Poems, Excitable Pursuit and the Company of Words
(For Sylvia Plath)
Tonight I want to eat pasta and forget the collective past
Exploding into superior life yet quite alone at the end of the world
When God made awesome you I could stand silence
You of all people will be sorely missed like milk and bread
And poppies whose beauty is screaming to be heard
The day I found you I was struck by the weather
And I listened to the evening rain as it poured into my soul
Locked into its own wintry ego it tasted like waiting ice cream
The grandeur of London and a single woman flying solo
Damaged is the state of the weight of bittersweet rain
The diary that fell from the sky and everyday my promise is
To dig a little deeper for her, to find her in the crush of
Keepsake data, empress of mine did I always have weight issues?
There was a summing up of limbs in childhood continued
Where the indifferent chicken says, ‘Please eat me.’
The pudding is a Smiler and it has my heart – it is smiling at me
And I wish I could stop worshiping the potatoes so
I do remember how angelic the table looked piled with feast
Mummy is my angelic link bound for paradise and from
The moonlight in her hair and her vowels she knitted me together
In her womb as fast as she could crochet cells and nucleic acid together
I am looking at my reflection, studying it and it feels as
If I have already spent a lifetime here in this world and then
There’s you but I must forget you, push off towards tomorrow
Oats and then the sky is more than company
Because it is where I meet my destiny, my nation –
Personas standing in a Zen-line of succession
I know that nothing can purify me now – not any thing
Poised and anchored achievement will not make up lost time
Where there lies a fragile reckoning of an inheritance
Of earthly ritual between mother and daughter
I look at all of my achievements and how it wasn’t enough
It wasn’t enough to save me from the fact Mum didn’t love me
In front of me lies Athol Fugard’s road and my ‘first piece of stature’
To come out of earthy ritual, soil – an achievement
I confess then I will be safe, wise and once more have courage.
Meditation In the Cemetery
A writer’s territory
Is the history
Of waiting and years
Occupational is divorced
The morning after church
Foreign about this silence
It burns the air like poetry
The skin of William Carlos William’s
Plums – dew is bitten
I find poverty and
Sacred objects where I am standing
A contract with God
Is on the radio
To think twice
Christina’s Rossetti’s summer
Has come and gone
It is so cold here
That it feels as if my feet
Are in a cement bucket.
You formidable unveiled on every expedition
You dazzling unpredictable black and white speak
Look at me let me go past is past silence is golden.
The echo vibrates
There’s winter in the window
Twilight climbs the sky.
The muse has a frame
The learned weight of pain blossoms –
Finds the most right poem.
I’ve lost and found her
Gordimer again –
What are you made of?
She-Wolf golden butterfly
Heroic damsel in distress
The heart of love
Has come undone
Under the weight of your
Lungs and stomach
With the seasons
Determined to change
Talk to me about therapy
Landscapes of the moon
What bewitched you as a child?
Films and literature
Freud and Nabokov?
Being faithful in the ordinary
Attending to it extraordinarily?
What Is Remembered?
You taught me how to live, how to be brave teacher,
as brave as Rilke, how to be happy and how to anchor it in my heart.
You loved me through illness, and monkish maturity.
In the light of day you taught me the secrets of love
In your cement garden, in the time of terrorists.
There were Decembers when I wanted to live by bread alone.
You taught me how to be lost; (it was a long way down
From life). You taught me how to pray, meditate in the evenings.
There was still the girl in me, threads of velocity, of grace,
A million accidental pieces of beauty, the finest things
Of being human. And so I began to build my empire with lots of love.
I began using the alphabet, focused, intent on using the wonder
Of flowers, goals, dreams, the silent scream of the urban burnout
Of Sarajevo, and so I would trace the patterns of hearts I found
In everything. I have eyes that can see the picture of health
In everything, that can cast rain down from the heavens
That can taste it and review it in my head. Is it pale, wet, drowning me,
And my soul, my spirit? Come out Ghost behind the door.
Come out, I beseech you. What does snow feel, taste like?
Like any cold, wet thing, like rain, like your open mouth?
The origin of the sound of your weeping restored something in me.
The Alcoholic Continued
Sinners never disappoint
And I do not envy them
Their crowning glory, their shape,
Their smell lacks innocence, their unemployment,
The lack of skills to put bread on
The table to feed hungry mouths
I do not envy their presence
Where drunkards kiss the ligaments
Of the cold earth of the pavement’s
Mouth meeting another – the beer’s
Mouth both just imagining things
A better life for all, world peace
Once there was the unbearable
Lightness of youth
Chips and steak are on the menu
I can also talk of love, many things
Now Young Guys lie in the street
Face down like carrion
We’re young still and there’s
An unbearable lightness that comes
With it; poverty, unemployment
A silence so pure while a mouth
Defies gravity and neutral ground
Lectures on how the revolution
Must hurry up after speech after speech!
It is not that this generation is speechless
Kevin Carter has been dead a long time
Photographers can drift
They drift like driftwood.
