All Is Not Well
Chapters and Parts of a Young Girl's Life, Part Two
Everything is disjointed especially when they (the words) are first coming into being, in fragments, there's no clarity to me the reader. Everything is a journey. Follow me, they seem to say. Come with me. When disjointed fragments of the spirit become apparent so does the dysfunctionality and the moods in families. I've lived with it for all of my life. Alcoholism and addiction and finding myself in that sometimes harmonic space of looseness, threads disconnecting and coming together again, the family going on holiday and reconciling and then going their separate ways again afterwards. It became ritualistic. Sunday and chicken, Easter and pickled fish, tumbling head first into Christmas and the feast that waited for us on the dining room table after church. When you're a child and everything, every corner that you turn seems to torment you, what do you do when you crave an intimate world? When people in your childhood world aren't kind, aren't loyal, aren't normal, live without love and teach you to live without love too and so you begin to live in books. You love the beach, hate having your picture taken because you have to smile and it is just so hard to smile from your perspective. You begin to love Jean Rhys, slowly fall in love with her and Mrs. Rochester, their madness becomes your madness, you becoming, you becoming without knowing, without thinking it, it just happens by chance, a mad dance. You begin to feel shame, humiliation, selfish, self-absorbed, arrogant, willful, and you tell yourself that you need love to exist and you watch the world around you, how it isolated you, your strangeness, one-who-flew-the-cuckoo's-nest type of stuff in your head. You see couples. You see families. You see love and you don't see love. You are not the chosen one. You are not the winner. I am not the chosen one. I am not the winner and you convince yourself that love is just a thing, a possession for others to have and to hold onto. It is not the hardest feeling in the world to think that way. Becoming, becoming, becoming. I am fading away amongst the pillars of our community. Why is it so hard to live? What happened to me as a child?
'What are they doing? Don't be shy. Tell me.' A teacher asks me and I almost feel like crying, feeling humiliated, as if I was slapped very hard in the face all of fourteen. He has stripped me of the pureness I still had, destroyed my virtue and dignity. And he smiles. He knows he has the upper hand. What else can he do but play this game, his game, an adult game? His wife is in the kitchen preparing supper. Doing what so many women of her generation do in the evenings after work (my mother was not a woman of her generation). His children are outside on the lawn playing. I can see them from where I am sitting. I can't escape. It is the first time I see physically the sex impulse in the man. There is nothing I can do but wait for his interest to wane and for my mother to rescue me from my extra-lesson. They are photographs. Photographs of animals.
'Nothing.' I say. 'Nothing I can see. I don't know what they're doing.' I say firmly. He laughs at me as if I am a funny little girl, a strange creature, and silly.
'If you say so. Don't be so. Don't be so serious. I was only playing, playing with you.' He replies and takes his photographs back and puts it in a folder. Older. (In seduction there is only theory and identity. Who submits and who is the one who dominates the situation.) Every day I am so excited to see you, wonderful you and I wonder about the secrets of your heart, Robert. Could they be as deep as mine, as deep as the river of blood flowing in veins? You enclose my mind but you are not free. But it is much like the secrecy of the deep, of my hometown's darkening waters. Best left as images stitched together like the strategy of a quilt or patchwork. There's something about the sky above you about you that I adore. I can't take my eyes off you. But already I know I am sick, dying to belong in one sense in modern society and in another I am so far removed from reality, from normal and only you seem to be able to see this. Lovesick, I feel now that he was the only person who knew and understood me completely, that I was addicted to feeling in control and out of it mostly. Port Elizabeth. It feels so long ago as to how my childhood home revived me. They make me feel as tough as strings of beef. War has visited house by house during the riots. It tastes like a stale loaf that has been left out too long. A slice of hard, dry bread that you can crack between your fingers and leave your desire for longing for the light in my eyes. It feels as if it's burning. Something on edge like ballet pointes. The frozen wasteland of the streets of Johannesburg. My brown nylon stockings are hung up to dry in the bathroom. The streets are a catapulted realm of newfound freedom exploding into stardom. Where and when does the external become important too and what becomes of all the rage, and all the sadness, take it all away from me, from my childhood? Is it Chatterley's ghost -- what is it that terrifies me so? Is it the cold comfort of the Scriptures? Do we live as we dream? 'Take it all off' he said. 'I want to watch you take it all off.' I obeyed. The day I left you and not the other way round I put the disorder between us, the words that were said and could not be said into a box. How you dominated me, wounded me, what you made me feel with a glance, with one look, how you desired me and what you made me think when you ran your fingers up and down my spine asking me over and over, 'Can you feel that? What does that make you feel?' 'It makes me feel calm, otherness.' 'Not happy. Don't you feel happy, child?' 'I feel as if there are boundaries between us.' 'There are always boundaries between a man and a woman but you are too young to know that yet.' 'When you put your arms around me when I'm naked I feel epic.' 'Epic. Now that is a strange word for a child to use.' 'Isn't that the word you use when you describe your books to your classes?' 'Yes, maybe.' And I could feel him smile as he massaged my shoulders and kissed my neck. His arms feel like the handmaiden's rope around my neck. There's no place, no room for hysteria only violent phenomena in this bedroom. This is not my house. This is not my home. I don't struggle. I just feel a release. It is sharp. He has introduced me to books and films, French films and pasta and wine, preserved figs, chai tea that I've become passionate about and J.M. Coetzee and Nadine Gordimer. The Childhood of Jesus. The House Gun. I am so far away from my mother's house, the house of a monster, her primitive hatred of me that ran like an electric current into my fingertips torturing me, and my cries that nobody heard. Her obsession, her mental abuse, no wife, no kindness had she for a mentally ill daughter. She was kind of a deranged person with her own emotional damages. One person to another and another funny kind of cruel person to me. I felt a violent despair for Robert. Could he see all of this in me? But the lover was something else. He made me cheese on toast. 'So this is all a divorced father can make.' He smiled. I smiled. And I remembered the mad, dark sea of Port Elizabeth, the rolling hills of the Eastern Cape, the green feast of Swaziland and how far I had come to eating cheese on toast. Electric hurt is the price every poet must pay. I slept with a lot of men in Johannesburg. Older, wiser, more experienced, divorced, married, some had children, some had one and some were lonely like I was. I think they all had a traumatic loneliness like I had. To sleep with someone like me I guess you had to have one. I've thought of suicide. And I am sure everyone with a suicidal illness thinks of it at some point in their lives. I feel as if I have been part of the Otherness of the universe at large. They would say things to me although it would frustrate me sometimes stuff like, 'It's all part of Phenomena. Maintenance. You don't have to worry about that. I will take care of you child.' I didn't want their money. I wanted love but they would smile at me when I spoke of it as if I was too young to know of such things, much too inexperienced but to me I knew a man had to offer me a window to that world or leave a door ajar. I had too much of a primitive instinct for love, and a hyperactive imagination. I wasted my youth and in Otherness I didn't. When he entered me I