Angst for Beginners
Divinity also known as the scrapbook.
Teenage infatuation and pharmaceutical junkies make a ritual out of it. Of saying evening prayers. It is absurd, like flying a kite when there is no wind. I am in Ward 7. I am in the lock up ward to protect myself. Bars at the window just like in a Van Gogh painting. Beautiful, hey. Loneliness is beautiful.
Protection from hurting myself. From hurting my mother. From seeing her cry. Making her mascara run. I want to wear her wedding band so I know she is coming back for me. This is the meaning of hardship. Watching my mother walking away from me. Did I say goodbye? Her shoulders are hunched forward. I touch my reflection in the mirror to see if it really is me. I touch my reflection to see if it is not a ghost. It is like chemotherapy. The chemicals in my brain. They buy me rings.
I put them on my fingers. They make me homesick. I kiss air. There are still the geography of waiting rooms for me. The thing is I do not have wishes. There are thousands of us. There are millions of us. They called it an asylum then. They called us lunatics then. Fed us cold porridge then. A lot of us took cold showers or cold baths. I hope that someday somebody will write this about me (the chemistry inside my head): Her madness was beautiful. It made her beautiful in a way. It made her eyes beautiful in a way too. Madness can happen to you anywhere. Drinking coffee, having a cigarette, oil on your hands. While you are drawing up your grocery list. Freedom can happen to you anywhere.
The street that you have walked up and down a million times before. Where everything is the same but also different. A leaf is an island, a blade of grass. Whitman's leaves of grass. After dark, light speaks to me in different ways. After dark where darkness has spoken its dusty answers. Illness is company. Something came from the blue sky of my throat. People will come to take away your soul. Your mother, your father, doctors and nurses. They will take your blood pressure. Rainy music blots out the stain of the stars. Blots out the human stain called psychology. I loved the mountains and the hills. I loved the rain, the smell of the earth, the trees. I sit on my throne. They just want to ask me questions. These interiors speak to me. I want to tell them. I hope I sound intelligent. I am not too good with following instructions. They will not give me electroshock therapy as they did daddy.
The buildings seem to offer me sanctuary. I did not know then it was my Judas's kiss. I grew fatter and fatter. It was the pharmaceuticals. The lack of exercise. I grew obese. With dolphin thighs (read that somewhere in a magazine). There is no farewell when I leave. I did not make that many friends. Did not eat with anyone in the canteen. I was on my own. I have always been on my own. Came into the world that way. When depression surfaces, I feel small. Hell has depths and wards. I am not free to go for six months yet. When I go home, there is birthday cake. My hair is shorter. My brother says I look like a boy.
The scrapbook of a Khoi girl.
He is our workshop. His every delight is like a glass ceiling (we want it to last forever); every phrase has its own age of iron. Every gobbledegook that comes out of his mouth is another language. Sounds like Latin or Greek to me. He teaches us how primitive Americans really are. He teaches us about denial, bereavement counselling and lessons in grief. He does not stay with us for long. Sometimes he comes for a sleepover. This tyke is my metaphor, my abstract, my irony and my personification. He drinks tea like the rest of us. Sleeps like the rest of us. Experiences flatulence like the rest of us. Belches like the rest of us. He wets himself and we change him. All hands and breathless. He is my workshop. He is my moss. He is my life. He is my breath. He is my music school. My piano. My school desk. When I go to sleep, I dream of him. I dream of him sleeping like a baby. He is the room of my life. He is my field. He is my narrative. He is my text. He is my next poem and the one after that and the one after that. He is my skin. He is of me but he is also not of me. He is our scrapbook.
Perhaps one day he will be a scholar, a classicist, a writer, a poet, a teacher, somebody's spiritual guru. Perhaps one day he will be a father. Perhaps one day he will be a husband and have children of his own in the world. I wonder at his continual transformation. My ritual. My feast. My celestial navigation. Boys grow up. They grow up to be anchors, hunters and warriors. Boys grow up fast. Workshops remain workshops. A workshop in progress. Our son is our workshop. Families are workshops in progress. Boy, you are a bird. Stay as long as a bird as you can. You had wings even in utero. In the womb you were beautifully formed the image of your father's mother. You are a son. A workshop-in-progress under surveillance. Now you can dream about more than just the sea, or the clouds, or the paradise of heaven. Now you can dream about technology, loneliness and history. You can branch out when winter whispers sweet nothings in your ears, and you can touch the sheet of summer heat when you go swimming with your friends, see autumn in everything around you, the otherworldly shine of spring. You are our boy, heir to the throne. You are our workshop. This is your world, prince but one day you will still have chores to do.