Ribs, beer and dancing (darts for the men) are on the menu
I can also talk of the love of many finer things
Damn married fever but not as committed
Soon Magda will be forgotten like a wallflower
It’s not in my power to change that – conjure it up
Only an echo followed her death
It played itself out at the gravesite and inside the church – music
The Outside of me is built like a wallflower
Winter bright white light there’s an echo coming from somewhere
Shoes on the floor cold night a starry sky
Those shoes belong to me and I’ll lace them up in the morning
The echoes vibrate under the soles of my feet
Instead of going to bars and clubbing
She poured herself into reading her books
She cooked up a storm furiously
Imagining it was for two – funny girl.
Magda that shiny fractured thing.
My childhood Alba
Beautiful, (and even more beautiful than Pound’s)
With your eyes with flecks of rain and purified dew in them;
You washed my spirit and soul clean with your taste.
My perfect astronaut with your fiddly particles in space
Look how we fly perfectly in unison under a tree.
I have a map of the world and you have a map.
We don’t know what an atlas is yet or how to get excited by words.
We both share.
We look above at the clouds that gives us
A tingling sensation in our hands and one day
We will have our own children, daughters or sons.
There will be a continuation of the family tree.
Your dress is made of patchwork. I wear an apron.
I am the mother telling her angel to fly, angel, fly.
We try and search for objects in the sky.
We both must share.
So we talk about God and Jesus Christ
As if they are real people just like us but
With the perspective of a child
Then suddenly we learn that we are sharing stories.
We must make drawings of them to remember them by.
We start with the clouds, our mother in her apron, our house,
Everything that seems perfect in our little world
We both must share.
And so we spend the day sharing to our heart’s content.
One day I will ask you do you remember?
But you won’t hear me because the television’s on
And somehow in our world we have chosen
Different paths, childhood has been put away in a sturdy box
We don’t share anymore because we’ve forgotten how.
Share, share, I want to scream, to this new image person.
We both must share.
I don’t know who this creature is with talons.
You don’t even care that I try so hard.
At first this hurt was unknown to me but then it grew substance.
I’m convinced the world feels like Hawaii.
Sun pouring down.
If I share this hurt with the world
It just becomes colder, another winter guest.
Damn the Glam of Hollywood
A bullet is not pure. It is a stranger in an even stranger
World made of dunes, rivers, Humanity’s mortality.
A stranger to the heart like Hiroshima was to the stars.
It filled my father’s lungs with the thumbprints
Of doctors as surgeons in the provincial hospital
Did ward rounds and planted their instruments.
There were spots of blood on his lungs, a growth
in his bladder. Infirm he moved differently in the world.
I turned to the hallucinogenic rainbow of Hollywood,
And that mosaic of brilliant colour, Technicolor flash beats.
Monroe danced while Barbra sang while Hitch killed me.
All this time while you killed me I was governed
By lists and I know you’re never going to read Glaciers.
I analysed Kubrick’s filmmaking formulas and skills
While sex kittens sashayed an uncommon pornography,
Funny girls made me put my invincible happy face on,
Corrupted something inside of me. I needed you
Like routine, but you crushed me with your rustic manners.
You go everywhere but you don’t know everything
As much as you’d like to imagine you do. But I love
Hollywood. All the damn glam of it. You don’t love.
You’re a Nagasaki-Hiroshima-Sarajevo bomb/shell.
You’re leaving us behind like a tragic fairy tale ending.
You don’t care for us anymore and so we’ve come
To the end of that road, exited your kingdom et al.
You remind me of past lovers, of sexy, of Miranda.
You remind me of women who have everything. Who are
Tuned into code. Who are you? I’m Romeo. I’m bleeding
But can you see, do you feel anything for me, do you burn?
Look, my sister is a sex kitten flush with cash, burn.
And all I have is the flux within my nerve centre.
All I have is the fact that life moves forward and I with it.
December and its festive. Christmas is in the air.
But you want to be nowhere and everywhere except here.
The Johannesburg-people call. They want to talk to you
and you’re different when you talk back because you’re
not forced to find yourself in love and war. I watch her.
I watch her slow release, her fall from grace. Her disgrace.
We don’t watch Gattaca. We all drink a lot. You scream.
You’re animated and free. I watch you move. I watch you burn.
You don’t love us anymore. Open your mouth winter guest.
And in the middle of the holiday we all wish you hadn’t come.
Still after all this time you don’t believe in me Hollywood.
I thank you God and mother earth. And this
The rural country of blood, stone and wine, rust and bone that
I’ve imagined from afar all of my life. A thousands suns
Could not wish you away. You are God’s gift to the world to
This drowning woman with her bloodlines tied to a phoenix
Rising up from the ashes. There are rituals and alchemy
In everything I say. In everything I stand for. Education
Is just a word within a word, an Einsteinium word? And
Although the times we find ourselves in right now is so Dickinson,
With the light so dappled, this side of the world is so pure,
So green as if we were diving into mother’s milk again.
All poems (c) Abigail George