Poetry

Written on the Body of Judson Jerome: Poems by Abigail George

Image: Johannes Plenio via Unsplash.com

WRITTEN ON THE BODY OF JUDSON JEROME

In autumn
leaves will be wrapped
in water and rot.
I lay in between
the sheets. With
my head from
Whitman to Rilke.
Coming undone.
The driftwood is
whitening in the
sun. The open mouth
of the whale
that swallowed
Jonah is bargained
for like any
fugitive talent. Other people
move in the world
like solar.

When my sister
has her own children
I will be the
bone woman lost
in translation.
As wet as a leaf
in snow. ‘Be sure
to send them all
my love’ I will say
in a whirlwind
down the loophole
of the telephone.
At the back of my throat
it will mark
its position
safely. Follow a straight line.
Her children
will be gold.

Our relationship
goes in with the tide
and out again.
The sea shows
no mercy. The beach
wretched on this
cold winter day.
Salt and light
the skeleton key.
‘Please tell me
about your day.’ I will say
enthusiastically.
Down the loophole
of the telephone.
She will begin to
tell me about the
fellowship of the
wild (the people that she works with).

It is a wait
and see game for
me. Wait to
see if she acknowledges
me. See if she
laughs or if I
can hear her smiling
at the other end.
I drink a flood
of tea. That is
my meat country.
The same with pain.
I give it some
time. Say ‘this
too shall pass’.
There is a gulf
between us. Gulls
flying overhead
as far as the eye
can see. Collectively giving
a false sense
of security.

============

JOHANNESBURG’S GARDEN CITY CLINIC

These streets are
paved with gold.
Yellow suns. I gaze into
fields. Wonder at
the lives of the people
who live here in this
neighborhood. There
is a flame inside each
of them. I pass
a woman standing alone
in the rain. She has
a bunch of flowers
in her hands. She
buys flowers I assume
for herself. Does no
one buy them for her?
Surrender the poet
said. I let go of you.
Do the flowers make her happy?
To all the ghosts
living or dead from
my past in the spirit
of writing this I let
go of all of you.
People. Humans. Life.
A blank space instead
of my name or face.
I write inspired.

Giving way to
that extraordinary
machine. Information.
This journey.
This great lesson
is not what divides
us, it is what makes
us who we are.
The wealth of winter is crisp.
I remember my sister
in the red trench coat
passing for an
independent woman
walking down the
stairs at the hospital
in Johannesburg.
Her nerves of steel.
My life was a journey
from beginning
to end through
the eyes of someone
who lives with
bipolar depression.
I live on the coast.
She still comes to me.
In rain or shine
I have to be
near the ocean.

============

ON THINKING OF WISLAWA SZYMBORSKA

Anguish and shock
rushes through me.
Here is a rush
of family in
my environment.
The soup is on
the table. Women
have to endure.
This is what I
have learned the
hard way. It is
autumn out and
the uninvited
guests of the day
have turned cold.
She belongs
to this time
this place just as
much as birdsong in
South Africa.
She forged a path
of fire for many who
came after her.
Years of silence.
The survival kit
of Eve’s song,
of Wislawa’s song

will follow me
for all my life.
Stealing beauty
will follow her.
This Masai dreamer too.
The substance
of ideas turn in
the air with its
clean frame.
This is its
season. I will
the poetry to live
in this wasteland.
No short measure
of grief there.
This is part of the lost country
where exiles
are to be found.
A concentration camp
found in ten
single pages.
I can smell rain
in this forest
of verse. There
is something pure
about the day.
Its soul adrift.

============

A MONTH OF SUNDAYS AND PRAYERS
(For Ambronese)

And all I can think of
is the River Ouse. Virginia Woolf’s
River Ouse pouring its
distillate of salt and river into me.

The leaves are as shiny
as abalone in winter. They desire little or no sun today.
The earth’s veil and garment are wet
Through. No family structure
of stars, sun or moon required.
The sweetness of night falling
all around me. Such is nature.
The television said that Namibia
is like a time machine. Such is
the nature of illness too. It comes
With the observations of a lifetime
Gathered there. Smoke holy. Men
and women holier than thou.
You can also become a poet
writing poems about nature.

And all I can think of
is the River Ouse. Virginia Woolf’s
River Ouse pouring its
distillate of salt and river into me.

I want to live as near to the sea
As possible. Yes, please! So, I can wake up each morning
With my soul marked with water.
Winter comes with a map. She
will have to give of herself first
to the child before anything else.
When it cries or wants to be fed.
That is if she decides to have
children one day. She comes with a map too.
I have reading hands. Her storm
river mouth is not quite as alien to
me as it once was. She’s a leap of faith
That I need to take into the wild.

And all I can think of
is the River Ouse. Virginia Woolf’s
River Ouse pouring its
distillate of salt and river into me.

============

ASCENSION

It is a weekend of ascension and seawater.
Your face still haunts me.
She shows her face and all I see is love.
The beacon of my heart
is governed by mysterious
drowning things. Even
her laughing, serious,
fighting, sonnet movements.
Once there was an Eastern
frontier at the Eastern Cape.
A Kat River Settlement. Khoi.
Four wars were fought there
between the Xhosa and the
settlers but that’s history.
Men were like twisting flame.
The sermon of the major
earth is serene now. It’s a
winter sky and a winter rain
that gathers overhead from
eternity to the hereafter. The

faded call of unsung sorrow.
You mum belongs to a barefoot
people. The terror of the
Pacific when it comes to your
tribe of children. You taught
me to lead and not to follow.
You were the skilled expert
when it came to my rage. I
only have to say that I am hungry
and my mother feeds her cub.
The continuous noise inside
my head goes away but not the
memory of my mother’s forehead.
Her astonishingly beautiful
African violets. The scene of
luscious green grass from childhood
forgotten. Her face is still
hauntingly beautiful. You, who
taught me how to write about everything I know.
To see the world around me.

============
Poems (c) Abigail George
Image: Johannes Plenio via Unsplash.com

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