Pain at Midnight: Poems by Abigail George


So our rift grows
Deeper, widens like the curves
Of the spine on my back

You fail to surrender
To the mercy of my magnificent
Words, their imaginary orbit

We have become like two
Strangers in the unknown dark wild
Captive by pictures

From the islands of our youth;
The small pit, gift of our childhood
Surreal, surreal then real

My tongue speaks of
Unholy suffering and I wish
Yours of frozen belonging

Sparse and then eternal
Flashed like swords in the air
We clash again and again

The word family deprived
Of us; useless like melancholy
You are not home

You do not keep me safe
Or mindful of images of the ego
Smooth out the rough edges

You think only of yourself
One goal in mind – you see me as
Weak; I see you as being selfish

A fragment, shell, filled with glory
Damn it all to hell this is not a fairytale
Story – there is part of me

That thinks this is indecent
Longs with agony for your love
Tell me that you need me too?

As light as feathers

If we weren’t sisters
Would we be friends – a rare union?
Of inseparable instruments

Bend, bend, harvest
Closure with the country of your mind
I am left with crippled limbs

That does not work
That fails to embrace you, impress upon
You, you, you, your pale face

Fingers clenched into fists
I am human, lonely and sad, grounded –
Madly devoted to you

Perfume in your hair
On the paper-thin skin of your flesh –
Whisper, whisper, whisper,

I whisper myself to death
This is a belated hope – you’re in sight
But not in touch

Drowned woman –
Drowning woman on the offensive
With your string of pearls

My thalidomide –
Attendee at my tidal wake I imagine
The deep gravity of that

You’re only a half-formed
Weight in my emotional experience
Of life so far – a living, breathing

Goddess swathed in a golden
Light – the surface brittle and cold
Like a glass ceiling

Stiffening cracks shining
Through; there’s stillness in the
Air that reminds me of you

The ballad of being lost inside of you

I kiss your wrists
Before surrendering them
To the outside world

Hug them tight to my
Chest – wrote a poem
About peace; picked

At it and picked at it
Again as if it would heal quicker
The pangs of pain

That anchored me wisely
Ashore in a world filled with
Beauty, fields of darkness

I was a woman
On the verge of a nervous
Breakdown and you

Were oblivious to it
As the ghost of the sky
Its cosmic life force

Was running through
Your veins – your blood was
A vessel; I was empty

Wrecked left with
Words without borders I
Sought an encounter

With your womb-like
Serenity, the calm before
The storm, the life of

The fruit in your palm
As you bit into the red war of the
Seeds – you were no

Human stain on a pillow,
No proof that your canvas had been
Transitioned into a mosaic or

Guernica overnight –
Your words are a volcano
They cut off my air

Supply when I need
It the most – I trail behind
You leaving imprints

Made of salt – I know
They will dissolve; they’re lucid
Like my dreams

Delve, delve deep; what
Is poetry if it is not about soul mates?
The making up for destinations?

Anywhere, anywhere but here
I was left unconscious by the black fuss
In my head; the force of its reality

Staring out my window at night
Is like looking at a night on fire –
The air glows electric orange

Oh, these storms I’ve weathered
I can hardly count them all before
Their echoes start rising – flicker

And then before you know it
It is time to go – sleep to dream and
Only wish it will clear up soon

Drumming up, dumbing down
Like a manic street preacher thumping
His bible I pull out all the short cuts

Soup for the soul for every
Wintering place, flowers on the table
In spring, waiting for the faint

Pressure on the umbrella to be released
Caught in rain, crushing russet leaves in my hand
I still find you missing in everything


The triple goddess

I bear your moods like
Any mother would; I do –
You unrivalled beast

Still you can’t be
Touched; pirate – I hunt
You down in night air

You are the source
Of everything – welcome
Me home with your

Head of wet, dead leaves –
Your body the farm that will
No longer deprive

An insomniac – where is
Your spirit of giving like the
Bloodlines of the phoenix

What is this virgin ash
That remains behind and what
Can I make out of it

I am held captive
In your transparency –
Stay, stay and don’t fade

Turning in the air
There are two pairs of eyes
Here – how far is it still

To the next hour
Pushing by like a pulse –
The escape of blood

Where lions roared
We grew up – grounded
Where Kevin Carter

Stood up from hell
To eternity – perhaps as
A girl you meant

To love me – what do people
Do in the wilderness except use
Their voice to cry out

