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For a Sister in Faraway Johannesburg: Poems by Abigail George

Image: remixed


I have written this to music.
What do you think of this, I
want to ask but your mind is
elsewhere. You’re distracted,
I can tell. You could be counting sheep
Or trying to fall asleep for all
I care. The American is in your thoughts.
He’ll be leaving Johannesburg

soon. Going home to Chicago,
the Californian sun or did you
say he was from Oregon or
West Virginia. I don’t know what to say.
You say, it’s okay. I don’t have
To say anything. I want to know
If this makes you sad, that he’s
Leaving. That he could have potentially

Been the one. You say, ‘I’m not sad.’

You’re tired. You’re tired of
The political situation in South Africa.
Words like ‘junk status’, ‘taxi violence’.
‘Donald Trump. You’re tired of
‘War’ and ‘depression’. ‘Depression’ and ‘war’. Your depression.
How are you really, I want to ask?
But I don’t even want to go there.

Why are you so quiet, so pensive, so
withdrawn, so reticent? Speak to me.
Why don’t you speak to me the way
that I am speaking to you, but your thoughts are far away.
Your thoughts are with the American
who is leaving soon. You’re nearly
home and you tell me then, you’ll call me later,

much later or maybe tomorrow.


(for Sarah Gerard and Lorrie Moore)

Is regret and sadness
the same thing as the
silence sweeping over
the edge of the sea this evening.

I giving up my sacred
space now (my desk)
to a small child who wants to play all the time.
Demanding my attention.

At night, the moonlight
makes pariahs out of all
of us. Anoints our souls, these mortal bodies, our foreheads.
The glitter-train of our memories.

At night, I’m unmasked.
No one is here to ask for
my hand in marriage. The storm is over. The storm is over.
I have lived to survive another day.

Barefoot in the sunny road of my dreams I tell myself this.
Babies cry. All
babies cry. All

babies are cute and wonderful in their own way.

Then why, one morning,
did I wake up, wonder
where’d my life had gone.
Why did I long so, for

what I did not have. A child.
a child to call my own.

I think of all the people in Paris, France, Stockholm, Belgium.

One day these people
won’t be around anymore.
They’ll move from the
earth’s place to the spirit
realm. They’ll come back.
I mean, they always do.
Spirit. Ghost. Ghost. Spirit.
And, at that delicate age, whenever they passed, young or old,
their wings are delicate.
Angelic. Transformed, they transform us.


(for Anna Kavan)

I’m just this human body
wishing on Paris.
J.M. Coetzee’s daughter
lives there, I read
that somewhere in a book or magazine or
social media or article.

Kafka had a tyrant for a
father. I had a tyrant for a
mother. There’s light in
the salvation of the sky’s
peacock feathers. Moses’
forty years in the wilderness
became my own. I am
machine. A new leaf. I know
how to restore my own soul.
I don’t need a man, woman or
child for that. If I had the money I
would buy a farm where I’d
spend the rest of my days.

Go tell it on the mountain.
The rehabilitation of
Hiroshima and Nagasaki
after the war. The honey-blood, salt
and light of the ocean-river
that feels like home.

I sing in praise of working
women everywhere.
The natural abundance of
the woman of the soil

until I burn with weariness in my soul.



(I guess) my heart, that
I got from my father.
The revolution from
The song in the wind.
Their souls clenched are hot and cold.
They’re trapped together
In a space of a war of
Nerves while this bright
City that we all live in
Sleeps. My father’s
An island found in the Pacific.
He’s a valley song.

My mother’s a flock
of birds in that same valley.
Her voice a musical
Breakthrough. She’s
Gravity. Daddy built this
House. Mummy bought
The plot with her savings.

I have her wounds.
I have his wounds.
With my own dark

Wounds and all the mistakes that I’ve made
I live to fight another day.

Poems © Abigail George
Image: remixed

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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