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Haiku in the Notebook of a Poet
by Abigail George
2015-05-10 11:42:19
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Mania Days

Laughing too loudly –
Wanting to leave home behind.
Caught like a dead fish.

I need to interpret freedom and for this to happen in my life I need to write certain things down.

You want to move forward from a madness life but what is stopping you. I am just a prisoner in need of a healing bath. I need what is vital. I have a need for bipolar’s complete and utter annihilation. Just sometimes. Just sometimes. This animal within me has a need like all animals for love. I speak of water. Water in wild places has a unique and magical quality and beauty to it. So when I despair too much I go for a swim or a bath. I let the bathwater come up to my shoulders and I let all the negativity just float away. I am not frightened anymore of being alone or this other word. Loneliness. No, I am not at all frightened to death of that anymore. It comes and it goes though. It comes and it goes. Like laughing too loudly at something which is really unfunny and inappropriate. Even when I am home I feel homesick.

I feel homesick for my kitchen appliances. For the afternoon sunlight in my bedroom. For my dogs. It is not as if I am even in another city I just feel I need to be close to these things. They make me feel not caught like a dreaded dead fish. They make me feel as if I have left home behind. I often think of mountains. The environment and climate change. The diary I burnt when I was a child. Watching the flames lick the black edges of the papers. I was happy and I was unhappy when I was a child. No child should be unhappy.

When I cover myself with a blanket at night it is always the darkness outside my window that bewilders me. I am so afraid it is going to swallow me whole.

poe01_400Swaziland. I know if I did love him I would be twisted all up inside and out. It would never have been enough for me. Love is complex. Love is complicated. Love is never enough even if you have a wasteland of it you will still find yourself in the history wilderness trying to make up your mind if you love him or if you do not. Thirst comes to mind and the strongest feeling of him holding you, holding onto you for the last time. That is all that keeps me up at night. The ongoing knowing. Intellect is nothing. Your soul is nothing. Madness is a skill. Bipolar is a skill. At the end of the day it must be learned and unlearned. I anoint the observations I have of people. I have wings. I am a bird. In the end perhaps there are just studies and self-portraits. The monotonous grows on us like despair. The landscape of the family. The winter guests.

I cannot ever understand my own sexuality. All that is feminine belongs to my mother. So in my thirties I have no children. There is no shadow of a husband. I am still a girl. That girl in the photograph. I do not have to please anyone. Cook and clean for anyone. I am enough. The map of my life is a living thing. Treacherous. Illuminating. The glare moves through me. I would be lost without poetry. Without the pangs of love of my mother and father. Now I cook the dead fish. I prepare it heartily. I am homesick for Port Elizabeth. I am homesick for the thanksgiving, the mercy and the graceful elegance of the sea and barbecue. A sirloin steak.

I have never seen anything of the world. I do not have any regrets about this though. My sister says I should but I do not believe her.

I am not homesick for the mania days. Loneliness loiters in empty cul de sacs. It can be ingloriously burdensome. It has its place. A snow-white moment with its own vocabulary. It feels like pebbles in your hands. Never forget it is your guardian. You blame other people. You realise oftentimes too late that these other people have their own lives and do not think of you at all. You do not figure in their lives at all. Relatives have forgotten all about me. They fill their days with activities that have meaning. I have routine and order but only on some days. The good days. In the end what I eat does not consume me like it used to. I try and eat healthily. Mostly fruits and vegetables. Clean food. It is difficult to eat organic where we live. There is not a culture of eating organic where we live. I was never anorexic although I was super skinny.

I remember my legs not looking like the other girl’s legs. I remember thinking I was too thin. I remember being a late bloomer. I remember being unpopular. Then it became easier when I realised there were a lot of late bloomers in the world and they usually were the most successful at what they did. For some time this made me happy and then it did not. It was a cunning image.

Men and what they did to women in the workplace. Women and what they did to other women in the workplace. I am still trying to comprehend exactly what happened. Who loved me? Who liked me? Who disliked me? Who found me intolerable? You see I always wanted to be liked.

This is the aftermath

Black open water –
When there were millions of us.
There were breakfast stains.

Relatives that leave you stone cold. You move from city to country to city again. Never coming close to realising who you really are.