thought I would experience hysteria, a flood of those traumatic experiences I had in childhood and adolescence would somehow be reawakened in me. It's not that they would buy me beautiful things, a bracelet, a pretty relic, it was the things that they would say to me. Their intellect, their fierce intelligence, how they would make me laugh and when I telephoned them I could have a few minutes of their precious time listening to their brutally articulately voices at the other end. How they would make me blush. She is not mummy. She is mummy's sister. She's been away a long time. She's gone to heaven. Reminding me that Sunday is a ghost of a day. And so is the chicken. All of my life I've worshipped cake with a 'higher learning,' a 'poetic justice,' eating bread, cinnamon rolls and pudding like it came with the light of the world. Gold is the owlish sun-god Ra. Port Elizabeth. Home. Home has given me burning driftwood wings. Up, up, up and then down, down, down like a moth inhaling smoke evaporating in air. The air tastes like fried fish, smells like calamari rings, frying chips in oil that's weeks old in the café. A man is following me home. He is calling after me. I begin to pick up speed, walk faster, think it will be suicide to stop, to pause, to think. I turn around. I know this man. I sometimes give him dry bread and hot tea. Today I give him bread and hot tea again. His clothes are splattered with paint. Mummy paints the world dead leaving me a portrait of the female poet. Johannesburg. He is touching me. Warm breath upon my cheek. Chaste kiss upon chaste kiss. 'I thought you couldn't see me.' 'Don't talk.' He says with my hair in his mouth. 'What shampoo do you use? It tastes like pineapple. Smells expensive.' 'It's my perfume. You bought it for me remember.' 'It smells like pineapple. You put it on your hair. Now that makes me feel young. You think of me when you were doing that?' 'Its flowers.' 'Don't talk.' He begins to unbutton my blouse one button at a time, puts his hand down the front of my blouse. 'Are you enjoying this?' 'Yes. Yes.' I say half-heartedly. He pushes the hair off my neck and his hand lingers there. And all I can think about is my aunt. My dead aunt. The beautiful, elegant alcoholic with two daughters and four grandchildren and an abusive husband. A handsome abuser who had a porn star's hairdo who would physically hurl her across rooms and bounce her head against walls for merciless psychopathic fun. I would think of America and of how studying there seemed even farther out of my reach now. My aunt has been away a long time now. Gone to heaven leaving me a leper with a stoned heart, with a mother who is ice and glass, brutal and aggressive, an untitled poem who has ancient motives like the eighteen gangs in the warfare climate of the northern areas in Port Elizabeth. My aunt made me want to live. There is no speaking of Christianity and of mummy's bright faith as I feel his hand on my thigh, brushing my skin, stroking my bare stomach draining bravery out of my spirit, out of me and calling it promiscuity. And even then during the sexual impulse I would be making up stories. I would be in some parallel universe, dimensions away, not feeling my heart's pain or sacrifice or hearing the particles of music, even a symphony in a pop song. I would see the winter stranger by the lake, monsters, the feast of Robert (the man I could not have), see my letters in my red box of memories, having courage and a love song in the wilderness, the believer's spring essence. What a feeling it is to be loved, to kiss when you're awake in this world, when you walk upon this earth. I was always waiting for this spell, this magic but it never came. Only men. Only the men and they would take and take and take and leave me disillusioned and sad and suffering from depression. Strange people. What strange people men are? They can bruise a girl and flee and feel nothing in the end.
'You're a bicentennial girl, you know that.' A man once told me.
'You use big words. I don't understand them.' I replied.
'It means 'birthday'. Birthday girl. Every day you spend with me is going to be your birthday.' He answered.
Of course I didn't believe him and I didn't see him all that much. He moved in higher circles than I did. His wife was a socialite and an artist. In Johannesburg I found myself in the New World. The land of giants, of immortals, of vampires who came to life in a twilight world; a wonderland of synchronicity, stimulation, the anatomy of maladies and melancholia. These men would share with me the philosophies they had about life, talk to me about their children and their wives and girlfriends, the houses that they were building, how much money they were making. Sometimes I would smoke cigarettes with them even though I didn't smoke. They had their own motives for befriending younger people and I had mine for befriending older men, drinking with them to forget an absent father, a father who had made me grow up too fast, a mother who had neglected me, abandoned me, made me neurotic, emotionally unstable, who forced me to go beyond reality and to imagine things that had no psychological framework. My mother did not keep me from children who were rough. She threw me to the wolves, left me there. I was a drowning visitor for all of my life. I was the one who had to push myself out of the nest. My mother and father were so distracted by their own melancholia they hardly noticed when I left for the streets of Johannesburg searching everywhere destination anywhere for a miracle, for a return to love, for a boyfriend, a brave desert cowboy, an arrogant urban cowboy. Promiscuity for me was so easy. An adult game. Strangers meeting strangers. I could kill like my mother could kill. Sometimes I would worry about the connection I would have with someone I would meet. He would brush my hair out of my face. We would go to a park, sit on the grass, take our shoes off, talk for hours, play chess or go to his room in Hillbrow. He would sell roses. I would do and think and act like my mother. I would brush him off the next time we would meet remembering everything about him, tell him to leave me alone. How he said, 'You're lovely.' How could a girl ever forget that, when a man told her she was lovely? Home was hell. School was hell too. There was no motive for burning driftwood on the beach that night but the teenagers did it anyway and they sat and watched the flames burn on the night they matriculated and drank their father's single malt whisky, cheap wine that came in boxes, alcohol and beers and made out with each other in parked cars. This was their spot and for one night in their lives they weren't going to be responsible. I was at home. I was at home reading a book. Milan Kundera. I was trying to find my identity. I was trying to find myself, educate myself. My mother was slowly becoming addicted to over-the-counter pain medication and alcohol. She and my brother would drink vodka and beers together and I would watch silently as this scene would unfold in front of me every night, hating it as it haunted me into sleep. Sometimes I would worry what was going to become of me. I began to write. Mostly about a man's desires. I could not give the impulse a name yet. My father began to watch them too. His neck, a turkey neck, nude flesh. The man who had given me everything as a child and who had later began to grow more and more remote as I had begun to grown older. I am writing. I am writing my kind-of-poetry. It is a late history of autumn poems. It reminds me of Ezra Pound's Alba, T.S. Eliot's The Wasteland, Hemingway's A Moveable Feast, crazy people, Gatsby's kind-of-people, those loony tunes who weren't at first glance emotionally secure, men and women who sabotaged themselves. The strange people. Men are strange people. How brutally articulate they are. Electric hurt, electric sacrifice is the price that every poet must pay especially poets who have a hyperactive imagination. Sometimes I would dream of that sea, a mad, dark sea, and a warm pilgrim, who had an obsession with the violent despair of a man who could never love her. It would feel as if I was being driven through with a stake made out of chiseled wood through my heart. I often felt a primitive and traumatic loneliness in a Johannesburg filled with up and down streets, cold alleyways, homosexuals standing on street corners in skinny jeans with cigarettes in their mouths coming out of the clubs in the early hours of the morning.
