
“I believe in roast chicken. The pleasures of trifle.” A mocking voice came from the back of the bus.
“I believe in the innocence of roast potatoes.” Chorused another.
“That one means business. Come sit here. Tell me all about your sweetheart. I’ve got all the time in the world before we get to Cape Town. I always wanted to go to the Mother-land. And you?” came the mockingvoice from the back of the bus again.
“You’re rolling your eyes at me now. Now you’re shrugging your shoulders. Oh, what’s that rustling sound. I thought it was a chocolate wrapper. Geez, Louise, I’m hungry. I’m starving.” Scooter made his way to the back of the bus with his padkos.
“Smoke?” Hulk asked nobody in particular.
“What did you say there?” came Scooter’s voice like an echo.
“I asked you if you wanted to smoke. I roll my own cigarettes. My old man had a pipe, smoked tobacco. It was really bad for his lungs. He passed. Last year. The cancer. Not a day goes by that I don’t think about him. I wish he were here; you know. Wish he could see me get married. Meet the perfect girl.” Hulk said sadly.
“Boys, listen up here. This is a non-smoking bus.Where is the exit route out of this place?” Scooter said from the safety of the back of the bus.
“I have a girlfriend. I loved how when we went to the beach, for instance, the sunlight would play upon her hair. She set me free. All I just wanted to say was that I never felt like this before, but my cries for help went unanswered, and that in itself is an answer, isn’t it?” said Scooter watching for a reaction on the face of the young man sitting next to him.
“Ah, a poet for all the nations. We have William Shakespeare in our midst. Sir, pray do tell, can you recite sonnets as well as prose for all of us.” Hulk jeered at Scooter.
“Nothing is real anymore. I think about her all the time. I dream about her. And I wonder what she’s doing. I told her not to wait for me.” Scooter continued to his audience of one.
“The stench of war is out there, waiting for you, waiting for me, waiting for all of us.” Nathaniel said softly to himself. “Pay no attention to this riff raff. Ignore this this duffle bag on my shoulder. But my family insisted on me packing some winter and summer clothes, two shirts and a tie in case I meet a member of the opposite sex in Kenya. The uncles insisted.Jones. I’m Nate Jones. Pleased to meet you.” Said Nathaniel with his hand outstretched.
“I still haven’t found what I’m looking for. The name’s Cato.” Cato mumbled. He reached out his hand. Shook Nathaniel’s hand. Smiled in a friendly manner.
“My Christian name is Nathaniel. Do you have a sweetheart?” said Nathaniel biting his bottom lip, but Cato ignored him.
“So, where are you from soldier boy?” Nathaniel said again, eager to start up conversation.
“A windy city.” Cato mumbled again.
“Does she mean a lot to you?” Nathaniel put his arms behind his head, and whistled.
“Who?” Cato said peevishly, as if he didn’t like where the conversation was heading.
“Your sweetheart. Are you going to write to her?” Nathaniel asked, his eyes glued to a speck of dust on his trousers.
“No.” Cato said glibly.
“The strong and silent type. No crime against that soldier boy. So, you’re here because you want to see the world. Looking for adventure?” Nathaniel answered. Brushing the invisible speck off his pants with his right hand
“You could say that.” Cato mumbled again. “Something along those lines.”
“Don’t talk much. I’m tired. I don’t sleep very well. Wake me up when we get to Cape Town. Just tell me one thing before I doze off. Are you in love with her, is she the love of your life?”Nathaniel’s tone changed. He felt sorry for Cato.
“I’m going to marry her. I want her to be the mother of my children.” Cato said with a certain kind of pride in his voice.
“I’m a tortured soul too.” Nathaniel said looking into the aisle of the bus. Watching guys making their way to empty seats.
“You?” Cato said surprised.
“My girl died. Tell me when the sun is out.” Nathaniel said quietly, closing his eyes.
“Our lives are about to change forever.” Cato said staring out of the window. Watching the world go by.
“I think this is the beginning of a beautiful friendship.” Nathaniel coughed a little.
“Believe me, the sun will breathe. Leaves will fall to the ground. Another winter has come and gone, and summer is all too beautiful.” Cato said with an otherwise expression in his eyes. He was becoming fond of Nate Jones.
“I bet you the drill sergeantwill say something along these lines. Boys, repeat after me. A soldier breaks all the rules out in the field.” Cato laughed.
“A soldier breaks all the rules but not in my camp. Something funny, sonny?” came Nathaniel’s voice.
“No, sir.” Cato started to play along with Nathaniel. Beginning to enjoy this game.
