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The Ballad of the Near-Wasted Generation: Poems by Abigail George


Perhaps the History of Fish and Chips Started in London

Salty, lemony white fish fried fish – (in a baptism of sorts)
Usually hake wrapped in yesterday’s newspaper
Like a cherub in a white christening gown
I can see kitchen hands wearing aprons like costume
Standing anticipatory like a cadet over hot oil
Wearing their neat black net caps like turbans
With their dark black hair tucked away
(One kitchen hand has done the extreme. He has blonde hair)
So the customer doesn’t find a stray hair
The air feels hot inside even I have started to sweat.
Mayonnaise comes in tubs. They make their own coleslaw
Here in this little out of the way place but it is still popular
With the lunch crowd, students from the university, business people
Swarm inside this place. Every season is hake season.
It doesn’t matter to think that one day this fish might be extinct
Like what we’re doing to the dolphins
When we’re catching tuna in nets.
Even my blood has begun to boil in this heat. I need to eat.
Even writers and poets need to eat to remind themselves
That first and foremost they are notorious hunters and gatherers
Hunger reminds you that you are nothing without a full stomach
I’m having the calamari because it tastes of the sea. Salty.
My mother is having hake white fish fried fish.
Every fish here has gone to fishy-heaven
Nothing chemical about it. There’s no imbalance in this chain.
Unlike genocide and climate change in this cool food hierarchy
The fat woman who stands behind the counter has hands
Like Buddha and I know for a fact she has secrets like any other
Her skin is dark like bittersweet chocolate, lips like pillows
Fat women have their secrets too
They keep them close to their heart
Like bone-thin reed-thin women walking-talking-skeletons
Dancing closet anorexics bungling at feeding themselves
Eyes like slits gold bangles around their wrists
Why should there be a difference?
I can feel the sweat dripping down my back
Hake is a pretty fish, an anonymous fish
Even amoebas are pretty under the microscope too and mitochondria,
Symmetries, trees, birch, driftwood, waves, the birch
Mummy’s sister has been gone for a long time
She’s gone to heaven forgotten the climate of the northern areas
Sweat is dripping down my back
I’m thinking of where I could be now. California dreaming at a university?
Investigating genocide and climate change. Standing in a protest march
Against sexual violence against women.
Even though politics and the thread of violence frightens me to death.
I’m thinking of reading Ezra Pound’s Alba out loud to remind my self
Of Neruda, Rilke, and David Foster Wallace.


The Beekeeper’s Daughter’s Suicide

The glory of wisdom and ego shrunk to accommodate the villagers
Wounding spirits.

She the significant one. She is my angelic conjured up myth
She who always tells me in her poetry to rise, rise again above volcano dreamers.

Liquid deep are the secrets of my heart. The stem of intimacy grows silently.
Give me enough rope and surely I will hang myself.

The handmaiden’s pulse is there. The muscle is there like unfinished things from childhood.
It pushes at the difficult thoughts I have.

They have a hard appearance from the outside like a seduction theory,
The blue steel of the sky, the land that borders on God, perplexity, sanctuary.

Like poverty and death, the angelic dream of it. I am as serious as an ill tiger,
I laugh like a hyena in the face of the man on the moon. I am a coping lioness.

My mother did not keep me from children who were rough.
She wanted me to experience the world (that humanity is a violent species).

My mother left me there hanging on for dear life. As a child the details of my life
Soon became embroidered by tortuous emptiness, the innoncence of autumn cast out.

Bold smile through her great depression. Wife interrupted. Mother of Frieda and Nicholas Hughes. There was always a journey of moving forward worshipping the past.

Where is the sun in an argument? Where is the physical body in flight in dream-mode?
She saw the skylines of New York, had a London experience, married an Englishman, a poet.

Solitude and loneliness, being an introvert should have been included in the commandments.
Her bright faith and loyalty, the love she had for her children was like music from the heart.

Her bright faith was as bright as the lights in Los Angeles. Her loyalty was a prize.
The glory of her bravery was unbalanced, and her rage was that most rare thing.

Sylvia Plath, daughter and poet, wife and mother, gone too soon to heaven.
Melancholia and of the sky in her eyes and the other half of her gone to hell on earth.

Bird, leaf, madness, jealousy all symbols of life, of humanity and so we come to adulthood.
Now her poetry educates young people’s minds now that she is no longer flesh, bone.

I think a present-day Sylvia would be reluctant to be called beautiful,
Lonely, misguided, depressive, and intelligent. A Sylvia who lived a madness life,

Who fell ill at the end of her life, is a Sylvia whose heroism lives on
In her poetry, her soul’s progress, the people who relate to it destination anywhere.