'What do you eat?' he asked me once (the lover). 'You're so skinny. I can feel your lovely bones. Ribs. Spine. Shoulder blades. Neck. Chin. Your features are Germanic. What do you live on? Bread and cheese and gin. So much tension in the beating of your heart, anger in your eyes, tears on your lashes and now there's a forced smile I've been waiting all evening for.' He said and there was almost a kind-of-joy in his voice.
'I eat. I live. I survive just like anybody else.' I answered. 'I never said I needed you. Never said this was romantic love. I don't need you to tell me that I'm beautiful.'
'Child, why must you lie to yourself? I know for a fact how much you've already destroyed yourself. Look at me when I'm speaking to you. I don't say these things to hurt you. God only knows how much you've been hurt by people before me and what kind of hell you've lived in before. I, I can only imagine. Listen to me. You don't have to lie to me.'
'Is it written on my face? Is it written on my body for the world to see that I have sabotaged myself again, again and again? I want to smoke now.'
'What are you going to do when you're not young anymore?'
'I'll be dead long before that.'
'Why do you talk like that?'
'You asked me that. What did you think I was going to answer with?' And I blew the smoke in rings out of my mouth.
He kissed me hard then and I felt the world turn. I was a dream. He was a dream. He was love but he was not mine and for now I could feel unafraid, soft in his rough hands. I felt unashamed as he took my suffering, erased my madness, my sadness, innocence, and my childhood, the memory of a mother who did not love me, a father who did not speak to me anymore as I had grown more and more like a modern version of his wife.
'Why do you call me that?'
'Because you are a sweet girl.'
'But it sounds as if you still see me as a child.'
'You're seventeen. You're still a child. And you shouldn't smoke. You're too young.'
'I need you. Why are you leaving me so soon? You taught me how to smoke amongst other things.' He kissed the top of my head and pulled the sheet above my naked body.
'This is just a journey that you're on little one. I have a house filled with women. Daughters, a wife and a housekeeper, maids. You will have many journeys. How we came to meet, you will soon forget. You will seduce and be seduced. This is the way of life my princess.'
Muse named. Muse unnamed. No promises were often made. A mother was gone, returned to the wards of hell from whence she came. With no gift of a father's protection as I entered the world's cruel, dark and dangerous waters some days were good and others not. Promiscuity was just a part of the Luciferian culture, the underground and urban youth culture infiltrating dreams, yielding disorder in all of the seasons. It must be so you know for each generation becomes challenged in their own separate ways. Teenagers become rebellious especially when it comes to sexuality. Your eyes have such a clarity to them Robert. What are you like privately? Do you know what it feels like to be homesick for a country to call your own? I feel homesick. A loneliness, a frustration, a compulsion, all suicidal. Who seduces you? Does Jesus seduce you? A girl who thinks about things like that. How I wished with all my heart, my internal organs and the symmetries of my tissue that he loved me on that dark road. Nothing but that big swamp of a Johannesburg ahead of mute, over-exposed, observant me. No longer a steely-eyed child, no longer ablaze with youth. It is the same me. It is the same morning but always walking down a different street and leaving confessions behind, weathering grief. Nothing to hold onto on my own. You take my head in your hands, I can't cope, and I turned away. Later I found myself naked under moonlight, an insomniac in a strange world, in an even stranger man's world. The cell door opens for you but not for me. Rain exists for me but not for you lover striking a nerve in-a-kind-of-gulf. Rain like silver, rain like hurt and pain (a flood of it cometh) for me but not for you.
I am in the shower, skin soaked with fragrance and soap, soaked skin from him after I removed my black skirt, white shirt and heels. And I try not to think about the man who gave me my first physical hurt turned into emotional then turned into mental. He brushes my fingers against his bottom lip. 'Lovely. Palace of love. Lovely eyes, lovely tongue and lovely fingers.'
'It is impossible to know me. You will never know me.' He laughs and laughs and laughs.
'You belong in Paris. You can become a writer there. You have such a wild imagination.'
'Right now I just feel indifferent to everything you are telling me. I thought you didn't have the time to read anything I wrote.'
'I make the time for things that are important to me. You're important to me. Can you lift your hysterical veil now for once and let us have an adult conversation?'
'Am I more important to you than your wife and your dinners and your parties?'
'For now, for this minute, these two hours, yes you are. You look breath-taking by the way.'
I have stepped out of the shower, rinsed my perfumed hair, and dressed myself in a white large hotel towel.
'Do you want to eat something now?'
'Always room service.'
'I thought you preferred it that way.'
'No I do.'
'Why don't you dress yourself in front of me? Everything about you is beautiful. You're a gift, a gift from the universe to me.'
'You know if this was still apartheid we would both be arrested.' I took off the towel, flung it onto the floor and got into the bed naked. They all gave me such confidence and a bravado. I cannot see the future only the perspective of the present. It is like a house on fire melting humanity's junk, J.M. Coetzee's 'skin and hair' and magic fantastical plastic. I've walked the sunburnt miles, forgot what my name was, what the taste of my lipstick was on his lips, what it meant to trace my limbs with his, to sleep arm in arm, fingertips caught between fingers, my what he calls 'my hysterical veil.' I need lovers, spirited male conversation (the educated, and the ancient the better) to resolve my history. Make it plain for me to see that I've moved on from a religious household where spirituality included daily prayers and meditation, Holy Communion with pieces of bread and grape juice. I needed bold men in my life like I needed air. Robert, you are that most rare thing, angelic dreamer. So you supplied me with inspiration. So you cut me in deep, imaginative and raw ways. A cut from your blade was a project. Thinking of you, staring at you, looking at you, your progress illuminated the world around me. Everything was brighter. I regained my strength. I had a childhood love for you. It was lost on the pages of my journal. Lost always lost. You laugh and say nothing and it hurts. The bright heights of it. Lying on my back I've been draped with a blackening world's information. When evening comes it is even more poetic than the previous day's evening. And when I spy the afternoon sun, that great yellow balloon, I am a woman found who dares not speak of the insanity found in her family and whose shell of pain is wet and bitter. I have lived in chosen exile. On the surface prayer is like a