The journey of love
Perfected – is one that is half
Of tragedy speeded up

These words are like
The deceased – they can no
Longer breathe on their

Own; they’re hushed
Melting slow, sturdy – burning
Like sin against skin

He kissed my neck –
Swallowed me whole like old
Weathered prophetic ghosts

We drown our sorrows
In pots of tea – caught in the
Routed abyss of

Whatever is authentic
In the secret writings of every
Poet will be posed

As the words of a prophet
You don’t have to know the
Meaning of the word ‘Sufi’

To know it – only know
This; that it is based on faith
See your journey

As a ministry – a
Service to energies of light
And spaces bundled

Tight – surrounded
By frozen water, an
Illuminated lake

In the darkness
Remember the ordinary
Before doing the

Assume the position of God –
Be willing to serve others.

Pain at midnight

She loosens her dark hair and combs her deft fingers
Through it and she thinks about what she’s sacrificed
She puts a pale, white shawl over her shoulders to
Warm her numb, frozen arms – she feels like the dead
Tries to draw comfort from the human face she does not
Recognise in the mirror – there is no familiarity only the cat
So she shoos the cat away because she wants to be alone with

Her thoughts, place them into the landscape of her memory
The sky was not blue today; it was made out of slate brick
By brick, in her dream last night she was in a wood being
Chased by the ghost of a drowning girl and then the wood
Became a forest of trees that she could not see past or through
To the end and when she awoke she was in a daze, teased
Instead of letting go of the morning sun she grasped it in her

Fingertips like her mug of tea – all she remembered of the dream
Later on was that she was in danger; the darkness was growing
It was becoming more intense, her bones more fragile – she wished
The pain at midnight would leave her; oh, how it cramped her
Style, the shame, her glittering, dewy eyes, her sorrow and damned
Suffering carried away and stuffed full of the deep horizon; orange
And flushed pink like the curved belly of a salmon out of the water

Connecting with the air with the life snuffed out of it; beads of salt
On its fins like pasty sweat plastered on a forehead of a ruined ruffian
Speak to me in a dream, speak to me as a mother, speak to me as an
Oracle in a rum voice, anchor me prince of tides, she says to her lover
In rumours of rain, gather chains and link them to my heart so that
This belly ache will subside and flow like jelly to the skull, the visor,
The past of another country’s cocoon-like sarcophagus – fly away

Fly away when the dawn breaks into a million pieces and covers skin
And the sandman with his stubby fingers; tussle with me – I know best,
She says: she hunts in golden fields, driven mad by her yellow streak
Her yen is not to visit the cancer years or for her breasts to be cradled
By what was first the ethereal posit of what was next a gorilla of a man
Who is she is now missing, dying, lonely against the light of day, like the
Furious roar of day traffic pain is as permanent, as forever as midnight.


Fists of fishes (1)

Absurd clot –
Fade, fade away
Like a whale

On the mirrored
Lining of pale clouds –

There was no milk
In her breasts
So she slept

During the day
In a cell of her own

On fishes –
Her mouth

Tasted like salt
Summoned pangs
Of loneliness

I sprout wings
In a bed of moss
The next day

And fly away
Our mouths shut
Up as children

Every weight
Embalmed –
Business as usual

Beneath the surface
Bullied a flood – a knife
In my back

It kills me slowly
The flower of my heart
This red continent

Fists of fishes (2)

Of rice and confetti –
What does love mean
This scar

This country of men
Breathing in the musk
Of their skin

In the hush
Of nighttime necking
Is set in stone

A stake for company
Oh how immaculate –
But it is of little comfort

There is mother
Nourishing her babes
Like seed

With the scent
Of wood in her hair
Rust, hours

The rings of my palms
Are lined with buds of love
A gift that you refuse

The needle seduces
A mosquito bite on my arm
A lavender blot squats

Walk on
As if you have not heard
A word I’ve said

The owl worms its way
Through the air – hooting at
Nothing at all

Except the authentic
Wind – like virgin clay
It seeks warmth,

Fists of fishes (3)

