Stars above Cairo, Egypt: Poems by Abigail George

Image: Hartwig HKD via Flickr

Image: Hartwig HKD via Flickr

Stars above Cairo, Egypt

I see people all the
Time but they
Have become like an
Unmoving illusion.
Maidens, and men.
Women and children.
At night, I dream
Of Salinas, California.
John Steinbeck, and of
James Byron Dean.
My voice gone.
Leaf, tears, wind,
Voice, politics, flames.
Foundations of nature.
Gone, gone, and gone.
Every night I say farewell
To ghosts that go bump
In the middle of the night
In my childhood bedroom.
While traffic melts
Into the background.


Xenophobia needs a Psychiatrist

There’s the mad dance of poverty on parade.
The haves and the have-nots.
The androgynous beauty of Virginia
Woolf’s writing. Jean Rhys’s depression.
Her alcoholism too. The poetry of Anne
Sexton, Keats, Rupert Brooke, S. Plath,
Ted Hughes with all of its quiet power.
Its iron, marrow and grit. I do not need
People half as much as I need the
Literature in my life. It has a sharp,
Incandescent beauty. Its radiance star-worship.
Literature the monster frightening
me the mouse. The monster beneath the bed.
I adore destroying myths. Stigmas.
The spoiled identity of the black child.

Desperate Slogans

We grew up in Swaziland.
Nature was our bridegroom.
Our fight song. And so I learnt to write about
Her parade-parade. The ego
Of rain that thinks she can wash
Away everything.
The windows to her soul. Her paradise.
Do fish know of distant planets?
The practical magic of the
Swimming pool is distant
To them but to me there is a conversation
In that milkshake, ice cream,
And enemy. I live now. Age later.

I was thirty-five when I read
a short story of Alice Munro’s
In The New Yorker. I have
a cousin who lives there now.
She married an American.
She takes a bus into the city.
She has done what I have found
Impossible to do. Have children.
Be the Syria of cook and clean.
I do not make cauliflower bredie,
Eggplant curry, and tuna fish
Sandwiches. Eat pimento stuffed olives.
Instead I leave that to my mother.


Andre Brink

Her kids are American. In pictures
They draw in kindergarten
They have spaghetti meatballs
For heads. Her life is Americana.
She speaks with an accent.
On the phone in clipped American
Tones. Saying ‘yeah’ at the end
of her sentences. By now she
Probably believes in thanksgiving,
Turkey and reality television.
She does not read Bessie Head,
Joyce Carol Oates, Lauren Beukes.
Andre Brink. I don’t think she’s
Ever heard of Ingrid Jonker.
Perhaps my cousin did a poem of hers placed
In the curriculum in matric. That love affair
Inspired me. I wanted to
Write books like him.
Poems like Ingrid Jonker.


David wa Maahlamela

He came bearing gifts.
Of friendship and stories.
On his way to
The paradise of Grahamstown.
I have black notebooks.
Notebooks like any alchemist.
As black as crows.
In the late morning
I have enough typed pages to send
anywhere I want to. Mostly Europe,
the States, England, Africa.


Slaughterhouse Cut

What do you do when there’s
A revolution?
I remember sitting in my seat
At the South End Museum
In Nelson Mandela Bay
Next to my father listening to
A lecture. Thinking of George Botha.
I wished it would never
End like J.D. Salinger’s
Classic ‘Catcher in the Rye’.
The Manic Street Preachers sang
About Kevin Carter, yes, that
War photographer. I think
Of vultures as a metaphor. Thought
Of it as a slaughterhouse cut.


© Abigail George

Image: Hartwig HKD via Flickr

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