Archives for September 2014

Family Life (a series of experimental haiku)


Infatuation –
Winner of America.
Paper tigers ghosts.


Beast in the kitchen –
Drowned thing with her rosary.
At war with the roast.


Throne. Ghost. Leaf. All guests.
Pale. Ancestral bloodlines – a clever-experiment
In romanticism.


Beach-life. A green-ish plate.
Swimming towards velvet rays of light.
A child’s-laugh (bees). Sea mist.


Jasmine passion – reel.
Flowers in a lonely mind.
Illness for breakfast.


Children underfoot –
There is traffic in my house.
Toy guns. Cowboy hats.

Remember me

The weather that day. Rain and-then-it-stopped.
Flesh. Skin-on-skin’s-compass. Perfume. And more rain.
Keys to not buying post-apartheid things.

After leaving Mr Muirhead (an experimental series of haiku)

After leaving Mr Muirhead

Alleys. Streets. Wolves. Sheep.
The shores-of-Johannesburg do not smell like anything-like-Malibu.
It’s primitive living-for-sale.


To the lighthouse soul.
To Sappho, Antigone’s divine-ceremony.
Go fishing in rifts.

It’s losing its darkness

Something is damaged –
There is a richness in dust – mother-tongue.
Post-apartheid things. Compasses.

The hours

You are a typhoon –
Waves in the folds of daylight.
Childhood stars are past.

Shade in my bedroom

The end of violence –
The world’s feast is not my home.
The heart of worship.

Inside a public library

I am the June guest –
Greedy for ritual. Sonnets.
Winter possession.

Success for personal growth

Orlando’s river –
Habits of tsunamis past.
What remains is life.


I read as a child –
In books, there are valleys. Hills.
Worlds were within reach.

PostModern Borderline

Chapter One-Day-(Introduction)

There comes a time in one’s life rather a point in existence where the howls and barks echo through the cricket orchestra which plays the ambience and sets the mez-on-scene that lays ignored by dreams.
Little is the harsh cold smoky comfort from ones warm milk which as smooth jazz trumpets in the lucid haze that is rarely remembered. When Sun punches in with steamy coffee porcelain and Styrofoam mugs and the silent trumpets of morn forgone by a lighter fuelled alarming view.

Only one who has seen a year dwindled in failure can, will, may, truly understand or rather appreciate its worth and the time lost as a decade to child is a day to geriatric as minutes snoozed to a scholar become hours as necessary narcotics to a terminal patient; once upon a failure to a success is as bitter a certain medicine that an addict is first formed.

In Joseph rainbow coloured form the vehicle reversed out of its miniature doors ,these battered and bruised by Father Time, as rumble with drops of now turquoise brown paint. It’s been awhile since his skin saw the golden orb this meeting two cut his cornea through his matured green tints of rectangular glass.

He wasn’t one for friends as friends he had none if food or drink good company makes then a shoulder for tears was found in bloodied icy drink, a rarity at best, as he pulled at the grime part he now called a job he filled his mind with clouds ,being one of the few who know what it meant be besides himself he watch himself enter The Marketsquare from his passenger seat after flicking the amber butterfly-like and watched them grey the offspring take to them sky and he closed his eyes.

Chapter Two-Origin-The Echoing Solace

At birth we exist in the warm comforting never lonely solitude of absolute lack of worry, sorrow and loneliness, that is the mother’s womb. A tomb of joy and pleasure. A heaven upon the Earth, rather the only true bliss next to that lucid dream like feel of youthful days in an infatuated daze. Now what has become of these days? In age the angst-ridden daze that now, not only envelopes, but fills the depths of our heart, souls and our being. This exquisite paradise replacing abyss that now we dwell and find the treasure of excitement and pleasure. One’s memory, rather mine, serves me to the mere mischievous and innocent age of five. This kindred soul, adventurous and playful.

He continued his venture and in his dreamy state, until the age of ten, where self-image, self-esteem and all that is self began to come into view. The crowd psychologies of which Sigmund Freud wrote came into play in the fray of life. Circles with eccentric circles concentric within it all, leaving all the squares with a circle of their own in which they in great hopes may fit. The great extents a number of the squares and many-a-shape with great intendment cut their corners, smoothen their edges and attempt to enter or fit into even the outer edges of the concentric circles.

