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Woman unafraid Woman unafraid
by Abigail George
2014-09-07 11:20:57
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Go fishing somewhere else this is my territory.

In her eyes (the paper tiger empress) I can see the origins of smoke and mirrors. They feed the skeletons, the bears, beasts, the monsters, the life drawings of monkeys of my imagination. Under the bed, hiding in the closet. Driftwood. Beautiful sea-things rich with ancient life. Behold an artefact, a lost relic, an omen, the red lines of a signal, a warning of the odd immortal distance of growing older. Does she, will she remember the old me, mummy?  The mad love of the beet king and queen sitting on their earth-thrones and how their progeny grew making the right life choices going to university, sitting in libraries studying, in pursuit of Ophelia, Julia, a second mother, a hairdresser. I remember now nothing of the old me. Up in flames volcano people turned into stone.  The London experiences off daddy, Sylvia Plath and Ted Hughes all led to depression. Why didn’t you love me mum? Squalor in circles of water my tangled obsession. The first beat is the heartbeat. Look at me. I am wearing my painted smile. It is not in me to talk to children. Perhaps infertility can do that to you. The sea is wild. It is my sea. The coast murmurs and then it roars.

It is a dark green hole, filled with stupid schools of swimming fish a vortex in flux. Piggy lungs, piggy lair, piggy snout, piggy hands, piggy face, God’s stomach for the impressions of the candidates of the grotesque splinters off into asylum pieces at the expense of my soul. Stars are in majority. I have left childhood behind in the bedrooms of hotels in Johannesburg. Siven sounds like silver. My pitch in front of the panel was both a rite of passage and eternally useless. Laughter joining voices. ‘Start again please.’ Said the bald-headed European producer. ‘I don’t understand the meaning of the title of your short film. I can’t even pronounce it.’ I felt stillborn. This unique shell found herself next to a cemetery but where was the sunshine, the flowers to pay my respects. It was all just a rehearsal for a speech and drama-addict. Wacky oracle. Giants, ogres, skeletons-in-the-closet. The eyes of a child staring hypo-manically into the eyes of a man. The destination for every drowning girl was a dream-world of being the perfect wife in the perfect life but what inspired who and what first. In the end who persists and who wins? Home was Nelson Mandela Bay where her mother cleaned out the fridge and I ate pizza.

Bipolar, gifted, creative genius, creative, inspirational, manic depression, overtly determined, and the moodswings. The economics, the symmetry were never going to be completely erased or diminished, wonderfully evaporated or curated, moon-skilled, sun-worshipped from my life.

For all my life I would always have two heads, two lives, two mother-tongues, two mothers. All I needed was a sober, illumined mummy to find my way, my anxious mouth was sealed shut, the obscene child within the promiscuous adult-woman ruined by twenty-two by two men.

Powerful, trim, multiplying the sacrificial lines of illness, their vision of the world was not my vision of the world yet, they sabotaged me, they destroyed me, they pumped me full of cuddling, illegal laughter, helped me at first, grounded me numb and nothing felt sweeter than solitude, than  futility, than standing. They peeled a wilderness from the roots of my flesh, harvested the cells in my blood, and the self-portrait of my skin, and the soap was slippery in my hands while inside I was screaming. They were old and I was young. A blue death was coming for me. I could not alter blown failure, the sea’s roots tangled with Noah’s ark.

And the logic of fisherman’s boats, and I continued to bloom in interiors. Breath, friendliness, a drink or two, the coldness of my childhood continued into adulthood, choosing one man after the next with chronic disbelief (I was a dead one at twenty-one), a comment, serious conversation and then we would gravitate to the backseat of his car, or a room in a hotel and there was a hunger within me that I was beginning to grow wise. I needed grass, leaves, trees, I needed home’s confectionary. I needed Whitman. The cat, the dogs, it was lovelier there, purer, there were no gaps that I needed to mourn, that distracted me, that lacerated my heart. I did not learn to smoke in Johannesburg. Life is like that. I just felt strangled and psychologist after psychologist could not explain this away. And now I am changing. My physical body is changing. I am growing older and the intimacy I once shared with one man, two men is dead. Perhaps I was the killer in the end, the wise, wise expert of all these disciples and followers. I have my spade, I have my map, mapping out the embrace, his smell, a pause, the smile and all I felt was heat, a glow, a cool, hard rhythm but he was different from the others. Liberal. Pretty.

Her voice was loud and soft. Then soft and loud. Mummy was like far-off places like Madagascar, Zanzibar, Mauritius, and Brazil out of place in this small town, exotic, she drifted. I drifted from one man’s arms to the next. Promiscuous in my early twenties. And with each man something within me died. My stammering, beating heart could not take it anymore. The telephone would ring and ring and ring and he would be back in my life. Black silent men with eyes the colour of hills, beards the colour of white snow and dressing gowns the colour of cells found in fingers. They were my free gifts. My petals. My magical arrival of love that exhausted me, drained accomplished me, making love to them felt as if I was finally clean of all that childhood-dirt and trauma, childhood-din. For each one I was an untouched virgin, clever with my small bottles of honey, Sylvia Plath’s magician’s girl and after the lovemaking I was always cold, untying the dangerous for export. He would rub my back, touch my hair and I would feel small and angry. Wash my face in the basin of the hotel. Worms in my bones, a model, a villager and in the evening I would drink in the colour of wine the colour of a bloody sunset.  

