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Machinery Machinery
by Abigail George
2010-09-29 08:04:27
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I believe in God now. This is what I know for sure. When I was in my teens He was irrelevant. Then one day I got sick, really sick. The illness (lithium toxicity) that had come silently out of nowhere (because I hadn’t been having regular blood tests) had made me slip into a coma for two weeks; then out of the blue I woke up one morning in the hospital. I couldn’t speak but I could see. I couldn’t walk. I was in a lot of pain. I was in ICU. I don’t remember a lot of that time only that estranged family came to visit. I can’t recollect conversations only that people who were never there for me before suddenly appeared at my bedside and they prayed for me. Now I believe in God and that He instructs my writing, my befuddled passion as I gather all the accumulations of my lifetime so far. He’s to be found in the reliable source of the generous details and as I experiment with the machinery of words. It is becoming more and more naturally to me now. Writing I’ve learnt does not only come with a spiralling intuition; it also comes with a unique spiritual awareness.

Unlikely stories

This transition of the streaming of words; gifted fragments from my mind to the page makes me feel like an ancient fossil steeped, enriched with history. It leaves me drowning like the leaves spilling down a drain during a downpour. My writing promises a generation love and the calling of imagination; to journey gently on a river wide no matter what I was faced with; glass ceilings, brick walls, floods in reality and floods that were surreal, Dadaist, swirling in my head spaces, surfaces of pools that were both telling of rings and circles of my inherent moods and reflections, the inner spaces of wings of birds that promised new beginnings and secrets.

My first stories when I began to write when I was a girl, a child were stories of love; the romantic love that my parents did not give up in our presence as children so I imagined it into reality like Barbara Cartland did in her pink mansion; I imagined it into truth and tricked myself into believing that love was something real; that you could reach out and touch like a gift. I’ve never believed in Valentine’s. Perhaps this was my parents’ fault.

What does love mean to me then? An embrace, a kiss, winter rain here again, haiku, leaves softly whispering on the ground, words, words and more words, the terminal at the airport. It is all suspended in mid-air for me like machinery. How much does it take to love? I’ve realised it is the very essence of your soul, of your being, much of what it takes to write; this is the image that I have of love in my imagination.

Bible school

I found myself, wisdom, purity, humanity, maturity, alchemy in daily prayer and meditation, in witnessing people, adults, praying in tongues when I couldn’t in the struggle of my life as an adolescent, a skinny teen languishing in sadness and depression; of not being built to fit in with the rest of them; the popular crowd, the girls with budding bosoms. Prayer taught me truth and the truth was that the art for me was not to fail. Failure meant nothing. Prayer grew me up. The desire that I had to be near God meant that emotional maturity beckoned and was not far off. Words buzzed like fizz in my head.

Unlikely stories, Bible school were my tools; my instruments, sermons, hymns, my childhood, the divine mysteries of the scriptures. I realised that I could somehow transform essays into miracles on paper. All of the cogs and the wheels that I had at my disposal became my machinery. Madness, chaos, disorder ruled on my desk, in my brain, in my environment. They humbled me; held me captive. I believe that every time I sit down to write it is God’s perfect angelic timing but nowadays people don’t want to read about God and miracles.

I left Bible school before I finished the apprentice year. I felt I had learned all I could. Before I went I wanted to know why it felt these words just existed for me, passing through, healing my emotions, my hurts, tending to my goals, why they seemed to exist not only for me but for strangers, why I possessed them, how they fell into place windswept, caught beautifully, swept away the lull of the day, gathered harmoniously for a captive audience, built for humanity, they were metallic when I hit them, the sound bouncing around in the elegant, silent rooms of my psyche. These words were a hit. They sparked a revival and a crusade as television evangelists did.

I started to stare in wonder at the world, this unique universe around me. The minister at the side of the road trying to get a lift to only God knows where. Perhaps he was only pretending because he wanted to hitch a ride. Life was easy for me. It was not so easy for other people.

Feeding the beasts of my imagination

God didn’t captivate me in Sunday school. He captivated me in the world, the people, the slamming observations around me, in pale faces and dark ones, in normality and abnormality, children who had Down syndrome, were crippled, or handicapped in some way, the mentally ill, in poetry, as I sat on my father’s lap and he stroked my hair.

I adopted the realities of the poet’s words I read in my mind. Smelled scents in the night air, the night sky, the emblazoned stars, scent in hair. Without pain I was blinded. I could not write. I could not see a way through to communicate even simple things. Things of the past that kept me back. A white girl with a halo of blonde hair, with pink, rubbery, pillowy lips who played hockey with thick ankles and sturdy well-built legs and who wore black nail polish on her toes who picked on me daily in the posh high school I went to. I only hoped to break through racial barriers and I think I achieved that. They even gave me an academic award at the end of the year.

