Petya Dubarova, you grew up in Burgas. I grew up in a port town. I grew taller and thinner by the sea buzzing with bluebottles every January. This is a kind of lamentation for thunder, manifestos, and my father the king-man, the Parisian rooftops of Picasso and Modigliani, Rilke, Hemingway and Salinger. Petya Dubarova, I say your name like we’re friends, or, something. The only thing that we have in common is that we are two female poets via Bulgaria and Africa. Like we went to school together, had sleepovers. Stuff. Shared our poetry with each other like homework instructions. I have known the experience of death in the asylum. Family pain. Philosophy poured out into verse. The exquisite fire-red lipstick of my sister. Dream and poetry. I was an actor on stage. The vanishing curve of my hip, hint of a smile on my lips I warmed to the audience. The words of Abigail George are words oblivious to empty love. The other truth. Diary of a poet. Of a misfit. My fragile mental health, how those words ring inside my head like the tune of a roman wedding. Women poets meet the light and the darkness. Poetry will never feed you, but it fed the plays of Sarah Kane. Giorgio Manganelli, Salvatore Quasimodo and Pier Paolo Pasolini. Alda Merini. And, me. My love, sexual desire, pain, torture both physical and psychological and death. Crave psychosis. That hand to God. Love me or kill me. The voice is all. The lonely victory. I say to it, come on out and join the dance. Grotesque and curious is the spider’s web. My childhood was a web too. Isolated, the business enterprise of impoverished loneliness. I have a secret brain disease. It is known as manic depression, or, the schizoid personality disordered female brain in society.
There is no male nor female mind. No dominant sex when it comes to the poets. I think of Petya Dubarova’s Burgas. Her sea. Behind the walls of the big house, you will find the sea and me. Both deceived by youth and forgiveness, sleep and memory. The sea and me have known all restoration through psychoanalysis and therapists. The gold dust of lithium therapy. Gone am I with the rainy season, domesticity, sketches in pen scratches, liberty, elders, and the ill/un-well poetess. My father uses a walker. My mother drives the car. I have had two relapses this year already. April and October. I go to the sea. Walk on the beach amongst the black ghosts dressed in the costume of breaking code. Think of being kissed by the sea. I see normal people. They see me. My sister is a normal girl. My mother was a normal girl. I am anti-normal. Anti-muse. I think of Brighton. Think of every female poet who has ever thought of committing suicide. Think of my four attempts now. Of how it felt the first time, then the second, then the third, then the fourth. This kind of fragility in me. In imperfect and random me you will find the things you love. Flowers and roots and stems and sap. I am the sap you spat out. I am replaced by other women’s daughters. The magic salt (lithium) saved my life. Afrikaner psychiatrists. There’s something wrong with me. Guess everyone can tell. There’s something wrong with me inside. Guess my heart is broken from all of those years of trauma. Trauma, syndrome, perspective, mental cruelty. Guess they are all just plain words for all to rhyme, see and hear. You love me. Then you don’t. You accept me. Then you don’t. I think of desire. Then I don’t. I write. That’s what I have always done. Like it is a form of revenge or something.