The Climate in the Northern Areas

The actor with their deceptive perspective
The offering from the salt of the earth burnt by the sun
Angelic link between the owl and the moon
And the aware moon is a beloved and ancient witness
To the stars, to evil, to the human race
And all their purification rituals and dreams
Dreams between mother and daughter
Son and father, adopted prize, paper fragment
The lines of all these things appear in a hopeful climate
The lines are there complete. I am still chemistry.
Particles lingering and floating in the air – romantics every one
They came from all over (my observations).
Observations from childhood at a glance
I am only the passionate instrument of my faith
Warrior of light it is almost heaven
Wounded as my soul is wounded isn’t every soul?
There is an authentic contract drawn up
Between earth, the universe and humanity
Poverty will be the death of all of us.
I was mum’s second choice – I had no inheritance
Men drink women in for hours on this side of town
Children no longer live in an age of innocence
Each one suspicious, rough, picking up bad habits.

After the birds flew away winter came
This is what I can see with ‘my eyes’ – tasting the bread of life
I waited all winter for the heat of summertime
There was silence in every room of the house
A fire in my heart that burned as bright
As a moth’s pilgrimage towards the light
There was a common sense of the world inside my head
I walk into the sea and feel the weight of water
Against my spirit and my body – the sky is a wild blue
So here I am now there I was then I don’t know
How it came about the writing part of me that bit
Those goals I never thought I’d become a poet
The waves broke over my head drowning visitors every one
The silver lining makes every being a living survivor
Navigating from this world to the next
Even the strained mother-daughter relationship
Will fill the fridge with thanksgiving food
It hurts when I smile at strangers
It feels as if I am drowning in a waterfall
And now we come to unconscious love and passion
Your first hurt, your first love, your first everything
Where all affairs to remember, were voyages, and discoveries.
When I was a butterfly-goddess before women had wings.


The Alcoholic in Recovery

I may be cynical, getting older, more set in my ways
And I may not have the tongue of an angel, or much love for my fellow man
My recovery begins with slowly peeling back the layers
Of pain that you experienced by anyone as a small child,
Those hurts that your parents caused you growing up
When you were bullied on the school field or by your siblings
Death becomes you people say and I was close to it once or twice

Mental illness makes for riveting reading – that chemical romance
When the liquor is a cold thirst quencher and golden brown,
Texture like a pilgrimage, a small happiness that deprives me of self-loathing
On good days it feels as if I am stepping into the sea fading away
On the bad days it also feels as if I am stepping into the sea fading away
Fading away to nothing, a hopeless cause filling in the blank spaces with a drink
(If my childhood was wonderful maybe I would have turned out different)

Or if I could still see the world around me
Through the eyes of a child, if I could have the imagination of a child
All my life I’ve wanted laughter to fill in the details, the perfect wife,
Those children but I never followed that sunny road instead my path is blue
My mood too. I reach for my cigarettes. I’ve taken note of the African Renaissance
And I write a little poetry. Depressing poetry. I’ve been in love before.
Women can never resist a poet and a man who they think they can change.

For a long time I preferred alcoholism and being alone.
Living in that half-hallucinogenic half-dream world (I could tolerate that)
Not the width of a thread of the planet earth, the material world, or modern society
Flashbacks now to those warm nights
The nights of when I was a child of the wasteland of the eighties
If I had married I would have been a disappointment (some men never grow up)
I was still a boy at heart even though I was a grown man

I remember those pretty nights, those warm nights, those savage years
As I slowly became a young man who ventured out into the strangeness of the night
And became acquainted with the stars, star people other men who drank like me
And didn’t believe in silver linings, divorced men, men who remarried, men who were unhappy in their relationships and I thanked God I wasn’t one of them. I was but I wasn’t.
The air was always alive with possibility and flashbacks of the time when people
Told me I had so much potential.

The idea of alcoholism gave me an identity for a while
I isolated myself from a part of humanity that considered themselves to be the middle classes
Sometimes I would drink in my house by myself sometimes I would go out and drink
The house is so quiet, too quiet, so I drink to escape the facts of the matter,
The bad habits I have introduced into my life
But in the end I wanted to save my skin, I had enough of ‘to suffer means to sacrifice’.
And the fact that addiction gives you bright conversation.


And Four Women

And Alice’s oyster shell

Where has everyone gone?
Into the trippy harsh climate of hedonistic and decadent nostalgia
They’ve preferred it over and above life, existence, sitting in a room
Filled with the knife edge of silence, the sharp depth of it, reading
Literature from that Austrian great Rilke, people have appeared
To prefer the empire of the sun to the cold, preferred sacrifice and conversation
I hate the word suffer. Sacrifice. Surreal but there’s a brightness to sensitivity
Vulnerability, imagination, visionaries (was Alice a visionary) and understanding.

Etty Hillesum’s world of wonderland

The house is so quiet (where has everyone gone?)
I have found a book am reading fragments from a diary
It contains love letters, a German love story, and a story about a concentration camp
She is feeding my brain in all those vulnerable spaces with all
This bedazzling information (the diary belongs to a Dutch Jew
Who was captured near the end of the war)
She was captured near the end of the war and I wondered
Did she ever miss flowers when she was in that camp?

Was Alice a mystery?

