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African Renaissance

The woman who ate everything

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I have no children of my own. In reality, I exist. In non-reality, I am non-existent. I am more demon, than angel now that Mick has gone. I still have those same fears and yearnings. My vagina has those same fears and yearnings. I thought that there would be this shared recognition between Mick and me. He had been the one for so long. The only man in my life. He chose another. I tell myself that on the dark nights when we could have been making love. Everything has become a river leading to honesty, breaking down walls of fears and yearnings. I wanted someone to tell me that I was beautiful, but the world in its entirety tells me that I am beautiful now. What am I living for, now that Mick has gone, I mean, he was on his way out of my life anyway? What is love in the modern age anyway? There is no time to play. My father never approved. But it was my choice, or Mick’s choice, or Mick’s mother’s choice. Believe me, it turned out all for the best anyway. He will marry, I will not. He will have those children; I will not have those children. I belong to the world, and the world belongs to me, and every global phenomenon in it. Is there any man in the world who can understand that? Inside my heart is breaking. Mick is leaving for forever. We’ll see each other around. We’ll wave. But we don’t dare hug anymore. That proximity, so close to sex, that rarefied atmosphere of friends who were almost lovers inside my head, no more, no more, no more. Now there is quiet respect. Now there is admiration. He’s doing his thing (filmmaking), and I’m doing my own thing (my writing). I doubt there will ever be room for collaboration.

I live in poverty. He is wealthy. I am an artist. He is an artist. And I suppose my choice of lovers, and the men whom I choose to love now is all on me. I do love, but it never ends up in the bedroom. It ends up in on the page. It ends up freeing me. I am a bird with fears and anxieties. I am just an average dragon-woman. I am just an average dragon-beast. I have everyday flame inside of me. Mick does not return my phone calls anymore. He does not come to the house anymore in his car. I still look out for him. I will be doing that until I am eighty years old. For now, another love has come. The world is on fire. He makes me laugh, and think, and feel in ways Mick never did. I am sad. I am happy again. I tell myself that this is just preparation. I’m hungry for it. I am going to do it again. This time, I am alone. I am on my own again. Of course, I tell myself, there’ll be sadness. Why, oh why, does there always have to be this sense of wishful thinking, why this sadness. Always flying solo. Mick, I wanted you to feel the cold like I do. But you are heat, and all-heart, and warmth. I will be writing to you until I am eighty years old. Still trying to win your heart. I am a voyager. The new love is also a voyager. I exist. He exists. It is a new day, and dawn is breaking over the globe, and I am generous and this love is also generous. More giving, more prepared to take me on. I do not think he will be calling me intense to my face, perhaps behind my back, not even then. Not even then behind my back. I am doped up on love again. Mick has become another city (and this new love has empires, empires to build). Mick has become another tale of love lost.

Nostalgia. Whatever love means, it is not Mick, and I am still writing this novella as if it was an introduction to Mick and my old love, as if this was a story about an old flame. But this is a story about a philosopher-educationalist, the impact he is making on the world around him. And for now, he is perfect for me. The thing you do not know about me is that I tell people what they want to hear mostly, but if I like you, I like you. And your home, becomes my home. My home is where the ocean meets the shore. My mother loves money. She loves that lifestyle. So, I have convinced myself that I can buy my mother’s life, I can buy her love. Men are the only fixtures in my life. The only men who save me are my editors. Love has a way of conquering all. We sleep to dream in this house. As painful as our past once was. We make believe happiness. It is only an invention that masks who we truly are. Like the seasons that are so determined to change, I will rise above these circumstances of falling in love, and then losing that love, and watching that brilliant, brilliant man walking away. And this, this will always be somewhat of a performance. People, believe me, don’t want honesty. Honesty kills trustworthiness, childhood continued into adolescence, and there is, here is the blue hour. There is, here is an unbearable lightness. Mick’s gone. Playful and sweet Mick’s been replaced by love. I should be used to this game by now. Playing this game. I do believe in love. Love is a jewel in the dust. Love is a turning point. There is even faith and obedience in love. Love is a state of emergency. And I have learned obedience from what I have suffered.

I am just a servant. Watched, observed, studied, and I know this. I know this like I know the back of my hand. The men will love me, and I will love them in return. I will love. I will be loved. And all the men I still love them. They are still very much alive, and human in a kind of memory form or blueprint to me. If they want to take me to bed now, there will be no hesitation on my part now. Just me. Dreamy, composed, and calm, and still as they enter me. Afterwards, they will leave me, as they all did in the past. Humiliation and embarrassment will return, along with progress and preparation. My life will go on as before. There will be love. I know it. There will always be love. This big dreamer, this damsel in distress mostly will betray nothing. This hunger is torture. This spiritual hunger is torture. But love, and falling in love is like a beautiful dream. The blue light of the day becomes even more blinding. And even the leaves have a kind of psychopathology. It is safer for me to embrace life in winter rain. And every day, even though the sun shines, the rain pours down upon my soul, the wilderness of my soul. My love, my love, I am writing again. You would be so proud of me if you could see me now. In the same way that I am proud of you. No more names. No more accusations. No more hugs. No more kisses on the cheek. No more sad looks. Your heart belongs to another. Your heart beats for another. Your daughter, your daughter. And, yes, I believe that there is righteousness and justice in the world. Yes, I do believe in love. Love can build the dimensions of a foundation, and this, and this, is how much it takes to love you.