vision, cold is a delight, the silver lining that passes by, salt and air meeting on the wind. In poverty there is always decay, the song of a choirgirl, crystals of light, a graffiti of them. I trace them on my arm, the windows and my palms. What he, the lover does not know won't kill him like it kills me? I am slowly destroying myself. I have nowhere to go but down, down, down and there is no one to rescue me, to pull me out from under the dark towards the light. His roses looked like cabbages. Red cabbages, a red song for the mad girl, a flower for my bleeding heart. The boy I used to play chess with in the park, sit on the grass barefoot, walk to the library with. He doesn't have a name. His face doesn't exist in my memory anymore. He has become a dark line, a dark fantasy although I can still hear his voice but it is from far away. All these affairs of the heart have made me feel strangely creative. They slide through me, teach me, whisper to me in the dark. I hate the dark. I need the light to burn bright even in the middle of the night. I pull sheets over mirrors. And I imagine the lover whose dark hair smelled of rain. The rain of a child's world. This is my sky, my grass, my rage (I view the world as an Outsider). Girls are drinking beers in fancy restaurants trying to make conversation. Crystals of light evaporate in winter rain outside my window. Sexuality is really not of the flesh although most people think it is. It is of the mind. It is of the ego. It is intellectual. When is childhood ever at an end? This planet is unstable. I am unstable. I was tangled in an obsession for being a ghostly not of the flesh sexual object. I thought that that would open doors for me to humanity for humanity's sake. I thought I would be able to hear the chords of the earth's harmony. It kills me to say this. Madness can be as magnificent as euphoria. If only my childhood was different. Anne Sexton. Sylvia Plath. Robert Lowell. Confessional poetry down a brick lane. Confessional poetry for a coquettish girl. How beautiful and extraordinary those words seem to me now and forever more. When is childhood ever at an end for a writer, years of history and the educating of a young girl's mind? I saw pictures of a formidable brick wall seeming to close in on me in those affairs of the heart and the mind. Disjointed, evaporated fragments of the spirit. And every one becoming more and more apparent to me as the long days and the longer nights went by of my late adolescence and early twenties. Everything is disjointed, in fragments, there's no clarity in what I have written down to me the reader. Everything is a journey. I've had enough of feeling this wretched way. Enough of the dead of a creamy-white hot summer season, a season of fruits challenging me to think and to escape into a voyage in the dark, a sheltered experience, the blue-eyed wonder of the sky, stars falling down, stars in my lover's eyes pleading with me with a clean perception during the midnight hour, scrutinising me openly with likeminded possibilities like clouds gathering across the sky. Everything in life is a journey. One must walk the path of inexperience to get to modernity, influence, perception and wisdom. I think a writer, writers like Virginia Woolf, Hemingway, Keats, Orson Welles, F. Scott Fitzgerald and a poet like Emily Dickinson knew this. Two Muslim girls are standing outside my office window smoking as if their lives depended on it. I hated the taste and smell of cigarettes when I lived in my hometown before I left for Johannesburg. I don't know where the children get the impulse to smoke from these days. At this moment I am concentrating on improving myself. Having a set routine, sleep hygiene, working on not having sleep deprivation, writing in my journal. And I wonder do they think of me, the men, as often as I think of them or do not think of them? The sexual impulse is sacred but I never saw this between a man and a woman, never grew up with it only with the realisation that the weight of sin matters. I couldn't stand to be happy. When darkness falls upon the city I came undone under his fingertips. I didn't know why I hated myself so. Why certain books changed my life? Why I could only surrender when a man touched me? Love comes with paradise, tears, the explanations, the words, the observations that comes with gravity, the love songs, and it will leave you wanting lying in the dark. There is no such thing as organic time or a clock. White meringue weddings are for girls, for orchids, for arum lilies, for tea light candles, delicate material like lace not for a wonder guts like me, a tough cookie. I will not appear the same in the photograph as I do in memory. What do children communicate when they laugh, when they smile? Is their world not filled with joy? Why not mine? The faded leaves of grass under school shoes, bubble-gum stuck under a school desk, reading Athol Fugard's A Road to Mecca, remembering all of these childhood things brings something temporary to the surface. Not tension, not indifference, a feeling of love for being young and not being in an adult world yet. A feeling of being fearless, so motivated that I got the lead role of an archaeologist (or anthropologist, I forget) in a house play. I don't know what courage means anymore. Can you see the fragments now? How disjointed the narrative is? But is it enough? Is it enough to want desire? Sometimes I think that is enough. The sexual transaction can be far removed from being 'a moveable feast.' Dampness seeps into the lining of my coat as I enter the hotel in Johannesburg fifteen years ago with someone else this time. He does not put his hand in the small of my back. He does not offer to buy me a drink. He falls asleep almost immediately as his head hits the pillow. The relationship is over before I know it for sure. They don't come back to me. Am I so forlorn? Is youth and wisdom wasted upon me? As a matter of fact they can all go to hell and burn there, get a nice golden brown tan with a fiery looking cough-syrupy-texture-like cocktail in one hand or Brazil or someplace exotic like Mauritius. Maybe they're seeking much more high maintenance girls. I just wanted someone to understand me. It wasn't so much the educating part of it that I wanted. Dead writers have taught me that the pinnacle of creative expression is to challenge conventional wisdom always. I've surrounded myself, invoking their spirit, reading and rereading lines of their work, succumbing to their world of madness. The world is not the same for women as it is for men. The role that women play is still a diminished one in the equilibrium of space and time although there have been women who have been visionaries just as much as men have been. Women have taught by example, led by example just as much as men have but what these women have known is that wisdom comes later rather than sooner. Darkness falls and I feel an emptiness inside. I am alone and I've finally surrendered to it. I am more in love with love than being in love with someone. I am Eve taken from Adam's rib. A daughter doing what her mother did and did not do. My Edward, my Ted Hughes comes to me in this world of all places that is meant for dead poets, and animals.