The dawn's nerves. There is a gap in the moth smoke. It is war. ('You are still a child. So do your washing before your young gentleman friend comes over'.) The German woman is doing her laundry. She is hanging up her brassieres and my stockings. It is still war. Underneath the linguistics of her doing her laundry, on the other side of the world there is the mother tongue in the click song. Hiroshima. There is a ladder. Farmworkers going back and forth from their work reminding me of Virginia Woolf, the River Ouse, Vita Sackville-West, nymphomaniac lesbian passion. Fat Boy. Little man. This kind of intelligence belongs to Elijah, to Kubrick and to Capote. (Modern day). There is the English mouth of the Canadian English lecturer talking about a Gustav Klimt painting. There is a gap in the fence. The air smells like trains passing through. Urine town. A village of stone. A village of fragments. A village of brief lives leaving home for the first time never to return. Boys who will never dream of tractors and having their own farms.
I will make my way through it to you using only tunnel vision, towards the unified light. I will make my way to you where touch is war. The couple next door. We will call the hole in the floor the attic. There is a German couple making love. The air smells like rain and earth. Oblivion. The woman in the concentration camp is so tired that she wants to die. A girl writes. One day she will be famous for her diary. She writes in longer and longer sentences, as the war does not ever seem to end. I needed a theory for this war. I needed to speak in code for the warmongers. I needed an explanation for this war. I could not believe that there was a collective of people who voted this man into power. Powerful people, Jewish people, did not think that he would last but he did.
Infinity is what faith is. Infinity is where prodigies, children, grieving widows and mothers go to die. After war, you are never the same again. The air is never the same again. Something in the atmosphere has changed. The realm of possibilities. The sun has changed its position on the social cohesion of the planets. The moon has changed its currency that it deals with when it comes to the tides. To the ghosts of the oblivions and the wars that have come before Hiroshima and Nagasaki I say go back. Go back. There is nothing left for you here. The furious red beasts, the mystic she-devils are no longer dedicated or devoted to locking down the hearts of the ones who are still alive and compelled to do something about it.
To do something about the living. There is a war after all, but borders shift all the time. It is war, but borders shift all the time, sometimes at the same time. The German woman lights a cigarette. Her young man, her suitor thinks that Germany is still going to win the war. The German woman's elderly and infirm mother coughs in the next room. She is under the impression that Germany is also going to win the war. She is also under the impression that this suitor on his afternoon visits to her daughter is going to marry her daughte,r but he has other plans. Tonight he is meeting his girlfriend, his fiancé at a dance. The German woman is older than her 'suitor' is. She is four years older than he is. She does not want to get married. She does not want to be stuck in a rut for the rest of her life. She does not want to have children.
Four Women Reading.
When I caught the world scratching like a hen at the backdoor I knew then what I needed. I needed spiritual longing and spiritual logic is what I wanted in my work. A pure idea, but all my sonnets, my odes, my haiku, my poetry seemed to have a shattered sensibility about them. There was something wasteful about them. There was a wilderness about them. History going on strike or a protest march. I wanted people to be deeply impressed by my writing. I wanted to touch a life, touch intuition, a spirit, and a soul. These things mattered a great deal to me like my paternal grandmother's hands but it was still a war out there. A war of words, against the intelligentsia, against intellectuals, writers, poets, artists, and a war of words against women, older women, younger women, intelligentsia, intellectuals, disabled writers and poets.
It is war. A global war. A global depression. A global recession. A global racism. A global prejudice. I choose these words. The masses give them power, so do poets. Infinity is loosely threading itself through these changes projecting these haunting landscapes across cities and countries. You will never be the same again after something has shattered your world of glass. You will never be the same again after you have wintered with glaciers. It is still a war out there. Farmers still farm though. They plough their fields and christen lambs. The charisma, style and technique of art, diplomacy, acts of terrorism and climate change are still out there.