David, this image of you in my imagination. And for me, love is suspended in mid-air, and for me it was always safer to embrace the life in winter rain, (as I have said before). There’s life in everything, everything, everything. There’s love in everything too. I never could understand love. Never saw it between my own parents. Only the sexual impulse in my mother, her modus operandi to have children, her depression, the fire in her eyes whenever she looked at the togetherness of my father and me, the peacock-blue eyeshadow on the lids of her eyes, the thick black mascara on her lashes, her G-strings, thongs reserved for the sex act. There were always empty bottles of sparkling wine under the bed, that I discovered the morning after. Whispers in the dark, finding my mother’s g-spot, amorous laughter (her amorous laughter), and daddy would sometimes forget that I could hear everything. The shower would run in the middle of the early hours of the morning. I would be looking for a pen to write with, and discover condoms in his side of the bedside table. How does a woman become a lover? How does a middle-aged, grand dame of a woman become a lover to either a man, or a boy nearly half her age? It happens. It happens. But husbands never leave their wives, unless of course the lady in question is half his wife’s age, or, looks like his daughter, or, has the looks his daughter has. A girl becomes a lover. In the books, that I’ve read from Updike to Kundera, Brazilian Paulo Coelho, and Russian American Vladimir Nabokov, it is girls that become lovers. It is girls that become wives. Just memories. Men are still men.

Boys are still boys. They look at her. Sometimes they stare at her. I am her. She is me. I take note of the stares, the smiles, their stares, their smiles, their proposals, and the flirting, the talk. The talk it burns me. And when I go home, I meditate on the way they look at me, speak to me, and imagine them, either going down on me, or, turning me on so much that we make love, or engage in sex acts. Having a good time. Pleasure is fun. And then I think of the kiss. Do you not only kiss people that you are in love with? Do you not only touch people, well, I touch men a certain way, that I like, that make me feel safe, that I would go to bed with given the chance. Love, or, rather the physical aspect of it makes me feel anxious when I remember what happened in the past. Anxiety and fear, and uncertainty, restless, frustration, apathetic. What if I can’t perform because of the medication, or the depression? It has happened to me in the past. In the past, I was humiliated. Most of all, he was humiliated because he thought that it was his fault that I could not climax. I was so young. In those situations what does a girl do. Admit everything about her past? Confess everything about her recovery, relapse after relapse, stints in mental institutions, state hospitals, expensive private clinics? A proposal is either decent, or, indecent. This kind of proposal from a man to a woman reminds her of her own sexual appeal, and sometimes this woman remembers those nights of her parents’ when her father and mother would turn into lovers. And then even daughter would become lover, touching herself in the dark, removing her panties, thinking of men.

Men old enough to be her father. Or, men standing in front of her desk, teaching her in the classroom. I knew (even then, even then), how to fly. How to focus on the fact that I had wings. I was mute. I was on remote control. I was a mute. I was a machine on lockdown when it came to my academic work. Running, like Haruki Marukami, made me feel. It didn’t make me feel the despairing emptiness. It is my mission to captivate man’s imagination. I tell myself that. Even when there is a monster beneath the bed giving me a fright. If I knew any better, I would think that it was my imagination running wild. A trick of the sunlight falling on God’s wisdom. I believe in diaries. It made me feel something other than erotic. I did not call my grandfather veteran then. Did not know what epilepsy was, and that it was just a form of trauma, like my own brain injury. That every brain injury stemmed from an incident. An incident of trauma (I loved my grandfather very much, and in my mind, he lives forever like all the men, the men I have loved). I did not know what combat fatigue was then, way back then. I did not know what shell shock was. And as I grew older, my paternal grandfather became a distant memory. The voices inside my head sound very far away now. I have had a good rest, if I can call peace, having peace of mind that. It has motivated me not to think about religion, but spirituality. I do not like the dark. It is true. My physical body wants nothing to do with it. Adeline Virginia Woolf never stopped writing. Emily Dickinson never stopped writing. Anne Sexton never stopped writing. I will never stop writing. My sister, my sister.