They say like father like daughter. That I am just as madness as him. Just as lunatic. Just as a black sheep. Just as burnt out from life. If I could smoke my life away, believe me I would. If I could drink my life away, believe me I would if I could, if I was so inclined. I am poet gone mad. You’re all of me, dad, and I’m all of what you are. I think I know what I am. The psychosocial action of the black vein in a leaf. I think of stigma and discrimination. The dynamic that exists between mother and daughter. Winner standing in the milieu of the gap and her miserable daughter at being a failure at having no children and spouse. I’ll turn into an island, you’ll see. I think of you mother as I do of the flowers in your garden. How like them you are. How filled with focus and concentration you are hip and knee-deep in your work. You’re rather something special, made of vital poetic substance, I wish you could love me the way that I love you, be proud of me the way that I am proud of you instead of you thinking of me as your mentally ill daughter. I’ll turn into a bird, you’ll see. I’m ink catching a fish catching a genius, and the owl screams while the bat twitches and the mole snitches, and the moonlight is zen. Zen. Tonight, I’m thinking of my paternal grandfather. I’m thinking of his smarts, his tattoos, his children, his alcoholism, his baptism, his restoration, and how I flesh him out now in words. How he spoke the language of the Second World War. How he was a cold sea, a waking child in the middle of the night. How much I loved him. How much I’ll always love him in the big night’s dark grasses, and mountain air. The valley of it all razed with guns and bullets. All the people I have loved are gone, or, are dead. Flung all over the world. Never to return again to me. America, Berlin, Swaziland, Johannesburg. They all tell me how difficult it is to love me, my madness-life from the glass ceiling to the chandeliers. It is difficult to love someone like me, they say. I’m a cold sea too. I’m Bulgaria. I’m Africa. I live within a hemisphere of social isolation, and fear and anxiety, and stars like fireworks inside the cellular network of every nerve fibre of my brain. You’re perfect grandfather. I’m rebellious. Your other grand-daughter had a Berlin Christmas. I’ve turned into an island, you see. You’re abundant, grandfather. In everything I do, I see, I know, I acknowledge, I write. You’re still attached to me like a wishbone.
You stand in solemn-mode armed with a bayonet. Then, saint, you’re home with five mouths to feed. I never went to university. You never went to university. I never finished school. All I ever wanted to be was a poet and an editor like Ezra Pound. An admirer of Pound’s Alba and Sappho, Antigone and Joan of Arc. Mother Teresa of Calcutta. And the island’s name is Saint Helena. If you’re a flower mother, then so am I. If you’re summer good-looking, then I am wintertime’s bulbs stuck in gravity and earth. I am third eye wiser. I am the wheel, the spark. I am loneliness. I am both alone and lonely in this world of ours. With one light on, I know you are home mother. With one foot upon the stair, wind in your hair, you’re simply put an angelic flame. You, like my grandfather are a saint. You’re the axis, the planets, the stars, the sunlight. You’re the riot of the phantom thread, the golden thread of this planet, the rollercoaster machinery of Monkey Island, the theme park of Africa, the aloof poetess of Bulgaria. I am mulatto (of mixed-race descent). You, Petya, as pale as milk. Hair as thick as molasses. The colour of honey. In photographs I did not smile either when I was your age. Even in death, frozen in time you bloom at specific will. With the focus, growth-process, the speed of a flower. Like a wildflower. Like all wildflowers. I am so pale. The colour of death. Down into the yards of the grave of the sea I must go. Book passage there. Rooms made of star signs and water, silence and music, the hours. Don’t go look down there into the abyss, I told myself. I knew of a love once. He gave me National Geographic books to read. He’s long gone to the States now. I know he’ll make a roaring success of himself in the image of Fitzgerald. Thought he’d be perfect for me. Thought I’d be perfect for him. He pulled me up from the funeral waters to his heart. I was alive again. We lived for each other, Petya. Then the day came when we had to say goodbye. The moon sat above the silent streets that night when the moonlight left my soul. Dove warbling in my throat talks across the page. My heart is lonely again.
My head is a foolish wasteland of cowardice and fear, my heart is a cage, all I can think of is the pain of this relationship. We’ll both be estranged for the rest of our lives. He’ll fall in love with another, I know this. But I want him right now and this room spins. My heart wants to scream out loud. I’m always falling, tumbling down, rambling, falling like a leaf to a shroud, like vapour from a cloud. I’m always falling in love. I haven’t always been very successful at it. The love affair is wasted on me. I can see no potential in it for me. It makes me feel empty inside. I want to be more than a grain of sand. The tears are always falling. Petya, did you know love in your short life? Aspire to it. It feels so empty without him here now. The music, the hours, the silence, the water that I slipped into for my baptism. I was baptised in the local swimming pool by an apostle. Life feels so empty. Petya, could we have been intimate friends. Shared everything, everything. All I can think about is this guy. I wish he was still around to make me laugh. America is like another constellation.