I am a poet. What does that mean? How does that change anything in society? How does the climate change anything about the face of love, or surveillance of the one you love, or investigating the favourite haunts of the one that you love? In a room there are four women reading. They are all female poets. They are all modern female poets, which means that they are all probably feminists or confessional poets. They were all asked to write a poem about a war. The first poet wrote a poem about a female suicide bomber leaving her children behind. The second poet wrote a poem about ethnic cleansing. The third poet wrote about the Rwandan genocide.
The fourth poet wrote about rainbow children growing up in post-apartheid South Africa. Everybody clapped when the first three poems were read out loud, but after the fourth poem was read aloud, everybody got to their feet, cheered, and foot-stomped a bit. Before the reading they were told that were not to say anything that might upset the audience they were reading to. They were not to cause offence like mentioning the word 'breast' or 'nudity' or 'genitals' or the 'reproductive system' or 'HIV/AIDS or 'spear' or 'Khoi' or 'black, white or coloured or Asian'.
Then the first poet asked, 'Would the words 'woman' be offensive or 'innocent' or 'virginal' or 'suicide' or 'the bridge of death'?'
Then the second poet asked, 'Which word was more appropriate than the next, 'spouse', 'wife' or 'life partner'?
Then the third poet asked, 'What was the matter with the words 'lesbian' and 'homosexual' if they were going to mention 'heterosexuality'?'
Then the fourth female poet asked timidly, 'What about 'sex', 'disability.' The word 'confessional?' Nobody said anything about those words yet. Are they not significant?'
I am giving a lecture at a college.
At least in my imagination. I have not really given serious thought to speaking anywhere being frightfully, painfully shy although people have come forward and asked me to do just that and I think to myself well, what do I say to learners whose reality is so different and complex than my own when I was their age. I wonder to myself what I will wear if I do go to such an occasion and who will show up. My mother and I are becoming best friends. Although she still shouts at me very hard when she wants her perspective of the world to impinge on mine and she screams, but now I am more focused on primitive things like the philosophy of humanism, and cultural anthropology and I being asked to write about subjects like this. My mother and I wear our hair the same way. At the end of the day, I crawl back into her physically, mentally and emotionally. I iron my hair. She irons her hair. There is a heat in both of our cries to be heard.
Is it because of the mapping out of grief in both of our lives, losing people that we have loved too much? In the stillness and the heat of a Southern African night I journal furiously because this is what writers do. People who work in advertising. Even when poets make furious love eye to eye with the love of their life or think vociferously about war and the struggle of the battle that they are in they are also furiously making notes. Closer now is the mirror. When we look in that mirror what do we see. Our inner child. The adolescent. Youth. Beauty. Dreams and goals. These are all lofty goals that humanism aspires to. Inspires in all of us just by three vowels and five consonants. I think of George Orwell in particular here and Dr Stephen Hawking. Astronauts and kings. Men who have made their mark in the world leaving behind a footprint on the universe. Madness is just a location from where to begin.
Genius is just a location from where to begin. That is playing with wildfire. I talk often about dying a succession of deaths, and where to go from there. As a writer, perhaps I have it easier than most. I can deal with loneliness and you have to come to terms with rejection early on if you want to be good. If you want to be a great writer then write about yourself, your vision and awareness. Write about what you know best. You, in terms of the primitive aspects of life. Ape, if you want. There stands humanism. Lofty like the blood coursing, pumping through your veins. There stand the spires, the platelets, and the books of knowledge containing vast amounts of information on cultural anthropology, but I am afraid that as a poet, short story writer and Christian feminist I can only talk about them as a poet, short story writer and Christian feminist. Nothing more. Nothing less. Lightning crosses smoke. Cuts through the air like a Walt Whitman blade of grass. It journeys as the Helen Martins and T.S. Eliot's magi did. Something seems to be erased from the air. Evaporated in slow motion. Like the lives of my paternal grandparents. Dead and buried. Six feet under. Pushing up daisies. Yes, they talk me about humanism in the most basic terms.
