||Death to the Wounded Self I-am
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I wonder if you will laugh out loud and hold your sides until your face aches and you bite down hard on your tongue and you begin to cry, not with sadness but with joy. Will you creep under the covers and read the last two pages (as I did) over and over again and only because it is so beautiful, so prosaic and so Hemingway. I have often wanted to show you so many things. Will we have enough time, I ask myself? I have always wanted love not darkness that had the likeness of a shroud. I have wanted love to come alive inside of me and to let me open my heart to you like an invisible hourglass. I not only wanted this letter to be haunting, I wanted it to be a declaration of my independence - my independence from you. I appreciate today of all days. It was a grand day and there were many victories. I became visible like a screen.
There was no pretence, no vanity and no shallow witnesses claiming that indiscretion and calamity would ensue from our friendship. You were there because I needed a friend. I felt and I saw, sense everything anew for the first time in literally years. The extraordinary weight of the knowledge of maturity, of life, the glorious pull of nature, the rush of wind in the trees, the clinical turquoise of the swimming pool, the stone camel from New Bethesda. I wasn’t invisible anymore. I was like a grain of sand breaking against the waves with so many rightful paths. Journeys and destinations were born again. I was given permission to be a traveler – to co-exist with refugees, tourists, mediums, animals, the human race, saints and seers. I was given a chance to choose from them a world apart from inhumane alienation. Not all things have followed logic, convention and tradition in my life.
This I do know: You have taught me a great lesson and that as you grow older your dreams change. Your sadness is shifted into shades and shapes demanding from you always to demonstrate love throughout your life. I envision that a great destiny awaits you and others like you – friends in deeds. Great destinies have always awaited visionaries and even sinners have become great men. Your eyes have often looked at me in a way that I feel I don’t quite deserve. I will always remember eternity forever in my youth and my sometimes careless, carefree fragmented memory of you. Do you still write the poetry that you used to read out loud to me? I was your captive audience in everything you did. It takes me awhile to regain my senses completely when my depression is vivid – darkness visible on the horizon.
Volatility blooming in Iris
Here in the now, I am waiting for you and my head is spinning, clocking love like darts that whiz through the air. I am waiting patiently for you to take the lead, to enter the room and make an appearance. I cannot wait to see your smile and your shining brown eyes. You were always magnificent, strong and wise in everything you did, even then at an age where immaturity, forgetfulness and insensitivity always loomed magnificently large in one who was so young. When love was magnified so was trouble. My heart is struck a blow when I realise how long ago I saw you last and perhaps how now after all this time another girl has taken my place. Perhaps you serenade paper-thin girls who are lovelorn and starry-eyed. You are never panic-stricken when you break her heart.
Neil where do you live now
Perhaps that girl has wild hair and a head spun full of iced ideas laced with sugar and cotton candy plans. She thinks your life is surreal. She has seen your face a thousand times in magazines and television movies – movie star handsome, dark brow, jet-black hair and intelligence like a whip. She probably wishes like I did when I was her age that she was electric instead of invisible; snow white. I weigh my regrets carefully. I have nothing to lose. All that has come through knowledge and experience is belated. I cannot take anything back. In some ways, the past is like an explosive live wire, like a volcano, like fire surfacing, in others already disabled. Here there is a quick relief. You have been reborn so many times inside my brain. Through the infinite wisdom of mistakes that came before – love ultimately remains.
Neil shopping for another model
A morbid list of insufficient happy endings replaced by self-love and a love of self – the perfect circumstance. You are remarkably beautiful still after all this time. In memory you will never grow old. You will never grow weak. You will never be an accident. Pleasure shows its fragility in cracks like a piece of rare, beautiful glass. Just like you did. I don’t know what to do but now I know I’ll never be with you. Past is past and wings often manifest. Like a vampire, attraction has a mind and will of its own. Surfacing once again, I forget the times I didn’t make any sense at all, when I couldn’t tell the difference whether or not you were being a devil or angelic, when I was rain, you were light, when you put up a fight all I considered was flight, if I was the moth you were the flame. How many times was fire mistaken for heat and fever when it was almost like a desperate addict’s plea for self-medication? Lost in a world of reaching, my heart is formidable. I am still breathing.