It is a world that is meant for humanity, and magical thought-foxes, otherworldly wrens and owls who before the North American genocide of the Native Americans, granted tribes shamanic wisdom, took their place upon a totem pole. It is a world made for ancestors and gold, minerals and modern society, a blue eye and the blues, justice and jazz, nature's code, leaves anchored and not anchored to trees, to blades of grass, the wind's song (a journey to the past, future living, soul retrieval, present survival). And then there is the rural countryside filled with patches of grass, the history of how to grow pomegranates, catch fish, the heritage of ruins, rain pouring down like a ritual taking its place in the hierarchy of the food chain, seasons that come upon us and pass, steps, leaps, stars, human stains, animal stains, blood, shark teeth, a school of fish, whales. This world is meant for sessions of personal injury, hurt, deep pain, smiling laughter, you calling your daughter darling, the grim existence, and the caged existence of the young poet. I am capable (every young poet is) even though the cigarette smoke's vapour's injury starts with a mocking signal. I am not lost. Bold Heaven is pulling at vital me. I am a Romantic as I become more and more curious and the objects around me transfix me. The Death of a relationship is in the air like horses in a race to the finish line, an aloe's sap and tears, mirrors, your reflections, encounters with angels above and angels below on the earth's alchemic plane as consciousness travels the globe, alongside the dimensions of spirit, the elements of soul. Edward is the music that has shaped my nutritious isolation, my night swimming, my eternal waiting, and my frantic, hysterical weeping. My night swimming comes with its own frequency and rhythm. My limbs take on a life of its own (so poetic, I am guarded against humanity, my imagination, inspiration, the Milky Way, the knowledge of other galaxies, the light of the shy laughter of a couple not far off from me swimming in the dark), suspended between the pull of gravity on earth's plane and other parallel dimensions. The parallel dimension of my pure, virginal flesh and intricate blood, my dreams and goals, the gift of my personal space that most private area, an arena that so few have viewed. Daughters do not always become mothers. Mothers are not perfect. They have their flaws. Ordinary mothers. Extraordinary mothers. Put them in a box. Every goddess-mother. I see my mother's brilliance pick a valuable and beautiful object up and suddenly I'm transported to the room in a mansion. And then shut Pandora's Box. Plant a flag there. If only God could hand out a medal for every birth-pang. Every mother has had an Edward, pulled funny faces when she was a child, held a cloud of a helium-filled balloon in her fist by its string before it became a shred, dreamed of a childhood continued when she became a youth in her sleep, as she paged through fashion magazines reading her horoscope not knowing yet that her future was predestined, that she was predestined to be a sexual object on her wedding night, a friend and confidante when she was wooed by her future husband, that her eldest daughter would be a failure, her second a major success and her third child would be a Scout, a quiet, bookish, loner as a boy who suffered from asthma and a beautiful intellectual, funny and sweet, a deeply imaginative-thinker, oh-so-serious who would be charming and artistic, sensitive and understanding as he grew older, and that this introverted leader would be both spiritual and show humility when it was called for in political meetings, a man after Winston Churchill's and Abraham Lincoln's own heart. Betrayal is lethal. Plath a gone girl in young womanhood reaching dazzling heights like me. Live or die. Those were Anne Sexton's words. Pure. Introspective. A haunting interpretation. Yet their craft and bittersweet verse still defies terrifying and manipulative electricity, attachment, movement. Clever girls. You were no women in black. I put my suicidal illness inside a jar like a butterfly and leave it there for the moment. I escape into the pages of my journal, those hard lines, the physical, emotional, and mental appetite beckoning. The creamy landscape changes every day in leaps from green. Once I was in pursuit of Edward, advancing upon him, closer to the flame in his psychological framework's psyche, harvesting his cool gaze, that tower, that secret winter. His throne burns me, my guilt flares lap after lap in the Olympic-sized local swimming pool like diamonds in the sky marking the distance to the stairway to Heaven, the ladder to the Milky Way. Edward sits at my table, field mice in the kitchen, tails between their legs in the universal-solitary-shape of death after being wounded by the mousetrap, no survival guide for them, escape-route, seductive exit and their whiskers no longer move baffled by the world around them, there's just an ode to the mute and I begin reading my letter from home that serves to improve the fragile, loved half-lie I've been living. Where, when did Pablo Neruda find the time to write twenty love poems and a song of despair? Edward is in my life again. I'm staring at his photograph. He comes to me as if in a dream sequence. The years have changed us. He is even more handsome than I remembered in my wishful-consciousness-thinking. I remember going back to the city's elements. The watery-prophetic eyes of women and children, decay, dirt, spiritual poverty and that there's nothing pretty or picturesque about the pain of the mind. It can be more acute than the pain of the body. Johannesburg is Hemingway's Paris. A psychological construct made up of childhood dialogue, the female writer who speaks in code, the young women who would slip away in the early hours of the morning arm-in-arm with their dream man of the night after a nightclub closed. Johannesburg was a Freedom Land's anchor, a feast where the abnormal became normal, running with scissors, poetry in my twenties, knives, guns in the air. Sacrifice is not effortless. Midnight is but a voyage into the goal of a dream. Laughter keeps me alive. I seem to have been born with this intuition. Edward the exceptional, the extraordinary, brilliant genius with his cigarettes, stale smoke and moustache. Boats have become arks. Girls quiet women. Here there are no ducks in the park in their own world of silence marking time with their song. My sister adores her reflection, her face is a lake, the face of a scholarship girl. I watch her swallow shiny things, flicker, go up in flames, rise towards truth in the flesh and the spirit, her celestial madness and I ask myself does she never feel fear or vulnerable, does she never meditate on the sun only on our silence. She was a pianist when she was younger, tap-tap-tapping the clouds of the keys. I can only survive with the memory of my Edward. I can no longer kill the sirens with their elegant-shapes. The sirens who slit their wrists, jump off bridges, leave the car running, and hang themselves. They're becoming as rare as the rainforest, pilgrims. Perhaps they were too pure for this world, the heat of their sensitivity could not withstand dissolving in water, withstand a pilgrimage, listening to the noise in a glitter-ball-world, arrows of ballads flying through the air landing at their feet like dew, sounding like a symphony or Beethoven. Every dress, every heel, silk stockings, perfume is a gift but who will receive them? Daughters? Orphans? The Salvation Army? A fete's jumble sale? Is it for a wedding, a baby's christening? Beautiful women become ghosts of themselves like leaves. Weaving delicious spice sinking inside a pot, I concentrate on the bowl, open my mouth wide. A cardamom pod. A green bitter capsule floating, winking in warm milk, white rice and tapioca. I have no sister. She is as dead to me as I am most probably to her. This empty vessel has melted away into the distance. Pink is my favourite colour. The walls, the walls, the walls have eyes. I am walking on the beach. I sit down on the warm sand, there's something loving about it, my physical body dissolves in it, my hands takes on the texture of the sand, my soft shoes in my hand. I have pebbles in my hand. Where have they come from? I don't remember the history of all of this salt, and this light. I don't need food only the marriage of bread and butter and piping-hot tea, wet masala that perfects a steaming curry with cinnamon sticks folded into it to take the warmness away. Loving, losing, living, laughter can be harsh sometimes, the brightness of sadness, illumined loneliness. I am a cup. Turn it over and you will discover it is empty of a spell. There is only the image of the cup that envelops my mind's eye. I'm done with being distracted by ego and diaries. I'm done, I'm through with married men. No matter how distinguished they might seem to be on the surface. Stiffs, veterans, and the family man. I am not Edward's wife. He is dead to me. Look how he decomposes. My cries brood, roost. Watch how the