A decade has passed now curled in the silent corner sits. Until day the echoing voices cease with her, a ne’er goddess, if not she is a gift. Her gait, her eyes, her smile that beams like hope it reaches out and warms the cockles of the most icy-frozen hearts.

The dark daylights return to their original star filled brightness. No longer can he pen up the relentless emotions and thoughts.

Chapter Three-Ezelda

A name to place to this goddess, Ezelda. “It’s fitting,” he thinks. She warmly smiles as she blushes and she slowly removes the few mahogany locks of hair that have accidently fallen on her face. Then she slowly opens her matte crimson lips and she speaks. “Oh she speaks but not in words alone, I smile at the melodic harmony of her syllables, this smile is genuine and complete.

Weeks pass, months pass and now my thoughts, every last particle in the expansive beaches of his mind, are spent on Ezelda. Nearly absorbing his entire being yet she doesn’t suffer from the feeling when they are apart. He can hear her heartbeat echo with her voices melody, still her scent lingers on his skin. The smell of bliss.

The hands of time swing on, and thus as easily or rather elegantly created the masterpiece above all others as a fresh blooming field with the passing seasons wilts in the winter’s heat, thus the carefully woven tapestry fully unravels, and all that was is now fully lost and forgotten. Slowly the glorious chariot upon the Olympian peak backslides, past rock bottom to the whispering depths that soon became a necessary comfort. In the solid solace he finds his long forgotten comfort and not even a friend nor may brother suffice, on shadows he now leans.

Chapter Four-Voices

The voices within began to converse with his intoxicated conscience and they come to the agreement that these emotions he experiences are the cause for all his suffering, now the conscience with the soul eloped. The former has passed as a metamorphosis in beautiful solitude as a caterpillar in its amber cocoon. A new being emerges as a god of the old world, as a phoenix but in blue dark aura reminiscent of the fallen angels that great legends speak, above the stars at the gates of heaven once again now defying all the laws of nature.

The destiny now set in stone and sculpted in darkness, the voices of his abyss are now, within him and with his essence, intertwined. Ambivalent to all laws that these lesser beings abide and live. Now he is unbound, unchained, limitless, still he seeks what once brought him great bliss across vast plush green wastelands finally he finds, chloroforms the fateful kerchief and in muffled screams her final sounds of freedom wither in his palm.

From the abyss rattling of chains and mechanics of a suffering art are heard. The sound of snapping latex elastic gloves and the enticing macabre cabaret begins to perform and to this most vivid scene, and the echoing multitude on every end of the pitch scale. The glorious masochist filled and sadistic chorus, to which, she awakes.

Chapter Five-Meander

Four o’clock again, and this Thursday was no different to any other these walk ways taken where he’s mindlessly counted each jagged rift without a single eye off the path and the withering white, now grey, laces while rolling his fingers playing with the bulbous savoury textured edges and strumming the coiled chain that sounded unlike the ordinary this made a low staccato hum reminiscent of a tortured souls remains distorted by his dissociative course that in turn made a melody of contorted wind chime ambience. The orchestral moan awoke him as he crossed the road in a jay-walking saunter ,two trucks, small in size, in phase as if a perfect wave and one step to either side or an arm’s length stretch in 5, horns simultaneously sound, 2, 1… Ha-ha…
A three finger flick off adjacent the right temple…how flirtatious the angel Grim how one shares the bliss of thine lips how selfish gains unselfish remain

Four Forty-Five

Chapter Six-Memoirs

As thoughts emerged and constantly blaze his brain from state of dreams now icy mind the more moments born upon descending hearts psyche ,the misanthropy that steady lingers and builds with blank flashing visuals and momentary accompaniment amplified yet the silence that surrounded a sound mind was deafening.

Brain still buzzing from frontal lobe to stem in thought tangible conscience dripping from ceiling down wall on right of door as one enters ,the withering chord shore soon to snap carries a fading dreams remains with un-suiting shades upon mahogany round next to handheld torch and carton of cancer finger with a side of ecstasy and asphalt type lingerie. As fuel and flame mocks that which god’s ancient gamed war. She viddy well the sights of extraord’, “glorious gore! Gored and gored and poured once more.” Garnishes of red indeed may make pearls clench to lips, with ice or black upon thy skin and thread like seams and crystal clear on cheek yet beside smile of lush and tru’st in pupils 9wide.