“A soldier is an actor.” Came Nathaniel’s voice again.
“A soldier is an actor.” Repeated Cato, guffawing and snorting in mock-derision.
“A soldier is a man who honours tradition.” Nathaniel saluted Cato.
“A soldier is a man who honours tradition.” Cato saluted Nathaniel back.
“No women? Seriously! Geeze, Louise.” Came Scooter’s voice from the back of the bus.
“No women out there for you, my friend.” Hulk guffawed.
“Hey, you. Hulk, I’m talking to you. You talk now as if we’re old friends. We’re not old friends.” Scooter said indignantly.
“This is a war we’re fighting. We’re not going to a church dance in a church hall.There’s nothing but sand, and more sand, and desert, and more desert where we’re going.” Hulk said unsmiling.
“This is meat and potatoes country out there. Is that what you’re saying?” came Scooter’s comrade’s voice.
“Don’t listen to everything that he says. He might be pulling your leg for all that you know.” Scooter admonished.
“Nobody was speaking to you.” Hulk said in a loud voice.
“You’re very good-looking, handsome even, I must say.” Scooter giggled, feeling slightly foolish, but brave too.
“Like I was saying, there’s no mystery girl out here with red lips, and smelling like perfume. It’s just wilderness.” Said Scooter’s comrade.
“Can’t say the same for you. I think it sounds like paradise. Heaven on earth. No father beating the hell out of you, and your old lady on a Friday, and a Saturday night.” Hulk said choosing his words with care.
“Slow and tender. I like girls with curlers in their hair. Kiss them slow and tender. Hold them in your arms, like this, they go crazy-mad for it. Fall for my line every time.” Scooter said smooching the air.
“The world is about to go to war, and all you can think of is girls. Shame.” Hulk literally spat the words out.
“Shame for you. I can tell you’ve never been kissed.”Scooted laughed out loud.
“Oh, really now. You some kind of fortune-teller?” Hulk said. He crossed his arms across his chest somewhat defensively.
“What are you thinking of, soldier boy? You thinking about a girl that you had to leave far behind. Describe her. Describe her to me, please. Was she the love of your life?” Nate asked Cato, but Cato pretended as if he didn’t hear the question.
“You think they’ll give us all rifles.” Scooter asked with a dumb grin on his face.
“War is not about running around with a gun, and shooting up people.” Hulk said. This statement changed the entire atmosphere on the bus.
“I know that. I was just making a joke. Sorry. Apologies. No need to be so serious. Lighten up.” Scooter said with a helpless look on his face. He began to crack his knuckles in an attempt to lighten the mood somewhat.
“I don’t need you to tell me to lighten up.” Hulk said somewhat aggressively.
“Sorry. Apologies. I thought since we’re all guys here, and everything I’d lighten up the mood.” Scooter shrugged his shoulders. He was a tall fellow. Stooped his shoulders whenever he walked.
“You thought wrong. It’s the principle. There’s a Hitler, and a Mussolini out there hellbent on starting a war.” Nate through his hands up in despair. He shared a look with Cato. They both laughed at this short exchange of words.
“My father was from Saint Helena.” Cato said looking out of the window, momentarily blinking back tears.
“He speaks.” Hulk said with a snigger.
“Saint Helena, where is that exactly? Never heard of it.” Scooter wore an interested look on his face, but pretended as if he had heard it all before.
“It’s an island in the middle of nowhere. Just sea, sea, and more sea for five days until you reach the shores of the Cape, or land, whichever first.” Cato said, as if he was reminiscing about better days.
“There’s no grass where we’re going. Guys, don’t worry about getting grass stains on your uniforms.” Nate commented, smiling broadly at Cato. He had good teeth.
“No grass, you mean like no grass. No grass under my faded shoes.We get a uniform, you say, with boots and all.” Scooter said with surprise in his voice.
“My mother, she couldn’t stop crying. My sisters, they couldn’t stop crying.” Hulk sounded pensive. One minute the centre of attention. Next, withdrawing from the group.
“There’s no wind where we’re going. No mountains, or rivers. Just sentry duty, and driving ambulances, carrying stretchers with young boys who are going to be amputees one day, carrying the lame, the wounded, the sick, and the dead. Putting the dead in body bags. Burying the dead. Marking gravesides with the cross.” Nate said leaning his entire frame into the seat. He pretended to make himself comfortable.
“Soldier boy, anybody ever tell you that you have a lovely personality, you know.” Scooter said wearing a curiously serious look on his face.
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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