In the morning I would drink my tea or my coffee with the ring, the vampire of the sun lurking.

They all bore swastikas those SS men in the workplace. I had no protection against their weapons, their blood clots, the butcher’s operation, my barren body that had no love walking about for over a ghastly thirty years. Off to Belsen with you mother-dear. Where are all my ancestresses? In my twenties I became a midsummer woman in a museum of office spaces in pencil skirts, in a crisp white shirt and stockings and heels with perfumed pineapple hair. Once upon a time I was  a girl wearing frangipani blossoms in my hair  working alongside men who preferred to live in igloos (which meant that they just preferred to live and work by themselves and eat vegetarian mostly spaghetti) These types of men do not exist all over Southern Africa. They have their year of meat. They go on the grandeur of a safari. They go a-hunting continually. In a station in Johannesburg is where I found myself. In a swimming pool in racist South Africa. In the house of my mother where there were worldly images of lake mornings, hallucinations, psychosis, albums and always the meeting of strangers.

Hiroshima is now gilded in history. These are lines for poetry, illness. It’s become an anthem for the wreck that I have become, my autobiography, the death of the blue stuff. Melons on the land were like my clouds. Ripe, sweet melons were my silver linings. Roughly where and when did my twenties go? Hospitals and recovery periods from suicidal depression, or they would call it clinical depression when in fact it was a mood disorder. I don’t want to be mad I want what I say and when I say it to be profound. Swimming is easy, familiar. Whispering, flickering up in flames volcano people turning into stone. I am one of them. My hands wizened, brown like my paternal grandmother’s hands. Avocado sandwiches Avocados in my suitcase on the bus, on the train. Avocados for life for a girl. They disturb nobody. I am on my way home to a mother who does not understand mental illness. I am alone. Etching, conjuring poetry. Some of it terrifying, disturbing, some of it pure, some of its flesh grinding frantically against dendrites and blood platelets, some of it difficult messages that come to me in a dream-sequence, some of it sweating scents like the inside of a pocket or the lining of a jacket.

Some of it apologetic, a winter guest, the suffering living and the dead, some of it to compensate, and some of it like trumpets that grow and grow. When I say I’m crazy I mean it. The first memories of madness came from childhood-trauma. A cold, elegant mother who preferred her son to her daughters. I was an abandoned, neglected bundle. There is no comfort in carrion. Vultures in the rain. My fingers are in the door, the leveller. Digging, digging, I am constantly digging. But ultimately this dilemma is washed out, dust. After leaving Mr Muirhead I used to be promiscuous crossing genders effortlessly. What is your twenties for if not to experiment, to be tireless when it comes to love, floating amongst passengers, veiled, silence, the object, the sexual object and so I perched, I constructed built walls around my love affairs, affairs of the heart, wrote letters to my lovers, burnt my diaries, waving, smiling. One day they will put my ungrinning corpse into the ground and there will be nothing left of me. Mummy’s-claws, her shark teeth, she is a tree, a miniature young tree, ants rattling up and down the branches of the tree. She has made me out to be a coward, melting, thinning in the gutter.

My brain is blunt, a sharpened wreck, and an unbelievable possession of originality, gravity and identity. The survival-kit of sugary Gerda, of mummy crossing squalor, and a midsummer love effortlessly, fertility, honeymooning in a hotel, planting roots and roots planting stems and roses growing out of the pit of the ground, thee earth, God’s-soil, watching, clenching the overgrown green feast in the cool paradise of her garden. The old me was a burnt out and ugly granadilla me, under-nourished, miserable, not good company for anyone, promiscuous, aroused by stories, swept away by despair of the underlying themes of infertility and a childhood continued into adulthood. I don’t know why I don’t dream anymore and when I do there are usually monsters in the closet or they’re hiding under the bed. I can feel crazy coming on. To feel so left out is not a curiosity, what I mean to say is it shouldn’t feel like such a curiosity anymore. I despise her. I love her. To love her is madness, a skeleton that has come to life from the holocaust that is searching for family, for loved ones long dead and buried, the woman who carried me in her womb for nine months and then could not bring me back to life.

A man’s voice was a human voice, thunder, thick and brutal, while mine was inhuman, secretive and quiet. I was a lizard. The most natural animal in the world for a poet to be. What do you see when you look at me. The burning woman and the children she will never have. The forgotten creatures of day and angels of lightning and thunder of night. Those half-remembered images of the laughing carcass and other stories from childhood that sang songs of trauma. There are temporary-and-permanent assignments and case studies for women who are still afraid of the shine, the glare, the illumination of angelic and worldly material earth, supernova writing, and transformational-games. What terrible dreams I have. When incoherence and disorientation just got the better of me so did the killing of the earth, this world, and this reality, I wander from room to room in my childhood home in torment carrying an atlas, carrying volumes of thin books. This is my brilliant education. I must improvise habits. I think of my ocean, my wild, wild sea. Ingrid Jonker’s sea. I see the sea as she must have seen it for the last time. Survival. Did she see black butterflies in her survival?

What will I find in Pandora’s Box? A million men who have gone to war and died. A million more women who have never forgot that place of weeping. I wake up but I am still dreaming. I am in my childhood home. And in my dream his body is a quiet body in my childhood bedroom. I feel atomic. A golden bolt dripping, blazing, dazzling knowing that the dubious world is not my home.


     
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