My sister. Born four years apart on the same day. We never speak. I think of the phases of our childhood, the chapters of our life together, and how we grew apart. She was play-white, with her blonde friends. I was the one who was of mixed-race descent. Who was fake? Who was fake? Now I steal her clothes. She wrote me off years ago, like both sides of the family. Both maternal and paternal family. My brother is the only sibling I have left. He has fallen in love. The girl is mad for him, wants to marry him. I am not included in their family plans. Soon, I must make my own way back into the world, like my paternal grandfather. You can see my slave ancestry from Cape Verde and Saint Helena in the texture and colour of my hair, my brown eyes. I am half-white, and half-black. There is Germanic-blood that runs in my mother’s veins. She is fair of complexion. She is beautiful, and larger than life, both complex and complicated, both religious, maladjusted, sexually abused, molested from early childhood (as I was), and when I look at her, even now, depressed, tangled hair, as we both miss my sister, her daughter, the one who looks like her, acts like her in the world, feels like her in the world, all I feel is affliction. Affliction for all the wounded in the world. It seems as if I only write about people who have left a mark on my soul. David, the Sussex-man, Mickey, Salinger, Hemingway, Fitzgerald, Freud, Adler, Jung, Karl Marx, Nietzsche, Ben Kies, Neville Alexander, Fikile Bam, Bhadra Ranchod, Gus Ferguson, Mxolisi Nyezwa, Mzi Mahola, Ayanda Billie, Razeen Davids, the new man in my life, and the list goes on, and on, and on.

And if there was any justice in the world, I would be with Rob. But I cannot catch a thief.The women despise me. The women despise me because I am unattached. I wear no ribbons and no pearls. I wear no wedding ring. Although I want to. I want to very much badly. I doubt that they (the women, the wives) will very much understand this, my reasons why I have never married, never had children, never met the one on that sunny road. The women will never understand my sunny disposition, the smile I wear pasted on my face. The fact that I go to war with girls and women every single day of my life. For most of my lifetime, I have gone to war with my mother over the adoration, affections, praise, and worship of my father. For my sister, it was different. It was my psychopathological disposition. The bipolar mood disorders. My ups and downs, lows and highs, the medication that numbed and deadened both the emotional, mental, every fibre of my moral being, and physical pain, and my spirit, my soul to the outside world around me. Now I imagine (my sister says). Now I tell stories (my sister, maternal family, my mother says). Now I have no wish to speak to my other half, my better half who will spend Christmas in Berlin this year with her German boyfriend. I do not love her anymore. Yet, I say that I love these people still. I wish them well. I forgive, but I have a long memory for painful things. My gift to the world is both twofold. My gifts are my soul, and my writing. Mahatma Gandhi’s gift to the world was his soul. Same with Luthuli, Mandela, Mbeki, Hani, and Arafat. I am waiting upon the world to save me.

So, mothers be good to your daughters. Your daughters will live like you do, learn like you, and love like you. I do not have the capacity to love anyone as much as I love the men. Do I loathe women? No. They loathe me. Do I desire women in the same way that I desire the men? No, I do not desire women. I am not a lesbian. Neither, neither am I a prostitute. I do not accept gifts of cash for the sex act. I think of the elitist allure of Salinger. Jerome David Salinger. I think of his epic hurt. I think of his epic hurts in life. I think of his epic hurts in love. I think of my own epic hurts in love. I cry like a baby. I can hold a man. I can hold a vulnerable man who can put it all on the line for love. I can hold a mentally ill man, a depressed man, a man who has lost everything, but do not ask me to do the same for a woman. You see, as I have said before. I only write about people who have left a mark on my soul. It is good to feel loved and accepted. Only men have loved and accepted me. Every obedient and disobedient part of me, whole, or, broken, with all of my heck, with all of my wise nature. Once lithium too was an idea, just an idea, this miracle salt, like Europe had been an idea.  I have later prophecies on my mind now. I have rewriting on my mind. I have proofreading screenplays, and pre-production in mind, but not a future filled with happiness, and prosperity, a family life, a life marked by settling down, raising children. I’m thinking of nations, and of bringing nations together, stopping wars, building democracies across Africa, reconciliation and equality, negotiation and diplomacy, generations marked by an unfolding.

An unfolding of a divine mystery. I think of the hours. I think of how I can fill those hours with activities in the same way John Nash did, in the same way Trump does with purpose. For all who are called to service, are called in the same way to sacrifice and responsibility, accountability and blessing too. I see abundance everywhere now, parachutes in September, and for my sister’s sake, and for people like her, the alignment of bipolar to brain injury. I stand in the shadow of the rhino, of Africa from the east to the west, the wildflowers of Africa, which are the voices of Africa. I think of the girl child, and the transformative powers on the confidence of the boy child (once sinner, once child soldier, now activist, scientist, inventor, educationalist). We are all living in changing times. I stand in the neutral shadowlands. You will never see my grief observed. You think you see me; you know me, you hear me speak, you think you have some sought of forewarned knowledge of me. You say hello, I say goodbye. It has always been like that for me in relationships, for in life, for in my life there is always more grief, and sadness, and emptiness for me, than happiness. I think of boys who have moves like Mick Jagger, and as I pass them by, I think of the high art of confessional fiction. I love. I am making progress there, but I do not kiss. I do not betray anyone. I do not write and tell. I do not kiss and tell. And believe you me, if I love you, I love you for you. For you are revolutionary, for you are photographer of the African National Congress in Tanzania, for you are educationalist, and even though you don’t even think it, you are philosopher.