flowers glow on his grave, scorch my possessive grip. Watch how the petals fall, the foliage wilts, the grass grows like difficulties, a thin scar that still wounds, once this man was a pearl, wise beyond his years who taught me to invoke British Poet Laureates, Rilke, Goethe, Shakespeare, Lord Byron, Wilde, Woolf, Susan Sontag, Joyce Carol Oates and Carol Ann Duffy. Edward has turned me into an invalid who takes naps in the heat of a post-apartheid African Renaissance South African afternoon. He is more than an illusion. He is a man dressed in black, in snakeskin cowboy boots, staring at me with snake eyes, covering me with a shroud, touching me with angelic hands, his voice an instrument pushing buttons, accomplishing everything that his mind has set out to do with a quiet, unwavering, bewildering intelligence. Old-fashioned seduction. The path of least resistance. I too am now an empty vessel, axed, amped, and well-established in observation. Edward's wife is the poet Sylvia. On her wedding day she was the blushing bride who stroked the cream frill at her collarbone, starved herself because she was so nervous, oil on her hands, a veil to cover her virginal face from her groom. Sylvia wears gloves and silk stockings. Sylvia writes protest poetry. Sylvia is a defiant feminist. Her scent is in the air, fixed. She didn't know yet she was in for a wild ride. A woman, a daughter and mother can't cure everything. I knew his wife had merit. I knew she had her pans, her cooking pots, and her kitchen and that she slept like a perfumed queen in their house, in their bedroom and when daylight multiplied through the curtains she would pull them open, go downstairs, make tea, prepare breakfast. He was making love to her. He was making love to me. She was educated. She had been to Smith College and Cambridge. I knew his wife had love but I masked it with a million winters you see I just wasn't up for it. I knew him through-and-through, inside and out. He was so pure. Like light in the sameness of a forest, or fluid in a glass or a child sucking on drops of butterscotch. Life is pure but his promises weren't. It is easy to regard the olive branch as a symbol of peace but all I can see now is how shallow you've been, how precocious your Sylvia is. How much more articulate and brilliant she is than me. Alice Munro is coming through now. She is coming through with Doris Lessing. Others will think that there is something sinister about spirit guides, mediums and clairvoyants. I listen. All the time Sylvia, Sylvia, playing like a stuck record. She was no thief like I was ousted as. Sylvia is a woman ahead of her time. The door, and that gap between us, closure happens in the light. Who would have thought the living and the dead, the earth-plane and the spiritual-plane could connect, but such contrasts though are projected sanely and with clarity of vision and thought through a guide's orbit. It is not me Emma who walks on the water, crossing it from river-sea to the burden and the anger of another river-sea. It is not Emma who is worth her weight in gold, sensual in a quiet way, who wrote about gender giftedly, who had wonder guts, a brutal country to call her own and wrote both with a lethal and pure spirit, boldly, brilliantly who silenced the war poets, old men, the living and the dead. It is Sylvia Plath's wonderland and there is a depth that awaits me. Pink watermelon flush in each cheek. Why didn't you love me mum? Are you aware of the storm you created, rain pouring down, my heart feels as if red lace is wrapped around a stone, a canvas, the painter's sketchbook. There's an odd fairy lightness in her body, my sister's body. There is no connection between us. No longer any sibling rivalry. And so the image of the autumn chill is always on my mind. Leaves all set for death and their diverse origins, destination for a cool wilderness landscape that feels like a frozen North American lake. I remember the despair and hope in the eyes of young girls thinking they are wearing fashionable clothes. I remember the range of peace, the delicate flutter of the eyes of old women, the limbs now infirm, who long for the warm sea when they used to go swimming as young girls. I remember the love song in silence when I felt I could no longer escape him. How does he move in the lovesick world now? I am the ice woman, frozen to her core, wrecked. See the descriptions of the clowns at the circus. I am one of them now and forever. There was a sane life, an insane life, a reality, a past regret, a mistake that was made, a telephone call, an apology, laughter, past energies in a story and I was left to wonder how some people find love in this world. A love that is as ancient as rain, the apron in the kitchen amongst pots and pans, a feast-meal on the table on Sunday, daddy sitting on his throne. Childhood is lost on me, dead to adult me, past is past yet it still has such sweetness, its dissolve. And some nights it comes back, awful, familiar, all the gruesome stories with such clarity that I know it is not my imagination's spell playing tricks on me. I want it to wash away all my sins destination anywhere instead it says, 'Remember me. It doesn't matter who you love, who you fall for, who and what you desire or drink (alcoholic), watch the men dissolve. They won't come back.' And when the awful becomes too close for comfort I take to my bed after drawing the curtains, leaving the windows open for cool air, closing the bedroom door and I will lay on the bed until I can feel notes on grief begin to vibrate within me, as if they have a quiet, harmonic society and how beautiful and sad their symphony sounds to me. It is a breathing lesson, a lesson on suffering, on living, on life. What is brutality here? It is nothing but a memory, an interruption, and becoming a mute daughter. The flick of a belt buckle, a stinging wet cloth held under a tap of cold water, mummy, mummy's red hands, mummy's gardening hands inside the chilled earth, hard laughter, harsh words, running to daddy, feet bare. He is shouting at mummy. I look at her for the first time now and I see that she is tired. Her hands hang limply at her sides now. She says nothing. My skin feels as if it is burning all over. Daddy I am burning. Daddy I am crying. I am pink all over, then red. My skin feels raw, itchy. It feels as if I am Joyce Carol Oates's harvesting flesh. She says nothing. She simply turns around and walks away. What did I do? What did I do? Where is the key to that country? How strange is the marriage of the mind to harvesting? The mind means education, psychology, something must be taught and something must be understood. To harvest means to bring closure to a season. This is what family means. To eat in front of the television, to scream and scream and scream until you cannot scream anymore. Nobody will come to you, comfort you. And so I grew up, moved up, moved away from the world of a child and the games of the child and the adolescent and stopped believing that she lived a secret life. Perhaps mummy had a secret lover. She was beautiful in that way, easily bored in that way, did not find the same things that daddy found relevant and beautiful. They were from two different worlds. They were from two different cultures. She came from money and he didn't. She came from Johannesburg and knew a specific way of life from there. My mother came with a Pandora's Box, suitcases packed full of clothes from there when she arrived as a newlywed. My father came from Everywhere in Port Elizabeth. South End, Walmer, Fairview, North End, Korsten, a fisherman's village called Port Elizabeth, Gubb's Location, New Brighton, Zwide, Kwazakhele, Nelson Mandela Bay. Through the years those names became lodged in my memory as I studied his research wanting very much to hold onto it rather than send it to the archives at the University of the Western Cape (my father the political activist learning how to send messages using invisible ink), read his diaries from his London and European experience (I rediscovered him, his suicidal illness, and by this time I was enchanted by his depression, watched slides of the palaces he visited but I could never imagine myself there. It was enough for me to see Versailles as a tiny photograph held up against the light. He witnessed many great things, magnificent things of wonder. Daddy was wonderful in those days, a thinker, an intellectual, a teacher, a role model to me who brought me back to poetry. Because a fire was in my head like the studies of the Robert Muirhead poems I had begun to write, because a flash of winter was in my head like the chains of bitterness in a veteran photographer's memory but there was also something unfinished inside of me, something had dissolved. Look for opportunities the guardian band of gold around the sun said and that became my mission's. I began to imagine other people's shackles of pain, their chains, their prison walls put up all around them, the spirit of fear, hurt and rejection within them, abandonment, and spiritual neglect, poverty and for some reason it felt like