If you wanted to be found, we could have found each other. If I wanted to found, you could have found me. When I dance, I hope you’re coming for me, but you don’t. You don’t see my grace. You don’t see the way that I see the sea. It hurt so much to let you go. To see you standing there for the last time. The last time. For you, I’m the hungry lioness. I’m a carcass that wild birds feast and claw their way upon. All I can think of is you. But you’re gone. Gone to America. You can do anything. You can do anything you want with this heart of mine. Loving you has only caused me pain. The wound will never heal, feels like it. Feels that way inclined. You’re leaving town. I’m left hanging around. How sweet is was to call your name, how sweet it was to know desire, how sweet it was to have you in my life, call you friend, call you love. I have known others. In a way they’re dead to me now, they’ve moved on. Onward. Where did you go, where am I going, after this? That sunny road will always be so incomplete. Nothing I can do about the pain. You’re not here. You’re not here. You’re a pale king on your throne. I tell myself that the young king never loved wretched little me back. I’m just a poor girl, impoverished and lonely. Call it a secret then. Call it desire. Your Monkey Island, Petya, has become mine. So, I live to survive, to fight another day. I live to write. That’s part of my deception. That was part of your deception too, Petya.
He was a young king. My sister is in Berlin. It is raining there. I long for your Bulgaria to kiss this pain away. I long for my Africa to kiss this pain away. I keep waiting for the telephone to ring long distance. Hear the sound of their voices again. But it is just a hallucination. Part of my personality type now. To hear voices. There are no voices now. Only goodbye. He’s gone. The music has stopped playing. All I see now are false people around me, haunting me with the triumphs of their ghost nation, with their falsities, or their niceties. And sometimes even their loneliness, their false bravado, their librettos written on their chests. All I wanted was to love, and be loved in return, and for a short while I was. He was too. Gone, only to be forgotten. Gone, forever and a day, until the hours to the next sunset. In return for his silence, he gets mine, Petya. I think of Burgas this time of year. Could it be summer where you are, where your bones are, where your poetry is? For my entire life I have worn a mask, Petya. I’ve experienced trials in living, in loving, in writing, in productivity. For me, the world has been wintertime all these long decades. Help me to live, Petya. Please, please help me. Behind me is the northern star of the death wish. Make it go away, I tell my identity. I am through with it. I have known such a little love in my short life. No view of the world. No view of bride. No view of groom. I am shy of the world, of the universe. There is nothing left there for me in it except to drown in the waterfall of it. Pull myself away from the current phase in my life. This relapse into the doll-like flowers of winter. Leaves in a hat. Do not touch it. Leave it behind. Tithe in the collection plate. Leave it there to always mark my father’s place. Petya is magical, funny and truly soulful. Petya’s poetry is classical, timeless, and a must-see. I am uncut, un-magical, un-funny, not soulful. For if I were soulful, Petya, then wouldn’t someone fall in love with my soul. I am Japan from memory, from meme, from verse, from rhyme. I am diarist. I am insomniac. I am lovesick and want to be seduced. I am old. I am older. You will always be young. You will always be younger. Although in my estimation all female poets are wise at any age. I will not read about the male poets anymore. Except Nick Laird. I really dig Nick Laird’s poetry. His wife’s (Zadie Smith) novels. I’ve read Updike. Read Hemingway. Read Salinger. There was a time when I wanted everything. There was a time when I wanted it all. Then came a time when I only wanted the pursuit of happiness. Now all I want is to be truly happy, exposed as poet. It seems everyone who marries meets at university.