Yet to unfold the encapsulated soon lays torn, no catharsis in sands that freely fall down vertical gyres two but spherical core shut these cage doors and within them none but you.

Chapter Seven-Night

Eyes wide as mind as I shall not. Yes I now with mind of silence the tocs tic audibly throughout with absinthe on buds shall they be found clear or any existent thought process in mind? Little.

Ignorance, Thee that plagues us all he and he wonders on as porcelain basket of corn with flowing white a complete meal doth make.

There and there and there empty loads of singles and glass and tunes of ages before thine own.

There and there and there cleanliness hath peak and cathartic carcinogen remain unseeked, those which define in societal pools drown and those keep in holster most true reflect thee.

Liquid sparks to liquid flame, a bud nipped and pupils float in expansive pools, time is sped and accessory bled now hath come but flame is quickened and soon…
Shall fade.

Rock Bottom

We stand in the elevator looking out the glass wall at the city as we begin to slowly rise above it and our view is filled with high risers, empty sky and in the distance, the pastel blue ocean. Josie pulls me closer to her and I let her head fall against my chest. She looks up at me, smiles, and I kiss her and then she stares out at the city again and I hear her sigh.
The doors slide back and the noise of holiday shoppers intrudes on our time immersed in the moment. We walk past shops, without any place to really go. Josie grabs my hand as we walk and she looks happy, her thumb gently stroking the edge of my hand and I also feel happy in a mellow way, as if this isn’t really happening. It all seems too normal. We have lunch at what is meant to be an Italian café, but they’ve missed the mark by far and it’s just ended up being some sort generic Mediterranean place anyway. I think that normally I would have made some comment about it to the manager, but instead Josie has my attention and we hold hands across the table. The conversation is light, nothing really intellectual but I don’t mind because Josie has my attention. The food arrives and I think about how strange it is that I don’t just want to fuck her. I actually want to kiss her. I want to kiss her right now even, but the practicalities of how we’re seated make it potentially awkward, so I go about eating my pasta instead and Josie tells me about how she walked in on her best friend having sex with a guy that she thought she was dating at the time. I listen and wonder why she’s telling me this and it makes me feel vaguely uneasy but her legs brush against mine under the table. The cheque arrives and Josie offers to pay half of it and I refuse shoving her money back to her and quickly hand the little book back to the waiter as he passes by. She takes my hand again as we walk out of the café.
We pass by a Cotton On and Josie drags me in saying, “I want to buy you scarf. You’ll look so handsome with one with those blazers you wear. Just like my own little Russell Brand.”
She finds the scarfs and starts trying them out on me, taking a step back and then scrutinising the look with her head tilted to the side and a hand on her hip. We go through six scarfs and when I think we’ve found one Josie says, “No. It….just….doesn’t work.” She takes it off and with a blank expression on her face says, “We’ll find one somewhere else.”
When we’re leaving the store Josie stops by a wrack with a bunch of Led Zeppelin shirts on it and I pick a black one and buy it for her despite her vague protests, because this all feels normal and it makes me happy to give her something.
As we’re walking my phone vibrates and beeps to let me know that I have a message. It’s from Lola and it says: “Party” at my place tonight?” I haven’t seen Lola in about six months and I don’t reply to the message, but not before thinking how easy it would be, but then Josie is saying something and I’m reminded that this feels normal and that this actually feels like something.
In the car Josie insists on holding my hand in her lap as I drive us along. We don’t speak much and Josie is playing an album from some indie group which has a girl singing in this faintly melancholic happy way and her lyrics are about break ups and hoping that some guy will notice her but the music has this really mellow beach vibe to it and it makes me feel good as we drive with the sun beating down on us and the wind in our hair.
I stop outside Josie’s house and she turns to me smiling and we kiss. Her hands circle my neck pulling me towards her and my hand caresses her face and traces faint lines that I hope will gently tickle her. We keep at it for a long time and at some point she pulls away and says, breathlessly, “I can’t stop kissing you.” And then she comes back at me, harder this time.
I think how great it is that this feels like something and I hear my phone beep again but I ignore it this time.