I am sad. Amy Bloom is sad. There is comfort in strangers. The golden notebook. Hello lover. What are you doing now? Talking, eating, laughing, walking, or loving a woman, sleeping, celebrating every reason to. He won in the end. You won. Then it was over. I will never watch it again. I vow not to do this. Perhaps I will. I do not know. I cannot imagine what we will say to each other, if we ever meet. We are very different. We are from different nationalities. Besides it would be madness to think anything. Hello lover? Was that appropriate teacher? I wish I could have been there, love. But that is also not very appropriate. I must start hating you. Ending my concupiscent respect, love and admiration for you. Your day is filled with interviews. You look almost unreal. I cannot believe you exist.

I feel the strongest, purest love for you. I will wait for the day when we will see each other for the very first time again. I will be beautiful then. Beautiful for you. I love you. I always will. That I can promise you will never change. Today I spoke to Alice. Xolani and Jabulani confided in me. I am living in the hostel. I want to kiss him. There is a lot to be said about writing from intuition. I think of the never-ending war in Iraq. I try not to think of America. My cousin eating pork chops. Insomnia is different here in Swaziland. Everything is ripe and green. The trees are filled with overripe avocados. I am not homesick for the psychosis. I must write about everything as if it happened to me.

If I can only save one person from humiliation or discovering the measure of loss. I feel then I have left my mark on the world. Perhaps I think to myself that I too can leave a legacy like Mary Oliver.

I did not think that I needed to buy an expensive camera like my sister did. I did not think that I needed to build empires like my brother did. I thought I was enough. Good enough to face the world on my own terms. Although sometimes when I felt cold I often longed for someone, a companion that I could share a meal with or conversation. He would watch television while I read a book. There would a child or children. I already know in my head I am asking too much and this can never be. I feel like I am an astronaut sometimes. They call this isolation. They might even go further and call me an interloper but I am beyond caring. Sometimes I think of the silence in the rooms of my childhood house. I hold it all within myself. Yes, I am withdrawn. Yes, I am inhibited. Yes, I am introverted.

Sometimes you need to be all of those things to be a writer. You have to have secrets or a secret life. A double life and you have to believe in doppelgangers. I have been hurt. People have hurt me. The reality out there has hurt me. I have been hurt by the church. Yet there lies a great responsibility that hammers on my heart that I know I will have to give in no matter how I try not to. I need to know whether or not you will betray me in an instant or can I trust you with my life.


Habitual winter –
Sly children with thirst, flushed cheeks.
Bathwater collects.

You cannot turn brightness into brightness. You are intelligent you tell yourself. You can handle this. You can handle anything that life throws at you. It is easier telling yourself that than living with the sum parts of yourself that are not sane mostly.

My life here is nearly over. Just a little less than two months. Friends are really important. Here I thought it would be different and it was in a way. Today I left the hostel and came to Katenekwa’s place. I met two missionaries on the way. One greeted me and I said hello. I posted the cards to my parents and an aerogram to Carmen. She will never know how much her friendship means to me. I went to the hairdresser. I went to see Zanele this week but she had friends over. I am looking forward to going to church tomorrow. I watched Set it Off with Scholastica. I kissed and hugged everyone goodbye. I need to love someone. I saw Kenneth in the week as well or was it last week Saturday after the concert. He was wearing jeans and a tight blue short sleeved sweater.

I wanted to go up to him and tell him that I would die if I could not live without him. I miss my brother and my sister. Marc Hector especially. I think about him every day now. I never used to before. The wind flickers. It is almost as if there are preparations made of iron and practicalities that do not age in the air. The grass is like flames licking at my ankles. Does everything in life have a childhood? Does grass have a childhood, the supernatural nature of the universe, every single contract that is out there and motherkind?

Illness of poets. I give the needles names. Names of living people. People who have hurt me in the past. Boys who have hurt me in the past. The nurse does not care. It hurts. It hurts.

It hurts. She only wants to know if I have a vein. Inside it feels as if there is nothing left to give. I bite my lip. I grit my teeth. If I feel pain. I keep the knowledge of that to myself. She says little to me. Only when all of it is over does relief wash over me.

The menthol lozenge

Going electric –
I can hear my mother cough.
Smelling the camphor.

Love is inevitable in the letting go of something. Coming up for air in a swimming pool.