I think of you all the time, with love, with respect, with admiration. Why am I so sad? I lost the love my life again. It feels as if I’m in my twenties again. You with the sad eyes, what am I going to do with you. You love, you love, you love and nobody loves you back. Her eyes look so sad. The reflection cast in tones, in silver, in speech and pause. The young king never loved me back. Inside I feel so sad and over-wrought. Ill. Ill. Ill. Healthwise. Yet still feminine and all I want to do is shine. Like you. Like you. Like you. I’m old. Too old for you. You’re a prisoner. I’m a woman. You’re leaving me. Father, brother, mother, sister. Greener pastures and the fairer sex await on the other side. I think of you smoking your last cigarette of the day. You’re perfect. You’re perfect just the way you are. I could glorify you in a handwritten poem. Kiss. Kiss. I could kiss you. Forgive you. Be in it for the long haul. You’re in love, my love. You’re leaving town. I’m swinging from the chandeliers. Burning the candle at both ends. Open your mouth and let me kiss you. You’re thrilling and formidable. How come I’ve never found love. Don’t want it. Don’t need it. I’ rather partake in cheesecake. I think of you. I think of you all the time. I always have and I always will. I feel as if my own heart is breaking. Everything I have ever done, is done. And here I am writing again to you David, my love. Always David. Always my love. And I will always be forever yours, but you are taken and someone else’s dream man. She loves you. Go to her. This will be goodbye then. All I want to know is this. Did you love me, once? Afraid? Yes, I am afraid. I am scared of the dark (for example). All I want is you. You. You. But we are children of the, (this is difficult to say, difficult for me to admit to), we are children of the revolution. We are children of the struggle. You know it. You know it. I know it. And all I can think of is being in your arms and loving you. Go to her. Go to your life partner. You made a commitment to her. Go.
I’ve been in the wilderness for a long time. Half of Moses. You have your journey. You have your own journey. But do we meet again as friends, or lovers, or maybe nothing at all. I was always even as a little girl falling in love with father substitutes. I would tell them all I know. This would make them smile. I am a child of the revolution. And you? How I love you, David. How I love you, David. How I love you, David. How I love you, David. I will go on loving you for an eternity. Stay with me. Stay with me. Stay with me. I will, adore, worship and love you forever. In the middle of the night I am the girl not in reach of anyone, except you. David, you are the only constant in my life. In the silence (which is as unbearable as the loneliness, the futility of always being the outsider looking in), David is the only constant in my life. Ignore what everyone else says, and run away with me. Let’s elope if this love has substance, and if this is for real. David, I only want to love you. David, David, David, David, take me away from all of this hell and fury, this misery that loves company, live with me and be my love. You, David, of all people understand what I think, what I feel, what I know, how I react to your voice. Is this hello or goodbye? I don’t know yet. The decision, is up to you, David. If you want me, I am here. I am waiting for you. I am waiting for love. Wait until I see your eyes again, that smile, that laugh. I look young enough again to be your daughter. I don’t care what other people say. I love you, Dawid. I always have. All these years. How can I regret anything? You are yours. You are man, and I am Eve. I think of you all the time. Hearts will be broken. I look at you and I see that you need someone who just not only loves you but understands you completely. But you are not a free man, or, perhaps you are. I pray. I pray for you. Think of your silhouette in the dark. Think of you in the morning. I am all alone. I have always been all alone. You are my light in the dark. Whenever I think of you, I think of you as lover, and friend. You make me laugh. You make me want you. You make me want to be a better person, a better woman, kinder, more understanding. I love, love you. I adore you. I worship you. My life is just beginning. Yours?
