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Arrival of the Paper Tiger Empress: Poems by Abigail George



The Arrival of the Paper Tiger Empress

My wild
‘Sargasso’ sea
Is a heaven
That loves only me
And the accomplished.
Saboteurs’ pillow talk
Like Assia Wevill’s and Jean Rhys’s
Plant their airs-and-graces
Inches from it.
This is their playground.

Gills do not matter.
The possibilities of fish.
The catch of the day.
Fishermen and nets.
The bridegroom’s turf.
One is a poet. The other a writer.
They’ve both
Had three marriages.
Lived in London.
Drank champagne fizz.

But nothing
Boughs down
As it seems on the surface
Tension of things.
Their landscape
Is a swimming pool
Promising certain death.
A drowning in a lake.
Is the name of the game
A task that means business?

It is not to survive at all.
Feeling blue is an illusion.
In the grim end the gas and the gin
It will give way to illumination.
Like a little earth, the cold.
Revisiting a bench in a park.
And anything celestial, ochre.
There’s theology in everything.
Like a Connecticut
Station wagon.


After Leaving Mr. Muirhead

I think of the symmetry of his mouth.
The perfect chemical purity of it that tasted of salt and light.
His everlasting darkness plunged head first into light.
And this introvert’s intelligence, his mole-game, his boots,
His poison weed, second. I think of his wink
And his smile, his girls, his women in the office space.
His being. His humanity. His coding. And how I stalked him.
How he taught me that nothing in love was insignificant.
How I worshipped him from afar and how I loved him,
This creature hunting him down until the day came
That he wounded me. God how he reminded me

Of Hemingway. His words were thorns. My Macbeth
Night and day. My Nazi and Jew. He was my meat and potatoes
For nine months. My torch. My burning candle. The network
Of my constant craving. My blood just had to have him.
He put me into a trance and towered over me. Such radiance.
His eyes. His eyes. Eyes like slits. Then eyes like snake eyes.
Guilt, guilt, guilt is mine. My possession. Now all day and all night
He lurks like a white lion. I am his shadow. I pace.
I think criminal thoughts. I am his shroud. He strides.
I am his cool sacrifice. He leaps. I am a vision in a sackcloth.
With dust and ash in my wet hair I am the drowning visitor

In the river where the fish lap and surf at my heels.
I am beautiful now that my ancestors have surrounded me.
There is an empty seat waiting to be filled but he is gone.
It burns me still. Love squandered. Love unreciprocated.
His voice assaults my ears. Brutality is the name of the game.
Not love. Not love. But I wake up and the sun still shines.
Years go by. At night the moon licks them. Peter Pan flies.
Anne Sexton sits behind the wheel of her car the key
In the ignition. Ingrid steps into the lake-sea alongside Virginia.
My cat is dead, mauled to death and I am dead too in a way,
Mauled to death by one man. Look at me. My revenge is quiet.

Vietnam, Iraq. Iraq, Sarajevo. Rwanda, Burundi. Syria, Egypt.
Child soldiers marching like matchstick men with their guns, their berets
And ammunition. And I speak of this because it is winter in Africa.
In the African continent. Every child and woman a winter guest
In a season revisited every year like cuckoo-clockwork. Madness,
Hysteria, paranoia, hunger, alienation, refugee status, xenophobia.
What ever happened to actual love and the imagination of it all?
I am every woman. Every man. Every child on this continent.
For those who cannot speak I speak for them. It’s a downpour out there.


Patrice Lumumba

Uncomplaining boy-child
Did you ever kneel beside
Your bed at night with
Dreams of the future, halo,
Inside your head, goals, grief blossoming-like-waves
To pray towards an-African-revolution

Flowing in your veins
All the great unanswered questions-of-your-country
Bright star found-in-a-water’s-lake
Your mother’s body
Was made out of sweet flowers
As she carried you-lotus-flower

Did you ever fall
In love with poetry, Shakespeare?
Earth, the dwelling place
Of the reflections of summer and winter clouds
Of the face of hell, the human family, the human condition
Of both heaven’s paradise and the mouths of youth

Did you ever smell incense burning?
Or was it just your own flesh, bits and pieces melting away
Was politics in your blood, flesh-and-bone?
I will remember you and weep tears of joy
Nations will remember you and weep tears of joy
Africa’s silver lining will remember you

And weep tears of joy
The world, material-wealth took you from us
And heaped a miracle-rising-upon us
Biko and Black Consciousness
The Rainbow Nation and the African Renaissance
The first female president of an African country

Patrice Lumumba, saint and saviour.
Patrice Lumumba, cadre, comrade, my brother, my father.
Patrice Lumumba, victor victorious in life and death.
Light spilled into, under, and over into the darkness.
A heart of stone to forgive and forget, a map, an atlas,
A geography of Africa through the lens.

And then astonishment for generations to come.



A drowning visitor in the system.
Virginia Woolf her forehead shiny with perspiration.
The lake pours itself into her body.

Children who are Poets

They play with lobsters in hand.
For them seawater doesn’t come with a map –
Leaps of faith. The chill found in earth.

Electric Wired Gangsters

Drugged out of their minds.
Finger happy on the trigger, trigger –
Every waterfall a teardrop.


Beautiful things can grow there.
Out of despair, the ugliness of shipwrecks –
Like phoenixes rising out of ashes.


Postures of Good-looking Tigers

That is the history of lunacy for you.
Found in the wilderness upon the land’s pale throne –
Like a carcass found in an asylum of trees.

The Depressed Writer in the Northern Areas

Life is a hideous oblivion.
I do not know you but I miss you –
Like the pouring rain and Alba.

Winged Creatures of God

Standing in the Metro I met Paris.
Hemingway, Pound and T.S. Eliot’s Paris –.
Winter branches of the establishment.

I do not have enough time left to save the world

Rooms with white walls. Wards and nurses.
Please excuse me for I do not know how to love another –
Fury I know. That comes with the history of illness.


All poems © Abigail George

Abigail George
Abigail George
South African Abigail George is a blogger, essayist, short story writer, screenwriter, novelist, and poet. She briefly studied film in Johannesburg. She has two film projects in development and is the recipient of two grants from the National Arts Council, one from the Centre for the Book and another from ECPACC. Her publishers are Tendai Rinos Mwanaka (Zimbabwe, Mwanaka Media and Publishing or Mmap), Xavier Hennekinne (Australia/New Zealand, Gazebo Books), and Thanos Kalamidas (Finland, Ovi). Her literary representative is Morten Rand. She is a Pushcart Prize, Best of the Net nominated, and European Union Poetry Prize longlisted poet. Her poem “The Accident” was Identity Theory's Editor's Choice for Spring. Ink Sweat and Tears chose her poem “When light poured into me at the swimming pool” as a September Pick of the Month, and she recently made the shortlist of the Writing Ukraine Prize 2023. She is a poet/writer who believes in the transformative, restorative and healing powers of words. Her latest book is Letter To Petya Dubarova (Australia/New Zealand, Gazebo Books). Young Galaxies (a poetry book) was released in 2023 from Mmap and a memoir When Bad Mothers Happen is forthcoming. “Clarissa, Hector and Septimus Redefined” was recently published by Novelty Fiction in Kindle format.

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