On the edge of cracking up(for Gerda and Ambrose, my parents)
I know of the sorrows of this
world. The sorrows of a mother who in
old age has become deaf. She
lost a brother in a car accident
when she was a girl but she never
speaks about it. I try too hard
to reach out to her (even now). I see God in her face
of love. I know she has her reasons
for the ways in which she has
loved me. She was a difficult
woman to learn to love but now I can honestly
say that I love her. I turn sketches of
her mysticism into poems that
I don’t show her. That’s my truth. All the habits
of hate-feeling faded out in me over the years.
On the surface of the dark secret
of my childhood was my mother.
One day, summer heat in the bathroom
she pulled me out of the bathwater
and hit me like a madman. It was turned into a
story by my siblings that they recited
Over the years. In the middle of
The night as a child I could not sleep.
The onset of insomnia that would
Continue into adulthood. That river
Was wide. Too hard to cross. I still
Hear her voice inside my head. When
Will you find your prince? When will you find a job? You’re a disgrace to me.
Even now in my dreams I walk up streets and down streets. Running down, running
down to Jean Rhys’ purple sea. There
was always magic and loneliness in sleep.
I dreamed at right angles. In metaphor.
It was home and impenetrable sanctuary. Wing and windows to my soul.
Yes, now I am no stranger to
the mad dance of insomnia and depression.
When I was young, I thought my mother never loved me. My father
did but my mother never loved me.
I think back to that day when she hit
me blue and black on my body, screaming at
me to stop crying and I ran with my
bare-naked little body into my father’s
arms. He picked me up, looking at my mother.
Looking at me. Saying you shouldn’t be doing this. I always thought he
would leave her but he never did.
(for Ambronese and Mikale)
At 3-years-old he’s like magic.
Every fragment in his life has a spark. We
said to each other, that ‘the child’
is already an old-soul. Already we could see he was gifted.
That he was going to be like
his father. We built a sandpit for the kid.
Fed him ice cream and bananas when he came home from school.
He played in the dirt making
mud soup. Grief too has bones.
In his hands paper becomes an ocean.
The bees have no wrinkles.
Even the dogs hidden by mist
are on edge. Here, when the
sun shines we sit at the river’s edge, fish on the coals.
With the desires of our intellect, our goals in our heart.
And, for me, a pure dream of a husband appears in evening
At the end of the day I know
what loneliness is, (that bright
burnt sparse river in the valley
of a dream husband appearing
in shadow). I think of other men
(like my father and brother). Men
of great intellect who live for
books, education and museums.
Their robust work ethic. The
women that they admire, love, yearn for and respect.
Think to myself how I fail at being that kind of woman.
My own mother (with age)
has become a frail frightened monster. It
frightens me to say the word ‘elderly’. Her pretty mouth a
startled frightened bird. In water,
in my far-off youth she was a
mermaid. Now she has dirty fingernails.
In morning light, you will find
her in her garden of succulents as beautiful and
elegant as she was as a young
bride (I was never going to be a bride at 25-years-of-age). I
think of when the decay of
my own life began. When my mother took me to a psychiatrist. When I received
my first diagnosis. My very first
pamphlet on mental health.
I wore too much makeup. I
wore my kitten heels. I’m not as
precious to my mother as her other daughter. Lovely daughters
are always precious. Always
cherished. Clothed in beautiful statements.
Pushcart Prize nominee Abigail George is a South African blogger, essayist, poet and short story writer. She briefly studied film at the Newtown Film and Television School followed by a stint at a production company in the heart of Johannesburg. She has received two writing grants from the National Arts Council, one from the Centre for the Book and another from ECPACC. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Aerodrome, Africanwriter.com, Bluepepper, Dying Dahlia Review, Entropy, Fourth and Sycamore, Hackwriters.com, Gnarled Oak, Mortar Magazine, Ovi Magazine, Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine, Praxis Magazine Online, The Missing Slate, and The New York Review. She is the writer of 6 books.