It was hellish but I survived. The footprints I carved out there on the steps of those imposing brick buildings prepared me for the future and it taught me that everything I reached out for was within limits and that the past did not determine your future. All I saw around me were rich white girls. They even looked angelic in their school uniforms. The Indian girls were snobs, introverts and cleverer than just about anyone. Their parents were doctors and pharmacists. They came from money.

They never swam when it was physical education. They all had letters from their parents. Adolescence, no matter how painful it was, instructed my writing. The coloured girls lived half-lives. At school they were model scholars, writing down their homework in huge diaries, dutifully studying, acting out whatever the white girls did, speaking like them with posh accents, wore their hair like they did in plaits and bobs and when they went home to their lesser than suburbs, lesser than households they turned wild, went to the shop for bread and milk, wore their hair loose, kissed boys behind the bus stop, held hands, thought reading was boring.

I taught myself to stay calm under pressure; ever watchful under the energy and flow resonating within the crouched limbs of a child navigating the internal; an alien rush for eternity; the essence of a street child’s hunger and loneliness. I turned it into a poem.

I feel when I’m writing as if I am awake in someone else’s dream. Religion was magical but writing made me feel omnipotent. It’s demanding. It’s gut-wrenching. It’s a brutal exercise. You’re the permanent subordinate while whatever holy ceremony is taking place, stringing the words together into sentences like a rope of pearls switches gears, dropping bombs inside your mind; a mine field.

Intimate ceremonies

Does it start from the womb; this clamour for attention, this need, this want, this desire to be heard, to be read and to be desired in return? For your words to remain behind as scar tissue, simply read like a ripe fruit on the ground estranged from its brothers and sisters in the orchard hanging from the boughs of trees, like a bleeding slab of red meat, words read out loud on the mat where all the egghead children sit on and read from their readers, enthralling, suffocating, dominating, a country on an atlas or mapped out crazily in crayon in a colouring book, or a geographical location in a school project. Words must nurture like school, like mother, like father, like families at the beach or on holiday, like the books and words of other writers, poets, intellectuals and teachers.

It’s not my fingertips that are in authority when it comes to tap-tap-tapping on the keyboard. It’s something far more esoteric; something far more intimate and cerebral. It is something that is both lost and found. It is futile for me to say that it comes from within me and me alone, that it comes from the spirit of fear, that this deluge of elegant, elegant language that sums up the ordinary people whose lives are so extraordinary when I put pen to paper, that if I keep a healthy frame of mind; rising like the full moon; like a vision it will come.

I am empowered by the process and all that comes with it; patch its barriers, get sold by boundaries, by borders, by shades of smoke that nestle gravely in the air from old fashioned pipes and cigarettes. I am only human; a woman. Having a father who suffers from depression, a mental illness, an aunt who suffers from alcoholism and writing frankly about these challenges and their daily challenges has reawakened my calling to service and to writing. I have been called to write, not to minister and not to become a missionary in a far off country like Russia or where it snows and you have to learn to speak a foreign language. There was a web that was lying beneath all of that. I had not learned to shake it off yet. It comes with words; typed, scrawled, handwritten, jotted down hastily before it erases itself like time or a silhouette in sunlight from my memory.


Writing resurrects me. So what if it comes with wishful thinking, with regret, with verbal ammunition, persecution that consumes you when someone makes a negative comment about something that you have written, that something you can never let go of or surrender; this is it. It is the secret life of dreamers that is kept wanting. I have no doubt in my heart now that this is my career. I have finally come to this understanding. When we pray, we trust God.

When we fall asleep, we know tomorrow when we wake up it will be the next day. So we will follow the seven days of the week for a year. Just sometimes I pretend I’m a prizewinning journalist or a child at play with war. In my head space I’m caught by the flow of a river, staring without fear as the current takes me; swallows me up whole in a whirlpool.

It is God that calls to me out of the darkness into the light. I am only released in the precious words in fluid liquid reserved only for the barren landscape, the white ghost of the wilderness of the page. When I first began on this open road I wrote what my heart was longing for, for a magical home, for magical innocence about the things I once had in my possession, for self-indulgent thinking, for a mother’s magical love written magically on my body. I never realised even for an instant that the magic was already inside of me, hidden within the depths of my ego, just waiting to be awakened, pushed opened like a window, a door left ajar, a fence or a gate.

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