If Ernest Hemingway said that you write better when you are in love, then I believe you are your own worthy candidate. You taught me when to make a gracious exit. You taught me to be grateful and not be precious about being talented. You taught me that life was mean, dirty, and miserable but that it progresses, it goes on. On good days I remember the things you did that captured your spirit and when I caught you paying attention but now you’ve taken the road less travelled, a straighter course. Being lovesick in the first beginnings of separation anxiety is not a snug fit. It is uncomfortable, as invasive as a blister and chemicals. It is not a trivial pursuit. It was a full time observation being a student of you. You were so male, so unlike me. You dwarfed me, morphed me into an irresistible girl but even more into an irresistible woman.
Cutting the ties that bind
I wanted to say hello but couldn’t bring myself to pick up the telephone. I went out to the park just to get some fresh air and on the way I composed a letter to you in my head. I imagine that no matter how old you are love speaks to your heart. My home causes me to reminisce. Pictures of a dark, lonely, demanding child whose attention is sparked by a sad, beautiful, elegant mother and a father who is caring, wise and strong make me evaluate past loss and when emotions ran high in a brick house, the dream house of two errant grown ups. I diet now, I exercise, I spend too much money, I am insensitive sometimes, I try and eat healthily, I work too hard, I want to impress and I even do my hair when I feel like it. I make an occasion of it. I buy beautiful things. I replace the old with the new. I push old loves out the door and meanwhile banish any thought of you. I fall in love and out of love. I even watch television.
Detachment that lovely feeling
I read the same books over and over again that I have had for years. You wouldn’t recognise me now if you saw me. When you’re young life is so much easier then. Neil, I hope that wherever you are today, you are reinventing love daily for your loved ones and that you look happy, are relaxed and comfortable finally in your own skin, your flesh and every bone, sinew and muscle. What matters now is not the past but that you’re not here. Where do I go from here? I ask for forgiveness. If I could go back, I would have stood my ground more often and watched every foothold, every step less. There are six ways of dying for a poet. There’s the physical, the metaphysical, literal, lyrical, prosaic and the lingering metaphorical kind.
Books have always been the friends of a wounded heart. It is time for words and writing and voices to be the friends of the wounded heart as well.
I still remember how I fell in love with my grandmother’s cooking, my aunt’s cooking and baked treats that came out of the oven smelling like heaven, running up and down sand dunes and sandcastles every holiday they, the Johannesburg family came to visit. Racing down to the shore, swimming in the sea, my head bobbing up and down the surface watching my father’s head and then neck disappear as he swam with my uncle and Vincent – my older cousin. Feeling the grip of the summer sun on my neck and licking my back. Losing my Frisbee on the way home that Christmas holiday. Now there will be no more curries and stir-fries, turmeric stained fingertips, a kitchen smelling of onions. Funerals can do this. They can make you feel the scars of childhood. Mental illness can do this. It can isolate you, lick your weirdly-bent-out-of-shape spirit. It can make people forget who you are, your name and your address.
People, family started to forget to call and send invitations to weddings and family functions. There is no more birthday wishes. Anne Frank said all people were good at heart. I want to know what exactly goes on inside their exceptional and pretty little heads? In June I am reminded of how leaves change, driftwood I come across on the beach, carrion and the blue triumph of the oblivion of the sky. There’s a little smile that pulls me yonder at the corner of Sylvia’s mouth that shatters my sense of self-worth. God willing, fifty years from now, I will still be writing, still in love with the fleeting words that I scribble across the page. I have always believed that God has allowed me to write. There remain histories to be written. I must never lose sight of that. Although theorists and intellectuals are meant to be as obscure as the background of writers and their creative impulse and as full of black holes as the application of the subjunctive theory of metaphysics, a quantum measurement, that isn’t wholly true.
Writers are like driftwood
What I am writing now is a love letter to the writers who have come before me and the writers who will come after me. I am writing to reach the spirits of Susan Sontag, Rupert Brooke, Pablo Neruda, J. M. Coetzee, and Arthur Nortje. I am happy again. They have given me all the reasons in the world to be ready for the most tiring, stressful and trying endeavour in the world – writing. The sixth way of dying is the glow of the aftermath of what we have achieved in our lifespan. It is our physical death. Memories are our love letters that we write to ourselves. It is to remember and rediscover the best of us. Writers are not the only people who have worthy voices, civilian women and children and men are each deserving – not more, not less deserving than the next. I want the ink on the page to be like the rivers of time. Its energy must keep on flowing.
Iris on discovering the madness of Jean Rhys
Believe in love, because if you don’t you will never live a full life.
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