Revenge in hollows
I seek revenge in a forest
In the dead of a winter

What are these
Unbalanced swarms
Upon my lips

Dadaist bees, bees
And more bees –

In patches of light
Swallowed whole
Like the heads

Of Siamese twins
The strong chin of
An American idol

What does it take
To please a man if not

How fragile that is
Remember when it rained
How the weather turned

You smiled back
In a house on fire
Gills on fire in the air

Screaming for the
Familiar trance of
Waves in seawater

I hunt
In fields of gold
Driven mad

We flash our
Teeth – bound
For hotter

Fists of fishes (4)

Coloured souls
In white skins

Islands –
Seeing the beauty
In your

As a metaphor
For the unseen

So we make
A covenant with
Death –

There is no room
For war or troops
The uneducated

Only for husband
And wife – sturdy
Infant on lap

How schizophrenic
These pictures must
Seem to you

There is black dust
In the agriculture of
Our land

Noble, gifted
Pure – feel God’s
Spirit and beauty

Everywhere –
The crown of thorns on
His head that He

Surrendered –
I have sized it up
Its poise.


My words find themselves
In a coffin – in mud they flower
Like a lotus without an ego

I educe furtive patience
Through tolerable effigies
Put elbow grease into it

Like a furrier or impala
These concessions are donors
Of instrumental organs

Like a locked junction box
Impervious, doomed empires
Room here – in the jugular

I touch your maxillae – your
Golden skull cap with my tools
Spy this mattock in hand

As I fiercely nail this tooth
To my father’s namesake for
The keys to the nascent idea

Recant this rule – engage
The physique of narcissism,
Piccaninnies, jonquils on

A slope, the sky rufous
Narcosis takes a rum flight –
The galloping sea breeze

Salt in caves of mouths
Feels like a webbed pellicle
Doing a slap-bang runner

In rush hour – here is
Slashed phyla on my plate
Pert sleepers no more

Letters loved and lost
There is only this wood left
To pounce on – revenge.


Winged sleet is only
Sufficient in memory
Hinted at in atlas –

On maps; geography
Down came the rain –
Housed with you in

Its grasped picture
You came dying – shut
Out undone in streams

In wet rivers of dreams
You glide, flocked, awed
Pressed unaccompanied

Once flung into flight
Your arrival immortal
I envy you – the

Stars in your eyes
Like dew – your tears
Are the tears of a

Hero exhausted
From blows – a barren
Silence in which

Nothing fertile grows –
Weeping pours out of your
Heart as if you were

Soulless; moulded you
Effortlessly – gave your
Self worth although

It aged you – you
Brought me to a home
Cradled me as if

I were nothing just
Waiting to be rescued
Waiting to be saved.


You –
With the dark sorrel
Hairs save me?

I’ve lost you –
And I only have
Myself to blame

Bookish now –
I’m alone and sad
This boomerang

Has kept me going
For the ladders of these
Past ten or so years

It’s been a waked boon – oh
It’s been a wild ride to get my
Ego from A to Zero

Monsters have come and
Gone – grown inside of me
With legs as strong as elk

Lazarus or a Pharisee
Gems, mother-of-pearl –
I’ve roused too late

I’ve come to the thawed
End of my bloody, damned fluke –
I wish, I wish, I wish

I could take it all back brick
By brick – but every time I hit
A wall, a monsoon, a mistake

What warrant of
Success is there that you will
Break – that you will speak

This waif wails –
But can you hear her?
The gift of her voice.

Something about the life of a writer

Words flock
Onto the page –
I am left numb

Like a wadi
Any cold, wet thing
It dissolves

Subtly – unseen
Into a host of wounds,

Deaf mutes – the gut
Of a wind

Like tiny hands
It reaches out for me
It coos straight

From the shell
Of a heart – a

Wakened state
Of dreaming –
Like an infant

It is gone, gone, done
Grown up in years –
Matured, ripened

Like the brick walls
Of a house by the sun’s
Summer heat or fruit

Even the very small ones
Their welfare is pure – and
Carry a gravid weight

Wedlocked to words –
This is something of the
Life of a writer.

The poet

Loosed – this gesture comes with
Maternal pride; ceremony across
The page, they are not strangers –

Instead they comfort: even the
Savage, alien beasts – their deaths
Are magical, a temple of delight.

All poems (c) Abigail George

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