I will love all these men for an eternity. Until the hereafter comes for me. I think of all the men, and their sons and daughters, and the women who have given them those sons and daughters, and I wonder to myself are they in love, are they still in love. I wonder sometimes, more ego talking than anything else, do they sometimes think of me. Think of me in their arms, tired. So, tired of life. Relationships are challenging to me. They challenge me on every level. As I am sure, every book that I write challenges the reader. For me, personal success overrides personal happiness. My father taught me that.

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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African Renaissance

Once Rilke’s Wife

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The Invasion is over. Russia will display its power and its might in a victory parade in Mariupol on 9 May which will take place on the same day of Moscow’s Victory Parade Day, which celebrates its victory over Nazi Germany as if to remind the world of genocide and its high cost. 

The cost of life, of the innocence of young children, of livelihood, food shortages and resources. The resistance fought bravely under the leadership of a man who came into office with no military experience but a law degree and a first lady who models for the fashion pages. 

What did the United Nations Secretary General and Putin discuss behind closed doors? We do know that a finality has been reached and that we have God to thank for that.  

Zelensky and the Ukrainian resistance can now breathe a sigh of relief but for how long and what are the long-term repercussions of this war. We need to look at the end of the Second World War when the spoils were divided amongst Great Britain, the United States of America and the Soviet Union.  

Mariupol is a city that is situated in the south-east of Ukraine. This is where the centre of the celebrations will take place. As we speak the bodies of the dead are being removed. In Bosnia we saw mass graves. In the Ukraine we saw mass graves, but nobody has spoken of the Igbo genocide, the Rwandan genocide and the South African genocide where millions of people disappeared without a trace. It is as if the world is saying that a European’s life matters more to humanity than a Non-European’s to God. 

If I had to pen a letter to the authorities, it would read as follows. President Zelensky, you care about your people but now they are refugees. Is it safe for them to come home? African students studying abroad in your country were not given a safe passage to return home. To return to safety and out of harm’s way. 

I feel that everything in Zelensky’s life had been leading him up to this moment. The moment where he did not surrender to Putin’s conditions 

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but with the West. Zelensky has been principled, patient and prepared but then again so has Putin and both have stuck to their ideology of winning the war at all costs. It mattered to neither side how many lives would be lost. They only wanted to win. Putin came to the negotiation table. Zelensky approached the negotiation table but was enamoured by the West and Biden. But Biden has his own personal struggles. He has suffered much grief and personal loss in his own life. All these men have been living on the edge since the beginning of this year.  

A woman calls standing up for her rights a war on feminism. A man is quick to pick up a gun, throw down his moral compass and pump bullets, shrapnel and limpet mines where children play, couples walk hand in hand discussing their future or gazing into their eyes. 

What is left now for the world to do? We looked on in horror as there were executions but that is what happened during the apartheid regime and even then, the world turned their head away as unspeakable acts of horror and terror were the order of the day. 

I suggest if you want to know the history of Russia from the USSR to the Soviet Union (and if you want to understand the legalities of the Cold War and that this is just a case of history repeating itself) you must begin to educate yourself by reading and I suggest you start with the Russian poets before you start with War and Peace. 
 

The mug seemed to have taken on a mysterious illness. Something which she could not fathom. She thought of her lonely and homesick sister in Rilke’s Prague. She thought of Rilke at the Military Academy also lonely and homesick. Now she was lonely and homesick for something that she could not begin to imagine. She began to think of the man. He had not become an illusion to her yet. She had been beautiful and desired in his arms. Wondered if that would happen to her now. Had she been rejected because she was plain she would have understood. Sometimes illness just had these magical repercussions. 
 
A kiss is something that is very personal. You give someone your soul with a kiss and in return you take theirs. It has been two years of un-joy and unhappiness for her. Whatever that means. All she knew of sadness returned to her in the man’s absence. She became eccentric in her longing for him. The woman no longer had any rights or ownership over the man. Your lady, she thought to herself. Who is she? She wondered if the man was David in his planting season. She thought of the invasion. The woman in the pharmacy her mother had happened upon whose nieces had left for Angola and the Congo. 
 