Tell me, how are you. Are you loved? I think of you all the time. Can’t get your name out of my head. You make me forget my dreams. I only want to dream them with you. Nobody loves me really for me. I pull the hair back from my face. Holding my hair up with bobby pins. I dance for you, and then suddenly I’m in love, and all I can think of is you. How imperfect you are. I am too. How perfect you look. Even after all these years you still look the same to me. You’re the music inside my head. The love song inside my head. Joy Division in the background. Remember when I was working as a cocktail waitress in the bar that we met. Are you nothing but a careless whisper? A heart-shaped bullet passing straight through transparent me. Nothing but yesterday. Words pass me by. Words pass me by now. Words are like bees. Words are like the mist. Words are like circles, paradigm shifts (shifting in the light of day). You were once a chance. You were once an opportunity for a love affair and matters of the heart. I can only see my shadow now on the pavement in front of me leading me home. My mother doesn’t love me in the right way. She tries, like I tried to tell you once that perhaps I had feelings for you. Remember this. Remember. Je me souviens. You left me first. Standing there, looking at your gorgeous back as you waked away from me. I felt devastated, left. Empty, left. Left behind, left behind, left to fend for myself. It was a kind of prophetic omen for everything in my life. Go to your devoted wife. Your beautiful daughter you created together. My cold, cold heart was not undone by you, but by God. There’ve been so many loves over the years, my love, and all I can think of is one. For now. A novelist, the lecturer, the creative consultant, the educationalist, the producer, the researcher, the filmmaker, the clinical psychologist, the magistrate, and the list goes on and on. I know I have loved, I will love, and so forth. But I don’t want to get all Coco Chanel all over you, or Norma Jean Baker, or Britney Spears, or the Kardashian clan. I don’t just want to exist; I also want to live. I want love. I want to love but I am terrified of it. But the novelist was my first love, and Swaziland was my first love, and my second mother will never see the light of day again. And so, I write. I write to save all, impact the world, make a change, heal the world, heal myself. Always thinking of the novelist, always thinking of what could have been. Me, 16, with the sad eyes. Time to grow up. Time for recovery, and not relapse. Time to think, to mature, to remain confident. And all the girls are so, so pretty. And all the boys are so, so handsome. And all the good men have gone. All the women are married. All the handsome men are gay, so Robbie Williams sings in Love Supreme. Nobody wants to kiss someone who has been raped. No one wants to know her name.
The wedding dress is reserved for women who want to be lovers who turn into mothers. No one hears this woman crying, sobbing into her pillow at night. Every one ignores, has ignored her pleas for help. So, she thinks of her first loves. Her second mother sleeping in the graveyard alongside Ingrid Jonker, she thinks of eddies of dust on the mountains in the pure greenness of Swaziland, and she thinks of her novelist. Always saying hello, goodbye. On reading women, the phoenix and somehow finding the exit out, Petya, pain is the hardest thing. It’s flippered. Like home, it has a soul, body, and mind of its own. It has the call of a swallow swallowing song, releasing the god of dew in the morning. Sometimes pain is like you, looks like you, talks like you. And I remember the days I called you Simon, Jacob, Elijah, Nicolas, Patrick, or Benedict, or Ignatius, or someone else’s name, that I just don’t care to remember at all anymore. You’re older, you’re wiser, you left me innocent and sweet, but your romance was a masquerade, a sham of deceit, and lies. Love, so naïve, so trusting, so maybe it is for the long-term haul, maybe it’s just a short-term plan in the interim, while you wait for someone else to love you. I’ve been in the arms of poverty. Poverty is familiar to me. The world, my world, is tilting again. Shadows disappear. Shades appear in the gloom. You’re like a fish. Here, and not here. There, and not there. Nature makes beautiful things. The flowers you don’t buy, I buy for myself. The chocolates, and wine you don’t buy, I buy for myself. I want to make a tree out of you. Trees are cool. They help put a kind of fizz over the day. I feel myself falling, falling, falling. I’m exhausted. Think of the mad Zelda Fitzgerald who didn’t like Hemingway’s friendship with her husband, the exquisitely put together advertising genius Assia Wevill, think of Marilyn Monroe at the acting studio, wanting to become an ‘actor’, not just an actress flirting with the camera. I fall into the swell, the push-and-pull of night. I don’t behave. The waves inside my head spill over into day.