You are primitive. You haiku are a morning lark. I studied him this morning. I loved him. But he did not have the same warmth and affection that I had for him. My grandparents, my aunts and my uncles. I needed their love. Life is boring but that is not my reason for my desire to have children. I wish I was beautiful. Everything would be so much easier then. I realise I lose all my self-esteem when I am with another person. I become a weakling with no confidence and no voice. A whining child needing attention and care. Of all the people I have known, most of them have been enamoured, popular. People that others have admired, loved and respected them. The thinness, the knife, the advanced earth, volcanic rock of my stories spreads out into the playing fields of reality. All I can think of is how sublime this is.

All I can do is to cherish its futureless landscape. It has a lifetime. There are readers. They are welcome to their opinions and I anticipate them. There is an auditorium filled with handsome tigers. Once upon a time I knew what love was. It was beautiful in the same way that I am beautifully grown now. Beautifully aware. It is not just that loneliness is primitive. It is not that I feel loneliness most acutely in the morning. Then I must force myself to get up. To stay up. To embrace reality and the world. There is no love. Only dad and mum. I see light in their eyes. It sometimes bewilders me but it is never harsh. History can never be unfinished.

When I discovered that I wanted to become a writer all I wanted to do was read all the time. I would read my father’s psychology textbooks, my mother’s gardening magazines filled with amazement. Still it would never be quite enough. Reaching the other side stroke for stroke is easier said than done. Why do I write? I feel a kind of electricity inside of me.

The glass ceilings

The clicks set her free –
The eggshell cracking open.
Fresh and unbloodied.

What is suffering? It warns me of what is to come. Angst and hypomania. Sometimes I feel I will never reach the other end which is the depression. The depression I can live for. The depression is something I cannot live without. I am normal I tell myself. I make myself breakfast. I keep myself busy all the while telling myself how normal I have become. How normal my existence is. How normal I am. Nothing can stop me from doing this. I am like a stuck record but I am like a happy stuck record. I need to hear those words over and over again.

There. There it was. The concentration of the union of everything that existed in my world. Except love was not there. Although haiku was there. Brilliantly unfettered. I could mock the world as I knew it. Give it a new kind of vocabulary. I would go to the kitchen searching for something sweet to eat. Abhorring the apples. I would eat peaches from a can. I would eat sweetened condensed milk meant for icing for the cake. Make a cake in a mug. I only knew of turmoil and called it depression. What others would call insanity or what they would call sane. Of course I wanted a better life but I did not know any better. I just wanted to find holes in my aching soul. All I found was fire. I had to douse the flames with something. I look at the rain through the window. The garden is transformed. Something within me is transformed too.

It is almost as if all my sins are washed away like a watercolour. As if I feel fresh and unbloodied just like those eggs my mother cracked open into the pan to make scrambled eggs. There is no knowledge, no knowing without paradise, without love, without empathy or sympathy. You always have to be the one searching, looking for those things in other people. Only then can you call yourselves likeminded individuals. Only then can you call yourself brother and sister.

We are not all made up of dangerous solidarity and caves of poetic justice. Whose fault is that? Ribs crack. Sometimes we have to align ourselves with truth. Sometimes we just have to surrender to it and let it go.

Parachutes of sunlight

Drawings of magi –
Enlarging what is hidden.
The gifts and the wreck.

I stare at all of the flesh on display. When I have enough of it. When I have had my fill of it I turn away.

There is the ocean’s shoreline. I watch the waves as I have always watched them. Comaed. I shield my eyes from this paper town. The ripe and uninterrupted abundance of people around me. I watch a man and woman sleeping in their bathing costumes. They are wrapped around each other. I imagine that love can do that to you. The women opens her eyes. She watches me for a while before she closes her eyes again. Dead to the world. Her arms and her legs are pink. Before the end of the day they will be brown. Her arms are branches. The man and the woman are wasting hours. I want to inhabit her body. I want the man’s arms to be around my waist. I cannot understand this longing for belonging to someone. I am young. I will learn. What is a wreck is a wreck. You cannot go back. Not ever. Not completely.

There are economics involved. I wonder what she will fix for supper. I wonder. Is this what the creative power of serendipity means? They are mates and there is something of purity in that decision. The cells in the body, all their platelets mingling. Co-existing. It goes much deeper than that I think. It goes past the physical. The body is just a body. Now here in front of me there lies a timetable of truth, of beauty, of wealth and of something which is sated. There is no shame.