The woman was reading her journal in the bath. The bathwater was crinkling up the pages in the corners. Her fingers were turning into prunes. Everything seemed mismanaged. A woman is capable of many things. Managing the personal intrigue of the affairs of the heart. This woman wasn’t aligned to the celestial navigation of her mother and grandmothers and tribe of wilderness aunts. She was shy. People did not really know this about her really because boy could she write frankly and talk about the sexual transaction frankly in her stories. Getting up on the stage and talking in front of people was an ordeal. 
 
It filled her with an intense anxiety. She began to write a poem balancing her notebook on her knees. She called it “Breathing Space”. Don’t allow me room to breathe. Don’t. Don’t love me or placate me. Call me docile or pet. Read my lips. Mark my words. Just let the river come Virgil and flow into your narrative and my back story because I value you. Will always remember you and value the opinions you shared with me. This I promise you. Privacy is just an interruption. I do not know anything about Paris in the Springtime. I do not know your deliberate interaction with the world anymore. 
 
I called my own ability a limitation. And when I speak of you now to the hours, to the silence I speak of desire and memory. Moonlight falls. Leaf fades. Dishes pile up in the sink and I have errands to run but you’re still magical to me Virgil. Still muse. Still inspiration. Lockdown was something else. It was not magical. I carry you in my soul. In the palimpsest. Your heart goes on. And I find myself in another city’s paradigm shift. Oh, to not live vicariously through Anne Sexton’s poetry religiously you know. I had to confess when I greeted you at the door. You took your seat and I took mine. 
 
Everything had been said by a look, a glance. Now you’re as alive to me in this room as a branch in springtime. I imagine the flowers bloom in your eyes. I think of yours hands and your nature and your instinct. I miss you you know. More than I really want to. It feeds and nurtures my malnourished veins. It keeps me alive. It keeps me stronger than death. You are the craft of leadership and workmanship Virgil. The bathwater was becoming cold. She lifted the pen to her lips and began to play with it in her mouth before setting down her thoughts furiously on the page in front of her again. 
 
I need love. I need love. I need love but you’ve gone away. I must go on living this life without you. Without you binary star. Without your auxiliary map. Without your infinite grace. Without your castle. Without your song in my head and currency in my hands I am nomad now. The dune has a kind of consistency this morning. I am efficient deal-closer. I move efficiently in tune with birdsong as I listen to the radio. Combined they make a symphony. You’re beach and I’m disappearing underground needing wave to validate my era. I don’t go out anymore. That sun is a bully. Dang it! Be you. 
 
That’s all I can be when I look at my introspective face now that you’re gone. I don’t want to think about you but I do. Perhaps the man had come into her life to remind her that she was still a woman. She remembered as he turned his head away from her, how he made her laugh. It had been a joy to be in his presence. I remember our romance, she would recount to her second oldest nephew’s teenage son. You could have married, they all said that. But I would not have married the one. The sadness remained. Sadness from childhood, sadness from romantic entanglements enveloped her in her eighties. Be kind but don’t forget to love. 
 
“Why are you here? I mean why are you here?” 
“I have come to see you.” 
“What are you thinking?” 
“I am thinking of us. When we were still together.” 
“Stop staring at my reflection.” 
“All I have is this pool of water to keep me sane.” 
“Ah, so you are going insane again.” 
“Come back to me.” 
“I live in another country now with my wife and child.” 
“Something which I could not give to you.” The woman said sadly. 
 
She began to disrobe then. Having made the decision to drown herself in the pool of water. The man in the water began to grow excited. His mindset had become enthusiastic. 
 