Putting food on the table. The wife, the woman of the house, the lady of the manor was submissive. She did not pray in church meetings. She did not pass around the communion wine and she did not, I repeat did not, participate in the breaking of the bread. It was under my grandmother's apron springs that I learned, parrot fashion, what the ways of the women of her generation had been built for. They had been built like machines. To rear children, sometimes bringing them up in a crisis when no food was to be had because my grandfather had spent it on cheap wine, boozing it up with his friends before he came home. I saw but I also did not see. I was taught lessons and a fundamental knowledge was given to me. I had a choice. To be a slave, to be indoctrinated at an early age, pregnant and barefoot in the kitchen, preparing meals, hot, cold, to answer to no one but God, to submit to a man, and to be a robot who did embroidery or a visionary.
Women are breaking boundaries these days, but people do not make as much a fuss over them as they do over male visionaries. People want to call it a breakthrough as if it was the magician pulling the rabbit out of the hat. The blood of that breakthrough comes through a generation of women who came before. I call them 'the older sisters.' These are the women who paved a thoroughfare, left a trail with proverbial bittersweet crumbs for us to become warriors even though as writers, as female poets, we are left to wander or as nomads in some circumstances. There are volumes of loneliness. There are volumes of males out there who are either our 'enemy' or who are our counterparts, our allies with whom we share an equal partnership in the world at large, in modern day society. Women have a 'footprint.' Sometimes it is a man and not a woman who gives us a 'foot in the door.'
This breakthrough, as if it is happening for the first time in history of women coming into their own. What does this have to do with humanism you might say? What does this have to do with cultural anthropology? Equilibrium. The world is finally garnering up enough intelligentsia on this planet to create an equilibrium and to sustain it. An equilibrium between the sexes. It is a lonely planet. Two heads are really better than one, men are not from Venus, and women are not from Mars. We inhabit the same planet. When I talk about humanism, I want to talk about humanity and the genders make up humanity apart from the flora and the fauna.
Woody Allen's film Blue Jasmine coins my depression perfectly. It is a part of humanity. I believe that depression is a part of humanity. Name your happiness. Name the degree and the scale of your footing, and what you are reaching for. You do not have to only be a woman to want those things. Men want those things too. Women want the same opportunities as men do. So how does one require the right to build an empire, whether it is being the nurturer or caretaker of progeny or a company or a writer's group? If you have the desire, do not let anything stand in your way. Writers, when they write (the great ones) do not let anything stand in their way. Desire is what desire is. Lives are in ruins, and I will still remember what desire really is.
This is what writers do. They give lectures at colleges. They give talks about the books they write. I crave knowledge. I guess the people who want to hear me speak also want me too. I only wish I could talk about philosophy, writers, books and poets, neurotic bloggers and cultural anthropology all day long but I am rather (this is what they have asked me to talk about. The person who has influenced me the most in the world) going to talk about the person in the world who has most influenced the way I think, my imagination and the world around me. My essays, my short stories, my haiku and my poetry. That person is the river's song and in the river's song, I found my mum. I realised that we have to look at each other as two women now; she has had her innings in the fabric of human life while I am just beginning mine. I see the unseen and the knowledge in the tapestry of humanity through emptied starlight, the narrative of my sleepless nights, and the paintings of Vincent van Gogh. There are many names given to cultural anthropology. Sometimes it is linked more to philosophy. Sometimes it is linked more to literature. Let us begin to call it jasmine or a blue-ish kind of wakefulness and attach fundamentalism to it and suddenly, the river's song becomes illuminated. I touch the folds of the coat wondering how I am going to look in it at the lecture. Ask myself shall I give it a miss? I want something that will match my eyes. Something that will say, 'Lo and behold, look at me.' I want to wear something that will give me confidence. I want to look like my mum did when she was my age. Elegant. It blows this blurring vision of her in my mind's eye. Now we come to the conspiracy theorists who eat 'bribes' for breakfast.
