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There Are Still Ordinary People Living In Schauderville: Poems by Abigail George


There Are Still Ordinary People Living In Schauderville

He does not eat our sickness, our red light coma
Let us eat our garden-variety snails, and frogs’ legs
Leave him with a wasteland of a breakfast –
This magus. Let us plate yellow moons for him
And his stomach. Let us pool our leftover lasagne
Into a bowl for him. Let him drink ice water.

It is good for him. Keeps the hunger pangs at bay.
Gardens are hairy. Solitude stands. One Eye Blind.
Women like parrots around him. Please carry this.
Please carry that. He will come to mum’s garden.
He will pull out the weeds. He will eat, drink, and sup
With us this beautiful stature. Homeless and tall.

For him rain is like pebbles. Drives him to despair.
Mocks his poverty. His liberty. He is a slave to the light.
This man does not dance beneath moonlight.
The diamond glitter of the stars. He will eat the stale loaf.
Slice after slice. Lion and unicorn. Dangerous
As any con artist and gentle as a lamb. He does

Not see his physical body nude in the looking glass.
Reflections of biblical proportions. Steak and chips.
Fish and chips. He is done, through with believing in God.
His life is a bittersweet cauldron. He sits on the corner
Every day and he talks to the women that pass.
He carries their packages. They give him cigarettes.

Sometimes they give him their sex, a transaction
Because is that not what women with that kind
Of nature do? His right eye is the most beautiful thing.
It is cataract free. It is a dream. It is a city. It is a window.
It is a dictionary. A walking, talking Encyclopedia Britannica
Filled with symbols. Filled with grains of humanity.

Stupid people. Wonderful life. An inheritance.
He drinks my coffee and he blooms. He waits for me.
In my dreams, he walks with me and I am unafraid.
Eggs and dry bread. A feast for Apollo. He sleeps
In a nest made out of empty cardboard boxes
And newspapers. I will never be able to make a dodo

Out of him. He will never go the rhino’s way.
If there are rich people then there have to be the poor.
It people. Too wealthy. Snakes everyone but
The poverty-stricken ones have music even in winter.
They have gammon. Somehow, they have floating
Islands of gammon Christmastime. Pickled fish

For Easter. Boiled eggs for the opening
Of the season. There is no ice here now and he
Is becoming dangerous. Well, his attitude is
Anyway. He wants more money. He is making a stink
About it. What has happened to my gifts? So now I
Will have to pay him more. There are more branches

However, they will have to wait. There are always
Tomorrows. I can see him, the abstract of him as a crying
Baby that needs to be shielded from everything but
Where is his mother? The father has a blank face that I
Have to colour in. Watercolour in. What is, where is
His life history? How can anyone flourish if there is no milk?

I can see him as a glue-sniffing child
Under the bridge. Cold, wet, thirsty, hungry
Fingers tinged with blue. Tomorrow will have to wait.
Who does his laundry? How does he perform his ablutions?
Does he know of Plato, of Socrates, of Shakespeare?
Moreover, Sappho? What has happened to his family?

To his brothers, his sisters, and his house called home.
Walking the streets. Up streets. Down streets.
Sleeping in alleys. Nothing romantic about his life.
About poverty. America is always beautiful
This time of year. Everyone is living in self-imposed
Exile there. Soon I will follow too. Maybe Canada.

There I will write and write and write.
There I will be published and inspired.
However, One Eye Blind will still be touching me
In ways, you cannot even begin to fathom.
He will give me flowers on Valentine’s Day.
He will drink my lukewarm red cappuccino.

Women who cannot bring children
Into this world often, feel maternal towards
Glare and illumination. They are nurses
With their tea and biscuits. Then they will forget
About their infertility. How men pass them
By and look the other way when choosing a wife.
Sleeping Under the Kitchen Table in Helenvale

Winter trees. The London experience.
Dad’s university days. The pilgrimage
On the continent while running with scissors.
Scholar made of stone. Impressions of
Student life in the Western Cape, South Africa.
UNISA, Rhodes, London University.
Childhood was stick fighting days yonder.
Selling peanuts. Water and tides rising up
To meet the fishermen of Port Elizabeth
Every morning. The current a green feast
Of a life force where rivers of dust meet.