“What are you doing?” 
“Death. Death to self. Death to ego. Death to the man.” 
“That’s impossible. In your world I no longer exist.” 
“You exist inside my head.” 
“You won’t find me in hell or heaven since I am very much still alive.” 
“That’s impossible.” 
“How is that impossible? You were too plain for me. I needed a beauty in my life.” 
“You needed a wife. I could have become a wife. Your wife.” 
“My wife. You were too old to have a child.” 
“Are you happy?” 
“I am generally unhappy with my life.” 
“All men need beauty but what does the woman need or want or even desire?” 
“You have to answer that for yourself.” 
“I wish you were still here.” 
“So do I. There are days that I miss you.” 
“That is just the illusory self talking.” 
“My psyche is fractured because of you.” 
“My identity is fragmented because of you.” 
“Dance with the moon. Let it guide you. Be your spotlight.” 
“We are no longer together. I am not going to do that for you anymore.” 
“Dance in the moonlight. Go on. For me.” 
“Nothing but wishful thinking.” 
“You still love me. After all this time when you could have had another.” 
“Why would I have stopped loving you? For a woman matters of the heart are never that easy to explain.” 
“You were as plain as paper.” 
“You were a soldier another life.” 
“I was.” 
“I think of the conversations we could have had.” 
“Why?” 
“I could have been your Eve and yet you rejected me.” 
“That is neither here nor there now.” 
“I will eat now.” 
“Alone?” 
“Yes.” 
“Why? You don’t have to eat alone.” 
“You don’t get it.” 
“Get what?” 
“I still love you.” 
“I’m sorry. Has it come too late?” 
“No. It is alright. I understand now. We were never meant to be together.” 
“Perhaps we both weren’t ready for love.” 
“So the tide turns.” 
“It has turned cold out. Put your clothes back on.” 
“Talk to me about your son. The child we would have had together if I had not been too old to have children.” 
“He has your eyes.” 
“That’s enough for me. Thank you.” 
“You were the first man to tell me that I was beautiful.” 
“I know. We were so innocent.” 
“There are days when I feel like such a failure.” 
“Because you lost me?” 
“Because I lost you. I can’t blame anyone else but myself. What are you doing?” 
“I am crying.” 
“Tears mean nothing to me now.” 
“I know.” 
“I have to stop thinking about you but I can’t bring myself to let go of you just yet.” 
“You come to this pool of water everyday to look at my reflection, to sunbathe and to swim.” 
“If I don’t I overthink.” 
“Fall in love again.” 
“I can’t. You were the one.” 
“Make love to another.” 
“That’s impossible. I can’t.” 
“You have to let go of me. I am not coming back to you.” 
“I know this. I know this but I can’t let go of you.” 
“You’re only hurting yourself.” 
“Is it because I hurt you?” 
“I’ve been hurt before.” 
“You told me this. You promised we’d remain friends.” 
“It’s going to rain.” 
“It would be so easy not to wake up tomorrow morning.” 
“I am trying to be happy.” 
“Yes, you did say that.” 
“I found spiritual comfort in church.” 
“You asked me to come with you and I was afraid.” 
“Why were you afraid? Why are you telling me this now?” 
“I want things to be alright between us before I go home.” 
“You sound brighter.” 
“I have to leave soon. Rainclouds are gathering overhead.” 
“If we had met at some other time we would have made it.” 
“Yes, I know.” 
“If there had been no interference by your father, mother and brother we would have made it.” 
“Yes, I know.” 
“My answer to you is this. That you are the world’s hope as a writer.” 
“I write novels now. You’re just not around to see it.” 
“There’s a river in my soul now that you’re no longer in my life.” 
“There’s a pale river that runs through the narrative of my next book. I am outlining it in thick Croxley notebooks. You have made me so happy Virgil. My inspiration. My muse.” 
“Find another. When you find another you will plant another season.” 
“I’ll be alright.” 
“You can’t live in the past.” 
“Don’t lecture me. This is what makes me happy.” 
“To live with a man who does not love you anymore. You need help.” 
“Well therapy has not worked.” 
“Continue to write then. You need to work me out of your system.” 
“I have really never felt loved. Never abandoned myself completely to it. So all the men who have loved me in return I hold onto them as if they are gold.” 
“Remain authentic. Be the best version of yourself.” the man yelled as she turned her back on the illusion of him. 
“Always.” she shouted and started running as the droplets hit the grass marking muddy puddles where the ground wasn’t level. 
 
The woman began to shiver and put her articles of clothing back on again as if the interlude had never happened. The man watched her but by now he was in disguise. Rain began to pour down from the sky and the woman had a bus to catch to town. She started to run through the park. Her hair damp at the nape of her neck leaving the memory and desire of the man far behind her. She could see the Eiffel Tower from where she stood and what she badly was in need of was a coffee and sandwich at one of those cafes because whenever Paris became a feast in July it became a feast for the senses. Tears burned behind her eyes. 

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African Renaissance

The Lesbian Passion of Virginia Woolf

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And so I come to the lady in the water, the sinner (but in the end aren’t we all sinners). Virginia Woolf in the flesh, that death of the drowning visitor. Her brain cells turned into the cemented atonement of dead moths. Deaths that can be accounted for. Physical bodies that can’t be spirited away, mended only souls torn from the material. Absolutely nothing escaped Virginia. The glory of love (she had that white wedding, the gift of love, she knew it, she knew of it, defended it graciously, she was no failure. I am that failure). Nothing escaped her passionate seeing eyes, her liberty, her meditations on nature, her platelets, mitochondria and bilateral symmetry no more. Only the grit, the brick walls, the mysterious interiors of the mansions of her work remained. Left behind. Granite. Diaries left behind for apprentices. Her intuition, breath and vitality has left this damned for an eternity to hell corpse. What does she have to do with the parenting skills of my distant manic depressive father and my elegant and cold mother, my cool mental illness that needed a room of its own to coexist with my brother’s cigarette smoke, his fatherhood, and his triumph where I had failed and then I voyaged inwards. River Ouse captivated me. I am a woman who writes. Virginia Woolf was a woman who was a wife, a lover and woman who wrote. My ordinary madness became a thing of beauty to me. Me an empty vessel who found bright stars in women, in their husbands and children, in flowers in a vase, in the fabric of the universe at night. I am Orlando. I am Lady Lazarus. I have lived vicariously through Hiroshima, Jean Rhys the demimonde and artist’s model and the feminist Sylvia Plath’s cutting-edged authentic words signalling warning, communicating threads of wisdom, and protest poetry. I needed to understand the London scene, Ted Hughes, Assia Wevill, and the child from that union, Shura. I’m afraid of modernism because it’s not modernism that is taking over the world. It’s writing. The interpretations of an inner life, innerness, marriage, creativity and madness.