That is their bacon. This new humanism has always been there. Unbelievably, it is just that I think, well, I strongly doubt, that our consciousness has been fully realised to understand and accept that as relevant in the spheres of the social cohesion of democracy. The mega-games and strategists at the wuthering heights of politics, and the fairy tale of religion in some instances, and the burden of the single parent family, the rise of unemployment amongst the youth and crime across the world. Global phenomena really. When I think of this kind of distorted value of the world at large, I think of the ballad of the Khoi Clan. As if, they were made of origami. They were also real. They existed before time. Given ancient valentines. Marching on into oblivion everyone.
You are a fragment mum. I watch you. I watch over you. I watch over your limbs. Your flesh. Your symmetry. I am a fragment of you. I am bowled over by you. I watch your lawn. I watch your flaws as they become my flaws beloved, teacher, role model, mentor and I am still a fragment of you. Smoke and moth. What is the difference? Bees and mist. What is the difference? We are all made up of energy. A universal symmetry. A winter. Guests. Anatomy and anticipatory nostalgia. I am a fisherman lost at sea. I am Moses, Elijah, Ezekiel, Esther, Isaiah, and Noah. You, mum are my ark. You have taught me how to fish and I will go on to teach my siblings to teach, but they are grown up now and have moved away to the brighter lights of a bigger city. Johannesburg.
Rubbish, crime, talented youth, manic-depressive and angst ridden. This new city. This location that is a sum of parts (as appreciated and beautifully poetic that anything Plath wrote). I am grateful for Jean Rhys. I am grateful for her childhood in Dominica. I am grateful that she was a writer, an extra, most of all a mother. I know what the absence of that means (infertility). Where are all the women? Lost in the ancient texts and the history books. Whenever I look in the mirror I see a kind of madness taking shape in a fortunate way. Isn't all madness an art form? What is loss? The measure of loss. Rivers have changed over time. Literature has changed over the course of time. Cuisine, underground culture and the imagination of female poets. Sappho, Antigone, Joan of Arc. Women long gone.
Plath's poems live. They have their own climate like a pomegranate. The mirror is substanceless. Her mirror is blue. The moth's confession is hemmed in by the profusion of light. There will always be things that you regret the morning after. Swaziland. I remember everything about it and nothing at the same time. There were no waves. No distant shoreline. Swimmers heads cut off from their bodies. Only a green climate. Passing through things. This green light that I am sated by. The Mocking Sea. The sea is like a crippled membrane tonight. Where is the foreground? It stares back at me as a baby sucking their fingers being pushed past me in a pram by a harassed young, lovely mother. People around me. Well, something tells me that they are corrupted. Society thrums with it. All the human dancers and their politick seem to be hissing at me wherever I go. Laughter striking at the air, but my mother's laughter is the best. It exhibits both the moon and the sun. It is a circus and a Disney fairy tale. Something is ancient about the sea this evening. As ancient as circus life and Walt Disney and my mother. Her hands granadilla taking on their own life. All of this is seed. All of this means hope in and of itself. What does this exhibit, summon, harvest? What is this trembling fear? What name do I give to it? The trees' very nature have been known to have their own dark horse at night. Give rise to their own eccentricities. Appearing as ghosts appear. They have their own seed too. They have their own harvest. It is summer, but it is a summer that we have known nothing of before. It summons in climate change. A bluesy kind of jest when you see your naked self in the surface of a mirror. Yes, you say to yourself, familiarity does breed contempt. Humanity has no turning point when it comes to the end of eternity. We all have to work a full day until the world ends.
The river of life has taught me many things. Enfolded me in its warmth. Its dust sticking to me like glitter. Is it not the lizard's master hands at play? Somewhere in the world, a woman is weeping with her hands over her face over the heart of a stray bullet. Her breasts belong to a former life. Somehow, it ignites a flame or rather it ignites change in a democracy that quietly calls for it. As I watch, my mother grows older. I catch up to her age half-magnificently in the shadow of her climate like all feminists. All this time there was life behind those walls. One surgeons cut. Two surgeons cut. The 'house' becomes alive and the walls with it. Something swings into motion. What is it? A jukebox perhaps. Eva hurts me. Sparrow. Sparrow. Sparrow of haunting beauty. Swan like a neck. Voice like a dove. Everything bird like. Metal flamingo. She has the mental faculties of a wren.