Dad’s forest of pain. Do not go into those
Woods. Devils are waiting for you there.
Nazi sympathisers. SS soldiers. The ballad
Of trains. Toy soldiers in the dark waiting
To whisper you away and interrogate you.
It is lovely to dream of a jubilee. Writing
Essays on beauty and white teeth when
Not all is well. Penguins with their slick
Of oil. African pavements with their slick
Of rain, of mud, of semen. He is an old
Man now. I write for the people not a class,

Not a system. To hell with the literary
Establishment. In the spirit
Of philosophy I write for the self-imposed
Exile. When I write everything in
The world around me becomes objects
In addition, not just material possessions.
Objects with an angel face.
The perspective of a swimming pool.
I have been to many otherworldly
And worldly places. I will travel
Like the seeds in the indigenous garden.

The perfume in my mother’s rinsed hair.
Once again, I will travel in prison yards
Watching tomato plants grow.
Putting down their roots, stalks evolving
Into stems. Green feasts of them. Branches
Heavy laden with fruit like water when
You are swimming instead your arms
Are branches and it is either chlorine burning
Your eyes, salt or a memory of a ghost.
Stories of desire like that are eternal.


When Bad Mothers happen
(A poem in five experimental haiku)

Oracle. My wish –
The paper tiger empress.
What a strange anguish.

Wise shaman angel –
Let them call it angelic.
A ghost’s potential.

It’s just men talking –
What a waste of a human life.
Folded moons on edge.

All the ingredients –
Wrinkled origami hands.
Sit on your throne stalk.

In my mother’s house –
Estranged beasts are fed. They glow.
She contemplates them.


Why did you not Love me Mum?
(A poem in five experimental haiku)

You welcomed tigers –
Paraded them at the zoo.
My ill winter sun.

Fabric of bone. Skin –
I remember your lipstick.
Petals of ripe blood.

Trees bare skeletons –
Vultures or a lizard’s flesh.
Lungs smiling with roots.

Married with children –
She is married to her guests.
Not the invalid.

She melts the blue sky –
Pure and healthy as water.
All suited to threads.


On Illness in Korsten

Tinned fish is nutritious. Immortal.
Startlingly good for the spirit.
Good enough for the soul. To entice.
Nothing awful about it.
They all have their own sky.
The sun is suitable. Let us bathe in her light.
Let us eat the orange disc or the crest of the moon.
Let us bathe in the current tide. Let it swallow
Us up. Striking a pose. This son. Silence.
Then silence once again and another childhood.

There are links to our postures. The pearls
Around my mother’s neck. She came from
Johannesburg.  A bride at twenty-five
To the coast. My father had the faith of
A mustard seed. His teeth do not get enough
Of the watermelon. Of the lamb. The roast.
The tongue. Everything drowned in sauce.
We all sit at the table. Five births. Five gulls.
Sweeping, flying, drowsy with our bellies
Full of food. Christmas between our ears.

Imagination dares me to prosper, to fulfil
The giant country of my goals and dreams.
I must find a way out. I must find a way to live.
Bright. Bright. Bright. The light
In the refrigerator. Shining for all
It is worth on the perishable items.
What to make of the cauliflowers and cabbages?
Salt is needed for the soup. Cans stare back at me.
I concentrate as I move around the kitchen.
What is my goal? What is my desire?

I am a fish in water.
I am a coelacanth. I am a fish
In a museum from the age
Of the dinosaurs. Lovely bones.
As lovely as my own African bones.
Now I live with illness.
She is my inseparable contemporary.
I dance when there is no music.
Capote’s music. A Hitchcock syndrome.
Let me alone. Garbo-style. I have earned it.


On Disability in Gelvandale

Now I come to grief and bereavement.
The ways of water run deep.
Real salty tears. Before disability struck
Do you remember?

The heights you reached.
The cigarettes you smoked

In high school.
Boys made out of paper.
Men made out of gin.
You were unsuitable for both.

You stopped drinking milk.
You stopped eating altogether.

Anorexia they called it.
The elephant in the room.
You went to the moon
In addition, back in dreams.

You held the autumn chill
In your hands. Its journal.

There were the walks you took
Around the church. Up to the garage
Where you bought packets
Of peanuts and raisins with your father.

The cashier would not smile
As he bagged your purchases.

Your dad’s hands are made of
Granadilla now even though there
Is not a wrinkle on his face.
He is in the autumn of the years.

It is that festive time of year again.
When you eat, drink and be merry.

I will not be doing that.
I will be praying, meditating
This saint, this pilgrim, and this girl
That wonders will never cease.

In this world and the next.

All poetry © Abigail George
IMAGE: Timothy Faust via Flickr

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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