Was Alice a visionary sitting down to tea parties in a wonderland?
And following a white rabbit? Was she a girl with the soul consciousness
Of a Brahmin? It feels as if every day I’ve died a little
Digged a little deeper to the roots of a granadilla Southern Africa
To find my sister like a keepsake my empress from my childhood
With this little heart of mine I feel I will no longer continue to shine
If I do not have her autumn love, her discontentment is my discontentment.
Big, bright neon lights burning in a city filled with bold people, old people
Young people, star people, couples, families, homosexuals
Buying art and property in a Johannesburg that has stopped calling me
Why won’t she believe me? Instead I can be found cooking with layers
I left people behind in my past behind glass walls, brick walls
They’ve all evaporated from my sight, these lessons, and those songs
The man that I loved I have lost him forever to his wife and his children
Wasted years but not a waste of my intuition, not a waste of intimacy
She tells me that she is going to London at the end of the year

And then I take a breath

And so the second sex comes of age when a man wounds them
Like an animal or washes away their childhood sins, or whispers in their ear
Sweet nothings and tells them that they have lovely bones.
We’re not normal unless loved. Until we’re tangled in the obsession of it.
Will you catch me if I fall?


The Ballad of the Near-Wasted Generation

As I progress towards you, towards possession
Lost in Jane Austen, Emily Dickinson, wuthering heights, America
English literature, Rilke’s letters to a young poet
I draw lines through the clouds in the air picturing every
Silver lining that passes me by
Through God’s flute comes a prayer like a jewel in the dust
The unbearable bittersweet lightness of youth,
And being young at heart and torn, I’m dreaming all at the same time
There’s a river that runs through it, a legend of a river, epic
Like the feeling that you have when you’re in love with a film star
There’s always an open road ahead, a mirror to my soul.


South Africa, South Africa, South Africa, South Africa
Do you remember the forced removals, apartheid, and swimming
In a river, when there was a department for Coloured Affairs?
There was no white bread toasted for your breakfast, no jam,
No boiled egg, red cappuccino, daddy and mummy reading the morning newspaper
You garden boy, you kitchen girl were treated like lepers, worse than dogs
You were raped, cheated and bullied, butchered and murdered,
Suburbs were pillaged and turned into slums overnight and a sharp light
Drifted into focus. Some days would have a brave sweetness about it
And other days the near-wasted generation would venture out to kill or be killed.
Slow men, slower women, and mute children.

Africa, Africa, Africa, and Africa once again I am devoted to you
What does love feel like for you? The link to the international outside world
I want to be saturated by you. I’ve seen glimpses of your trauma.
Your suffering, the genocide, civil war, unrest, refugees, camps, the slave trade
I’ve seen glimpses of the colour of your children’s skin.
Albino, white, coloured, black, mixed race, and everyone is as precious as porcelain
Under our sky even the soft and hard Lolita, the promiscuous, the prostitute,
Young men with that arrogant filter from their heads to their mouths
Our gathering of musicians and poets are like the circle of the golden sun
I don’t care for the ego, for these things anymore – the paraphernalia of violence
And for the discontent for so many is a permanent assignment for them.

As I progress towards you, towards possession
With an almost criminal intent, carrion and Kevin Carter on my mind
Moses Molelekwa, Dulcie September, George Botha, Brutus and Biko,
Including Lumumba this is my story, suffering in silence is not unique
Making it is, making it through to the other side perhaps this is why
Communities are afraid of speaking about it – soloists everyone
Some say there is such a violent intent on this planet to destroy, to sabotage
But there are still ways of finding peace, of finding yourself amidst sanctuary
Inviting people to your sanctuary is out of the question
Everyone must journey and find their feet on their own pilgrimage
I am still revisiting the past, still rewriting history and I guess I always will.


A Thin Place

Windows of perception are the system of mysteries
In all parts of the world there are hot spots, stained with blood
Parts of Africa too and there’s a sacredness of values
Kept holy, kept away from the ego, something quite concrete
And the human spirit is like a flowing river, a thin river
That flows gently, wherein life is a gradual process
From living to dying, no education for barbarism there.
The chicken is my father who can never stand up to my mother.
Romeo why didn’t you love me instead of a suicidal ghost nation
Filled with girls made out of air. I breathed in the air of London.
Walked in my father’s footsteps at the palace in Versailles.
His odyssey slowly became mine. I look at the stars balancing act.
We are blue. We are pure. We are part and parcel of the past.
We are the alchemic web that lies beneath. When we are naked
We are at our most vulnerable. To get to the green sea we trust
Our gut instinct. We walk on the burning sand to get there.
We are what we are. We are biological father and daughter.
We both have measured the turning points in our lives. We have loved.
We both have realised the loss of youth. We are made up of salt and light.
We are both silent when we think about Richard Rive. Particles add up.
It’s a fact of life. It’s human nature. An achievement called progress.


Dialogue by a Lake

Why are you crying? Someone asked.
Because of the parachutes and bombs.
They come like a thief in the night.
But a German love story is forever.
What is written on a child’s body
Is different to what is written on an adult’s?

In those days nobody knew
What female depression was?
All people had were their dreams
And the dreams they had for their children.
And during the war the German children
Still saw rainbows when it rained cats and dogs.

Death would come – and the living
Still suffered on in silence.
Writers would write and rewrite history.
Daughters became wives and mothers
Even during the war for they thought it would pass
Quickly like another season.


© 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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