The phone swings off the hook. I hear the dial tone. She has hung up on me again. Given up on me again. So one can learn many things about the world, about humanism, about cultural anthropology through the relationships you have with your siblings, I believe. All I see is a glass castle. All I see is glass ceilings. I move differently in the world than she does. Does she believe in a god, a guru, or both like mum does? She is independent while I live off grants. A Christian feminist. Just a baby caught between an elderly, infirm father and a golden mother. I can talk about existentialism. I can talk about existential phenomenology and what impact it has had on humanism. I think of Eva's hair. I think of Eva's fedora hat. I think of Eva's sandals. Her nail polish. Eating a sandwich. Her life, which does not include Christian feminist me. Rilke, Goethe, Shakespeare, Homer, Oedipus, Achilles. My brother thinks I look like a boy. Balderdash.
In childhood, my father loved his meat and potatoes. Once there were towers. Towers of the radiant sun. Thrones of them. My sister is queen. My brother king. Curbing anything oceanic. The stalks that grow from this world are like any green feast. They are perfectly in rhythm with the sleepless sea that mocks me. I have found so many people now that worship my fear for them. I anchor myself in the closet behind winter dresses I will never wear. Protection needs order, routine and gravity. Norms and values. It is not easy to sway from the blue of the sky to where East meets west. The Oriental girl with her matchstick legs gives me my cookie to appease some sinful nature that I have forgotten even exists. I am the scapegoat, the lamb, the unmarried woman, the insomniac, the nurse, the confidante, the keeper of secrets. I answer the telephone. Wait until it rings three times before I pick up, waiting to hear his voice, but you see it is complicated. Great men are often complex. Relationships with great men are often complicated. How I long for the sea's body to cover my own. The weight of water. It is fire. How it burns. How it sates my skin. It goes down like a single malt whisky. I am in Ward 7 again. Tara. Walls closing in. Evaporating. Becoming fainter and fainter. Fading away. Bars at the window. People indifferent to me. Nurses aloof. Angelic creatures who are in possession of night medication. I take those pharmaceuticals. I drown in them. An empty vessel or royalty. I fly home. Onwards towards the light. Sweet Jesus.
A cave of flesh. The birthday girl with her Twenty-one Candles. The pastor strums his guitar. We all sing hymns. Later we eat cake like there is no tomorrow. Later he plays the piano. Much later, years I turn thirty. And then even much later than that, the mid-thirties I discover I need love or rather I need the design of it. The walls made by an architect's hands or hours. Does this mean that the walls must be made by a man's hands? Hours make me stand still. Staring out of the window waiting to welcome home a brother and a sister. We have been estranged now from each other now for years. I hold the winking horror of it all, of humanity inside my head. Inside the chambers of my heart. Cells and platelets float by. Nerves need the childproof cap that covers those pharmaceuticals just as much as I do. All I can do is grin at this new lopsided world. What dwells in a flood of tears, of sobs? This river's song is so complex. So complicated, but bear with me. Her song is not so strange after all. Not so where are you. Where have you been all this time? Something flaps in the air. What must I do with all this time on my hands? I cannot stand the footage of war on the television anymore. Cannot stand politick? This talk of cohesion. Social cohesion. Yet they are all there in there sheep's clothing. They all flood my brain like rain. Like the hens in my paternal grandmother's backyard that I remember feeding biscuits to with my siblings. I am dead to them. Hard to believe how they looked up to me once. Would have done anything for me. People used to concentrate, focus on my potential but that is history. That is a wilderness history. Funny this feeling inside. I feel as empty as a Victorian teacup turned upside down. This is the river's song. I am that river. Can you see the symbols?