Vita and Virginia sitting in a tree. K-i-s-s-i-n-g. Don’t ‘look’ at me. Look at ‘me’. Our intimacy is something special. Your skin is a fabric I could drown in. I can do without religion but I cannot do without you. You have given me the highest form of art, and that is inspiration. How can I ever repay you? Come to me you elegant creature with all of the hopes that you have for yourself. Your goals have become mine. Your dreams my own. Beautiful, elegant Vita. My Orlando. When I read your work I am filled with a clarity of vision, astute perfection, and I feel as if I am your sole possession to have, to have, to have. Can I borrow some of your inhibitory nature, your anticipatory nostalgia, your poetic descriptions, your sky, and the sky in your eyes, your flowers, the flowers that you meditate upon in your garden, your compass that navigates you across the passages of London and Europe? And I want to share something else with you if you will let me. I have come to care very deeply about you. Understand this. Understand that I don’t want to own you, claim you for my own as I am sure others have wanted to do in the past, and I do not want to possess you, and enter your world as a lover and leave as an interloper. When we are together like this, you reading my words (because there are parts of me that want to be completely honest with you about how safe I feel with the charming and seductive you). When we sit together there is still a veil of privacy, an idea of privacy on my part. I am sure the same goes for you too.

You’ve become my obsession and I can think of no one else’s company that I want to be in. When I’m with you I can feel electricity.

I find your poetry, your humility, your abandonment, your inhibitory current stunning, Vita. You are the second love of my life. You are all the dimensions of my world.  I find you clever, so artistic, your work is electric, so imaginative and dear Vita.

I’ve always been curious of married life. I thought I would be surround by the walls of a prison and then I married, became a wife but did not have those children and I discovered how far from the truth that was. Marriage frees you in a sense in so many wonderful and illuminating ways. I wanted Leonard. I wanted love but not necessarily a husband because I didn’t think that love came with having a husband. Love comes with having a likeminded companion. You, Vita, are that likeminded companion. You come with love, with passion.

Observe the adjustments in my personality carefully whenever I am with you, study, and evaluate my dying in your arms. Learn my half-truths and white lies as I do yours Vita. I only have to hear your voice and I thrive. I achieve a new intelligence, a new acting, a new materialism, and a new language in that dry season. It should be as obvious to you now as it is to me that I am utterly besotted, smitten by you. I am in love with you. Let’s set up house together. Get away together if that’s impossible. And when I am without you I am a winter guest in a cold storm. I want to tell you that there is something luxurious and soothing about your skin. My Vita.

I am at your mercy. Your perfume fills my head. And when I begin to live vicariously through you, self-consciously or consciously my sadness has a complex wavelength. Brutal accomplishments threading my humanity. I have longed for them my whole life. The gratitude I have for you being a part of my life has become educational.

And they did not think of the extraordinary consequences of the gift of their relationship. They did not think. Period. They lived for love like other women did for being regarded as sex objects, parties, men, the London scene and flowers. Instead they are transformed.

The lovers whisper to themselves. They don’t want to part. The grass was a dream. And they were both brides rushing to the end of adolescence, the English summer weather, its immediacy of sustaining both women’s ideas of silence in the complexity of detachment. Here in the countryside, shielded by multitudes of simplistic chores, sharing the routine of waking up to their literary work, neither woman could untangle herself from their ‘marriage’. These elegant English heroines, English novelists whose writings were hypnotic were oblivious to reality, the outside world, and men were rendered insignificant, invisible. Men became others and humanity, the female of the species existed in a time and space that became known as the unknown future.

After the dust, the sexual disclosure, the impulsivity of the lesbian love affair between Virginia Woolf and Vita Sackville-West no sentence could shame the both of them, their writing process, their divine prowess. Woolf gave Sackville-West authority over her physical body, and in return Sackville-West did the same. Gaps, flashbacks, embarrassing regret should come with the territory of an affair that comes to an end. The silence is textured with what is not being said, the acute longing, and the despair of loneliness, of a seductive theory identifying the beginning of this lifelong romance, the mutual admiration committee between these two gifted English women.

I know what it is to suffer. To live with the face of enduring love shining upon my frozen countenance, love realigning my psychological frame, my sexual pace. Your power stifles me, a thing. And a woman alone.