I was multiplying gravity. I got tired of people asking me to smile please, you'd be lovelier if you did. Did I have courage, that mute child in the photograph? I've suffered but what is suffering anyway when compared to others. I have a mental switch but what do others have? What are their coping mechanisms? The universe gives freely to me. I have refuge if I want it. I have a sanctuary if I want it. Hope is there. In the arrival of it there is always freedom. There is always revolution in the mind of the poet and quintessence in the poetry that comes from the mouth, the voice, the straightforward thinking of that kind of revolution. I've met someone else. He tells me everything. He isn't afraid to tell me anything. And slowly the veil lifts my smile and becomes like a scar. My wounds are like stigmata. And I begin to see and hear everything again. Hope floats. There are angels everywhere yet I still feel incomplete like some kind of show off finding it tiresome to live normally like the people next door who weren't embarrassed to get drunk in front of their children. I'm embarrassed by loneliness, despair and my bleak outlook on life. I know where you've been once upon a secret life. A secret life. Do insects have secret lives too and what is their best intention for all those years they live with secrets? Therein lies their survival. When my sister comes home she and my mother sit down together as if it was the most normal thing in the world and they drink. They drink cocktails. Pink syrupy liquids that seem to sparkle, sparkling wines, Peach schnapps', vodka and orange juice cool as ice going down their throats. I prefer my secret life. As an adult my mother, mummy is no longer my morning star and my sister is still my dream stealer. They have become my life, guarding the car keys and the bottle of milk stout. I have to find my own projects. According to God's plan he wants us, me to act accordingly, justly, with integrity, humility. He wants us to go forth into the new world knowing that He is always on our side now and forever more. We're all born with a philosophy, not necessarily a Plan B so to speak, and we want to bring meaning to our own lives. I found a book once called Norah's Secret Life and as I was reading it I discovered many things about this woman whose life I wouldn't exactly call exciting or romantic. She had 'romantic' love affairs but they were doomed from the start. She was or wasn't significant but her life seemed to become something symbolic as if I had to have an opportunistic use for it later on in life. She was unfortunately not the marrying kind but she had a wealth of spiritual knowledge unlike any other woman of her generation and sometimes in the love affairs she had she would think like a man when it came to the 'transaction.' In the material world men dominated she knew she could never win. And so she became like the smiling faces of children amidst poverty. When she wanted to escape she did what all men did, she educated herself, she painted, and she received visitors, she wrote unfathomable poetry that was never self-pitying but stories that were in a way. And in one way, perhaps some ways she became the caretaker of so many women who lived in isolation of a society who would not accept them because they chose to live an unconventional life. At the end of one her love affairs Norah seems to be coping with her new life as best she can like the stars in the evening sky when the earth smells clean and as fresh and new as vanilla. She is bright. Her spirit feels bright. It feels too bright. Her conversation can be illuminating and clever. She wants to be entertained. She wants to be filled with joie de vivre. She also wants to be pursued. Doesn't any woman want to be pursued? Men are extraordinary when they are in pursuit. They have a grand perspective. They regale you with stories. The world becomes magnificent when they're in it with you on their arm and you're going places. It doesn't really matter that you're part of his secret life. They're still pretty impressive. They make you feel desired, beautiful, and the grief that you once felt or had so strongly in your life above anything else is no longer triumphant. You're no longer flying-walking-singing-chanting solo. It is the year 2013, nearly two in the morning, December and another Christmas has come and gone and my brother is about to become a father. I can't mock him anymore. And in the exquisite compass of the infinite internal struggle between suicide, wanting to fly, wanting to have that family, that plan coming together, the memory, the thought of Plath, Hughes, Bessie Head, Anne Sexton, Robert Lowell I am still here. I am alive with an awakened spirit, with everything that I've put the sum parts of me through I have realised that I cannot turn back. I have to move on, move forward because I'm the sun's mistress and life after all is a mission. I don't really see how my life could change after this, after all I've put it through. Two birds. Plath and Sexton. Once upon a time they were two birds on a mission too. Joy fills my lungs so does a surge for the realisation of humanity. Our survival. Our instinct. The little one's name is Ethan. Ethan Ambrose. We're all actors acting in a bit part there and a bit part here. My brother held this bright shining thing in his arms. Something that would be educated, instilled with his values, his parenting skills and I felt as if I was being torn apart by some primal, primitive animalistic force. And I knew that I would put the past Jean Rhys's Mr Mackenzie's (plural) behind me. I never had an ounce of ambition within me anyway. They had all come with the world's territory. There it was. The undocumented love affair was really most of all inside my head however brilliant the man was and however bold his moves and brave I was to take him on. I knew something different now. I was more defiant like Norah was in her secret life because eventually she had found her way out. Nobody wants the ending of a book or film to be spoiled for them. Norah had found her way out and she was happy. As happy as could be. Women deserve to be happy. Men are altogether different. Lost boys everyone. They are always searching and I don't think they ever grow up. Good things are born from painful experiences. Ropes, ropes and more ropes. I have had enough of them, the hangman's noose and their knots with basic tension. I want a pretty city, with bright lights on the promenade as I walk into the sea, as I feel my hair against my skin, my feet bare, the night air so crisp and all I see is the clarity of my mission. The sun has her mistress and there is a man that lives on the moon. I am a drowning visitor. I sink further and further away and I finally grasp the shoreline. Here I am free. I have hours to think, I am no longer trapped by gender equality and who wants to trapped by equality, brutality, everything gruesome, obituaries, by hours, and things of childhood-making. Starving landscape after starving landscape, brittle like filament, a burst of thirst pulsating like a shiver, a thread of sweat, a breath, a river, shamanic wisdom, the normal who live next door, the other side of the mirror is buried under smoke, the incessant flap-flapping of the wings of moths, seasons draw wrinkles on my mother and father's face. A green feast shoots up everywhere in the garden and everything seems young, fresh and new again. The rain has its own way of thinking and it is a way that humanity will never understand. It can be a beast. A serious beast with a serious intent who remembers their vowels in a coolly distracted way on a hot-cocktail-drinking day in apartheid South Africa while sunbathing next to a chlorine-blue swimming pool in the backyard. The earth on the other hand has a vision of her own. I see all of these things in the mansions of my imagination. Something is bright within me. I enter into a contract with them. I am lifted up, up and up. I am standing in a forest. I look up and what do I see. The blue jewel of the sky. God's sky. God's forest. I close my eyes, feel the sun against my skin, and imagine standing on the beach, a lone figure watching the waves and their never-ending spiritual love story (spellbinding ghost story) with the shoreline. I step forward feeling the burden, the will of the river-sea rises up to meet me. I no longer stand tall, my wounds are frozen, the physical, the deep pain is numbed and becomes a posture, the world turns upside down and I am being navigated towards something greater than myself, away from painful experiences of the past. The lasagne tastes good. It was made by a prophet, my mother. The prophetess. Once I was skin and bone but they didn't call it anorexia nervosa in those days. In those days I had to 'perk up.' In those days 'I had to pull up my socks,' 'put meat on my bones.' These days I think about my ancestors. I have ancestors. Everyone does. Everyone who lives on this side of the world. Dark skin, white skin, mixed race, different faith, rituals and the burning of incense that comes with them, doctrines