Can you seem them staring back at you in the water? Love I will never understand. Life in a field. I think of the collages I made with my siblings in Sunday school. Life with them now. It burns me up. The waves of my childhood sea. I call it home. I am a girl again. A girl playing nursemaid and caregiver to my father. The mall has shark-infested waters and Nazi soldiers. Sylvia Plath's Jew linen. Anne Sexton's fur coats. Jean Rhys's Paris, Dominica, London, and Brazil. Do not let us go there. I prefer sunlight. I prefer soaking up the sun and the breeze in my hair to booze. To my brother's beers. My sister's wine. Both of them do not believe that they are alcoholics. I find this information startling. Like the fact that I have studied ballet. Even though I grew too tall. Even though there were girls who had prettier feet than I did. My feet looked like fish. Those words reverberated in my tiny chest but I was not alone in that room. My reflection staring back at me.
This is the river's song. Melodic. Catchy. I mourn many things now. I dream of high school corridors. It has so much value now. Youth. I could have done many things then that escape me now. Whatever featured in visions? I have failed. There was the best of intentions, but what happened to the worthy nature of it all? It does not have a name anymore. I live for water. For a body of water, the weight of it to uplift me, empower me. I dream of capturing castles in the air. I also will myself to be happy. Happiness is best when shared with a friend. I remember my mother whispering to me. She does not whisper to me anymore and nothing seems as lovely as when my mother was in my life. I wish it could go back to being that way. That perfect world. People bring life into the world. Couples make love. Elderly people move around in their nursing home, forgotten. Others live with their children, grandchildren, forgotten too. I must do something with my hair. Buy new clothes. Do that makeover. Maybe it will makeover my soul. Maybe I will get a new soul instead. Replace the old one. I love me. The old one or the sinister new one, I ask suspiciously. I am filled with a thirst and a desire that I cannot explain.
Those jeans look tight on her. She does not wave back. Does she not remember me? Skinny legs and all. Must be all that salt and light. Chicken bones licked clean on a plate after church on a lazy, breezy Sunday afternoon. A pomegranate. Birds bursting into song. If the river has a song, doesn't a pomegranate, doesn't the sea as the oceans rise and fall with each tide? Still I call her name. Mum. Wait for me. Wait for me to catch up to you. Magnificent you in this new city. P.E. Port Elizabeth named after Elizabeth Donkin. They said he cut out his wife's heart and buried it under the pyramid. A monument built in her memory and then years later Rufane Donkin took his life. I was forever scraping silence off my intellect, off the egoist me. Once upon a time, all I could smell was grief. Last night I dreamed of waking up in a forest surrounded by trees and ghost stories.
Pretty dresses hanging in a wardrobe. As the world turns, so do I. So do I and mum in this paper town filled to the brim with hellfire and brimstone, the bitter sweetness of sand and dust, weddings and funerals, pimps and prostitutes. I know something of Albert Schweitzer, Charles Bukowski, Ulysses, and Faulkner. Oh, how I do love men. I love their hands. I love their intellect. They are my tungsten, my Einstein, my prize. I cut my hand as I peel the layers back of an onion and lick the blood. It tastes bitter. It tastes slightly metallic. There are no plasters in the house and besides the cut is not deep but it reminds me of other wounds. What happened before my birth? What happened to my mother's scars? What happened to my father's mental illness? It did not completely disappear overnight. I carry it in my soul. I carry it in the depths of my spirit. Do my parents remember their souls burning away? That there were aloes from Bethelsdorp. There were embers that were flying. Hair a field stopping for nothing. Bones were anchors. A marriage.
They knew children would come eventually. Her skin tastes of salt. How he loves the canvas of her skin. How he wishes that this could go on forever and ever. Before the children come. She is the butcher's wife. She dreams of scrolls. Are you there God listening or are you having conversations with a prophet? My mother has a garden state of mind. Flowers bloomed in her hair there that tasted like chrysanthemums, the air that you found after going up the mountain. My aunt is dying of cancer. She is dying of breast cancer. She will not make it to another birthday. Another Christmas. I write imaginary letters to a brother in rehab. I found Ouma's kitchen in the fellowship of the wild. I was wild. I was a teenage runaway. Does God answer prayer? The winter sun is not an uninvited guest. I succumb to the winter sun. To familiarities of family life, the intimacy of Christmas from one year to the next. There is a stone where your heart should be mum. Chameleon mum. Now I feel I must speak in a language everyone understands. This proper English. While we dance to Truman Capote's music and Harper Lee's lyrics while heads of state of state discuss climate change.