At first it’s a glance framing reality, a sensual anticipation and so the landscape’s feast becomes symbolic of what will come after this inconvenient love.

Photographs survive. Historical events, knowledge, actors but not manic depressives, the mentally ill, people who have an absence of order in their lives. The living do not survive.

In our world morals are made of shrinking ice. Our love is fingered apocalyptic bliss. The detailed built foundations of the sublime. To hurt someone else is an inconvenience. To be hurt in return embroiders negative patterns in your thoughts for an unseen lifetime, it cheapens secrets, weaving, slaughtering the golden, the sensual image of the physical body.

There is nothing that can be a replacement for the latter.

Virginia Woolf. Was she still that molested child? Hurt, confused, yet her mind still cool and pure, cleansed of any illness, elements of fantasy, climate change, global warning, world poverty, trafficking did not coexist in her field of vision yet. She delayed the information. The bridges to the onslaught of mental illness. All she wanted was freedom. And this she found with Vita Sackville-West.

And as an adult did she not want children, a whole screaming tribe of them of her own, a child so that she could mend all the wrongs of the past.

Already she had a plan while writing in her diary Virginia, ‘I know I’ll never love this way again.’ And then the River Ouse was upon her like a lake. And there it was. She wanted to die. She wanted to waste away. Find a wilderness of her own making. She wanted to beg to the gods. The unwritten freedom which had been her church, and like a religion to her had left her angelic perspective. The dead end the shortcut to a hellish parade, the seducer. The hook of injustice was in her heart. She lived (it was but a pale gesture) but in death she lives extraordinarily.

Short fiction by Abigail George

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African Renaissance

Putin’s War

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Image source: kremlin.ru

The outbreak of war in Ukraine has left millions displaced. There has been no solid partnership between the West and Ukraine. Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelinsky asks for help, addresses governments with a plea, speaks about the turmoil and devastation in his country and the West remains diplomatic about the situation on the ground.

Refugees are now making their way across Europe. So far they are seeking refuge in Poland, Romania and Germany. The West has used a soft approach against Russian president Vladimir Putin and what about the ceasefire? Ukrainians want the Russians to leave. The world wants this war to stop. We all want peace but Putin does not want peace. Putin has an agenda. Zelensky accuses the West of cowardice. The West refuses to stand up to Putin. They have every right, we have every right as humankind to be very afraid of the outcome of this war. We are living with the knowledge of humanity existing on the brink of a “nuclear war”. It has become a daily reality.

The war has conditioned all of us not just Ukrainians to cope, to defend ourselves against the blueprint of depression and anxiety. I have seen Ukrainians in the news living in refugee camps develop survival skills for the conflict situation they find themselves in.

What do you understand about Russia’s invasion in Ukraine? Are you angry, sad, frightened? This may mean the war is affecting your mental health in direct or indirect ways. War does not discriminate unfortunately. In war soldiers need mental strength but what kind of strength do civilians need? Church services have been held to bring communities across the Ukraine together. People are standing together in solidarity across the world.

What does it mean to flee your homeland? What does it mean to pack a few belongings, just what you can carry in two bags and leave your home overnight, making it from the country of your birth to the border of another country and literally walking your way to an unknown future?

In the eyes of the world the West is not protecting the civilians of Ukraine and the country is on the brink of a catastrophe. Daily people are preparing for Russian assault. Conscription age is between 18-60 years of age. The most vulnerable in this war are afraid for their lives and in a state of shock as is the rest of the world. Everyone in Ukraine knows they can die at any moment. Will the Russians get their comeuppance? History will not forget how Russia behaved.

The world accuses Russia of genocide. The country has been ravaged by war for weeks and it is taking its toll on the inhabitants and children of the Ukraine. Supplies of food and water are at an all time low. Time is running out for all of us but for the children of the Ukraine their childhood has come to an end.

What impact has this invasion had on the psychological framework of the citizens of the Ukraine? Tension is at an all time high. Is there hope in the coming months this war will come to an end, that there will be a reconciliation between Putin and Zelensky? Will they at the end of the day be able to see eye to eye at the negotiation table and what will be the next phase of their “complicated” relationship to say the least.

The ongoing crisis has seen the loss of thousands of lives, employment, and places of business. Ukrainian men who can stay and fight have made the ultimate sacrifice by abandoning their families and taking up arms. No vital progress has been made to end Putin’s war since the beginning of the invasion.

The figure of Ukrainian president Volodymyr Zelensky as a hero in this struggle will remain with many for a lifetime. The invasion has been life-changing. The mood of a battlefield is still in the air. Amnesty International has accused Russia of war crimes. What will Putin’s tipping point be?

This war will stay with us for a long time. That goes without saying. We must remain cognisant of the lessons we can take from it.

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