stored away like a file of a case study in a psychiatric institution (mental hospital) they all tread on religion at some point in their lives. They have their own exact perspective. And when I dream I dream of the waterfall of the past when I was a girl. And everything that I see makes me feel wonderfully calm, as if I am made of substance. I remember when I first drank red wine (it came out of a box), when I first tasted, really tasted basil, felt as free as a bird with a broken wing, drank a soup made entirely out of noodles, fell in love with sushi (fish with no eyes in a blanket of sticky rice), a girl, a boy, the world, a married man who dominated me and the world around me. And so the world of my childhood-making, mummy and daddy evaporated. I still remember the man's skin, his knowledge of the universe, his experience and influence, how his flesh became my flesh, how I could see him as a boy and it was the most beautiful feeling in the world. It made my heart sing. It made words dance maddeningly inside my head, on the page of a book and I could finally see past, present, future merging into one. I moved from one unpredictable, unusual affair, situation, and relationship to another and I grew up and became more fragile, that is my common sense and sensibilities and my ambitions grew into humility and humility grabbed with greed at the wuthering heights of my pride. The people that I knew once passed on. Nothing unusual about dying, moving to another city, moving forwards even if it is towards poverty, marriage, terminal illness, suicidal illness, mental illness, the icy grip of the panic of terror and anxiety. Time. I don't believe in it and I never will. Time steals away your dreams, your soul, your spirit, your childhood. It closes in on you until you are forced to face your deepest fear. Death stands there in the gap from this world to the next. Eternity. It is not loved. It is not nurtured. It is not a paradise-in-waiting. When I meditate I go inside myself and see God. There is no longer a divide between the wards of hell and the divine paradise of heaven. One is a lake of burning fire, choking smoke and plumes of ash and the other one is locked and a saint stands before the gates leading into heaven. Death has always been there, looking down, or over my shoulder and with each step that I take Death follows me with a steady pace. I've never seen Death's face but I have been frightened that when my time has come my work here on earth has not been done. I do not want to leave anything incomplete. Everything must be put away, packed in boxes, connections that were once as alive as electricity must be disconnected. I've been close to death. Close enough. I think about you a lot. You were kind, nice, sweet, and younger. You made me feel like a museum piece, a statue. It's been years since I've seen you. Not so long ago we sat and laughed as if we were old friends, good friends. I made you coffee. You made me forget my sadness, my manipulative nature, my family's arrogant manipulative nature and in some small, adequate way I began to feel alive again as if I could survive everything that life had arranged, assembled for me. But I am bad for you. I am not the chosen one meant for you. How can I make you understand this? I do not belong in your world. There is nothing welcoming or bold about the arrival of me. Choose another. I am giving you your freedom. Hush. Here. Now go. I want to watch you, study you, watch you fail, surrender, let go, fight for the underdog, understand you, comprehend you, what makes you whole, what makes you think, what do you love? What opinions do you have on the current trends in politics, who will you vote for this year, do you believe in magic, why have you not forgotten me, what do you remember, do you have any fears (do you have any fears about my disability), what anchors you? In forgetting you, the pieces, the tiny bits that refuse to evaporate have become distilled beautifully and I also have realised that I need to write more than I need human company. I don't care about ambition. If other women think you're arrogant let them think that. Don't waste your time, your energy on them. If other men want to destroy you, your empires, your soul then let them think that they are getting away with that. I've forgotten about your mistress, your ego that strokes your vanity (that I can't take away from you). It belongs somewhere else but not in your personal space. Children need the ego. It makes them feel different in a special kind of way in a world filled with ducks and games. I hate the smell of cigarette smoke but am intrigued by women who do smoke, with their airs and graces, with all their manufactured secrets and that one slim cigarette held between their fingers. The women in my family do not smoke. They're like a union of spies. I only learned about fear late in life. They do not drink red wine out of a box only fruit juice cocktail on special occasions like birthdays, Christmas and Easter. They do not sit for portraits, go to parks, spread out a blanket for a romantic picnic lunch made for two. They only go to the beach in December when it is the summertime in Southern Africa. There's something clean and pure about depression when it is looked at with the round peg that can't fit in the square hole in the eye. Clarity is found and so is rest. The people-traffic-zoo outside is possessed with identity and the idea of not emancipating themselves. Why would they do that if they think that their reality, their dreams, their goals and their imagination is enough for them? The stem grows. The branch reaches forwards and we all move towards the light hoping that it will put the spotlight on us. When I feel weak inside is when mummy speaks to me. My heart slips and thuds inside of me at the same time. There's no awakened rhythm in that red palace. All the voices of mother, father, mummy, daddy, sister, brother become familiar to me. They are not the same people all of the time and their visions are awesomely vibrant and energetic, burning like phosphorescence, a lone star. They orbit me. The invisible air tastes like salt. My mouth gulps down slippery seawater that licks the insides of every one of my teeth. I want to feel you inside of me, as I open up to you like the flowers of a manuscript. I've already lost you to another woman. Is she a girl, does she have a matron's figure at a girl's boarding school or is she as dead to you as I am to you now. I don't say these things to get at you, to think like you do, to get inside your head I'm just lost in the silence of violence like George Botha, Richard Rive, Kevin Carter, Dulcie September, Arthur Nortje and when I feel most intensely lost is when I write poetry, that is when everything I've collected in my heart comes out. I really don't care for now's sake if I never saw pictures of you, heard sob stories of you again in my life, your living memory, so romantically-felt is enough for me and it will stay with me until the end of my lifetime. The heat. It's hot, intolerably-hot and there is nothing I can do to eliminate it. Was I really loved as a child? It serves to improve the lies I keep telling myself. That I am not pretty enough, tall enough, enough for enough's sake. There are millions of children who are not loved, who bathe every day in dust and shit. Life is designed for oppression, ridicule, rejection but also for liberation. In some wanton way the world makes us want to move backward without us having any say about it. House torched. It was burned down to the ground with two children in it. The door was locked. The mother was away. There was no father as there is often in these cases. And so another community is brought together but this is no celebration of life. They thought a witch lived there. It shows how fragile we are as humanity. And I am preoccupied with love when the world around me is burning. These are all things we wish that could be buried in peace and dust and memory. There are happy, healthy progeny. Mums that are glowing in blue and white hospital gowns. Their skin radiant with life but what happens when you like writing poetry about death, grief and denial. It is a land that time forgot. This kind of writing (poetry) is a writing that so few people can understand. There were no angels on the frontier when pioneers confronted wilderness and poverty in Southern Africa just dust that has been here for millions of years. The lasagne tastes good. It was made by a prophet, my mother. The prophetess. I've worshipped her all my life. She has taught me how to forgive, how to live, and I am beautifully grown now. Although the universe is still sweeter, purer, more honourable than I am with all its untitled interpretations. How can the extraordinary unconscious of the universe be anything but baffled by humanity. I am. People are not as invincible as they think they are. Freedom fighters every one? Unfortunately no. Coldness. Aloofness. Indifference. Introspection. Suffering. Water. Ghost nations. Precious bittersweet gifts every one. Nothing belongs to us.