I can feel that while I look at their bodies intertwined. They are male and female. They hold the expectation of the fever of love in their arms and embrace one another. I cannot look at this anymore so I look away. There is something fatal about. Enduring also but I keep the fatal part of it in my heart. It is the brightness of their love that I cannot take. This makes me look away.

While you smell of death

The ongoing foe –
The doctor will operate.
Ills stuck on flesh.

I can imagine him kissing her on her back, on her neck.

You can comprehend that. You are compelled to understand that this is the game that men and women play but it is a language that you will never understand. Fragments disconnected at my best moments in life. Fragments disconnected at my worst moments in life. I want to be the woman who is fixing your supper. I want to be the one period but I am not the one. I will never be the one. It is mania days for me. It is a bipolar life for me. I know what it means to isolate myself. Heavens, I know that. There is a distance between me and normality that kills me. I know I have to reason with it and find it relevant. I know that I have to find some social cohesion there but then I am left truly at a loss of words. There is a looking glass that I want to kill off.

A reflection of mine that is being projected on the rest of the world that I want to kill off. I want to have my childhood back again but I know I cannot reverse the past. I need. I need incredibly. It is boring but I need incredibly. You know, my behaviour haunts me. All I want to do is run home. Run away from the snake at the water trough. Something shifts. It is a slow mechanism mental illness is. I mean people have tried to romanticise it. I do not know if that has worked on everyone. It has not worked on me. All I see is that there is nothing romantic about mental illness. You might see it in films. A beautiful actress or a handsome actor but I can never relate to them.

The shock, the trauma, the disgrace, the humility of insanity is there for entertainment value. There is a departure though from accepting your own reality and seeing the shift, your shift from good to really bad. When the aftermath comes greed comes with it. It is not indifference that I miss, it is being honourable. Why is that so hard? In the beginning that was really hard for me to understand. To not give indifference power. I have cultivated a frozen sea inside of me for so long that I have forgotten what the difference between being a social butterfly and loneliness is. I know what cool is. I also know what it means to collect possessions. Both are not important to me. What is important to me is knowing that Heathcliff loved Catherine. In the end Jane Eyre was loved too and even Jean Rhys. I am a slow woman.

Slow to come to realisations. Slow to become lively, slow to fall in love, to fall asleep, to dream, and to prognosticate. I know I am emancipated but I still feel cowardly and I still feel like a fool when I take one look at a man and he makes me fall down to my knees. Love can do that to women who as children were coddled. Can you really be loved too much? I need to speak of the ignorance and the education that I was brought up with. Both were in varying degrees. Planted a philosophical enlightenment within me and that I considered was the end of my education. I did not need a degree. I did not need to go to school. I did not need to be lectured to.

I knew that my life began and ended with bipolar. My mother was beautiful. My mother was elegant. She was also sophisticated. She did not share any of these traits with the world around her. She did not even want to share me. I felt that when I was on the stage that was my home. When I was editor of the school newspaper that was my home too. I created homes away from home in order for me to feel like I was a human being and that I too counted for something like she did. I was always in awe of her. She dragged me down. Yes. She could cut me with a glance. Yes. She cut me and it felt as if I was drowning but I loved her anyway. I love the people in my life who have hurt me the most, caused me the most pain. I love them.

I never feel brave enough to tell this to their faces though. I do not pick up the telephone and tell them these things. This is the person that I have become now. I am secretive. They have made me difficult. Some days I say this is rubbish. Me living alone. Articulate me. Profound me. Intelligent me. Why should I have to live like this? I know this for sure. That when the mania hits then I am no longer articulate, profound or intelligent. I must be brave and keep to myself. Live like a recluse with a mother and a father who love me. With a childhood house to cook and clean in. I have memories and all memories have laws. Sometimes those laws have logic and sometimes they are positively flawed. Women have long memories. I never forget.

I have and never will forget my fall from grace. When it came it quickly disappeared from my mind rather quickly but then it came back as flashbacks usually do. The subconscious mind took every that happened in a time and place that does not exist anymore and hit the repeat button when I dreamed. The thing is I have never forgotten who I have loved although they have forgotten me.

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