It’s been about three weeks that Josie and I have been hanging out during this summer vacation. We’re driving along the peninsula heading towards Rock Bottom for lunch. Josie is reserved and I ask her what’s wrong and she doesn’t reply.
“I’m scared.” she finally says. I ask her what she’s scared about. After a moment she says, “Us.”
She lights a cigarette and I wait for her to say something because I’m confused.
“It’s only a matter of time before someone gets hurt,” she says eventually. “We’re….friends…and it’s only a matter of time before something bad happens and I just don’t want anyone to get hurt.”
“Friends don’t do what we’ve done.” I say. She stares out the window with a hand held against her forehead and the cigarette is between the index and middle finger.
“Oh god….Lou…I really….we’re….we’ve never spoken about any of…this before.”
“I thought I meant something to you.” I say after a while.
“You do Lou…oh god…you do! We’re friends and I just know someone is going to get hurt. I’m sorry ok? Let’s just go to lunch ok?”
At Rock Bottom we order sushi and Josie starts talking to me about this friend of hers who’s also in a band and she’s telling me how he sends her these audio clips of him singing songs that he’s busy writing.
“His voice is so amazing and he plays guitar too. Ok he doesn’t play as well as Johnny, but it’s still really cool though.” Pause. “And sweet.” And then she’s saying how cool it would be if I managed them too.
The sushi arrives and I notice that the waiter hasn’t brought any chopsticks but a pair of knives and forks instead and suddenly I shout at the waiter, “Get your shit right! We’re eating sushi you idiot.” And then to no one in particular I say loudly, “Jees, fucking restaurants these days.”

Education for Democracy

Young people of today are parents of tomorrow: young people of today are spinal cord of a country, young people of today are a spinal cord of a nation. Young people are a reflection of national image: young people are a symbol of elders, young people are fragile towards the pillow of influence. No force is greater than the youth, no force is stronger than the youth. To promise is the is the urge of giving: to promise and give nothing is pointless, to promise and give nothing is a vacuum for a python. Don’t blame the youth, don’t fool the youth, instead find a solution and change the strategy…

Yesterday my history, tomorrow my future: what defines my future is what I desire now, what determines my destiny is what I do today. Today is a dream, tomorrow is a reality: If today today is a desire then tomorrow is a destiny. When a leader speaks, action must emphasize because revolution begins in a empty stomach but ends up in action.

Every pain is difficult: to get a job you need experience, to get experience you need a job. Whom who fulfills it knows it, whom who knows it can tell a life time story. Every generation blames the next, not knowing that every generation is a citizen of society. When qualified graduates become hopeless and desperate for a job: when young people are told to wait for a long time, patience becomes a boiling point of anger. Anger is a short madness: A hungry youth is a angry youth, a angry youth is a symbol of vandalism: change the teacher but not the subject, change the picture but not the frame.

Share the wealth with the youth, share the riches with the young people of today. Don’t blame the youth, don’t fool the youth: find a solution, change the strategy but don’t blame the youth. silence is the golden generation for ignorant cowards, who never learnt to reason. When freedom for some is prison, reality must provide a answer to a numerous question marks. People have freedom but still are homeless: people have freedom freedom but people are still hopeless, people have freedom but still are learners.

Why are people homeless, if they have homelands, why do people  not have bread at their homes if there’s bread at the bakery. Each one teaches one, each one teaches all. Young people of today are our future leaders, give them respect to receive respect back to you, give them a iron fist to get a middle finger: when the bin falls the rubbish shall fall out too.

Don’t blame the youth, don’t fool the youth: when parenting is taken over by television, don’t blame the youth. When children become pregnant, don’t blame the youth: when bribery and corruption couples to fail society, don’t blame youth: when politics fail society don’t blame the youth, when leaders talk  to leaders to start to rule, don’t blame the youth. When leaders toast champagne in the name of corruption don’t blame the youth, don’t blame the youth for the enforcement of corporal punishment.

Art is longer, life is short. Whom am I to be long; young people cannot be young forever, young people cannot be fooled forever, young people cannot be cheated forever, young people cannot be promised forever: you told them things would be right, you told them things would be better, you told them things would be easier, you told them things would be cheaper, you told them education would be free, you told them textbooks would be given, you told them neighbor brokers would be broken…

Don’t underestimate the power of the youth.


Tragedy renders survivors helpless,
hope snuffed from their eyes creating a pertinent darkness.
Monsters in the soul rise up to feed,
until they become the life of the now empty shell.

Grief personified in copious tears.
Life halted at it’s prime.
Silence echoes of a happier period; when the sands of the hour glass did not stand so still.

the sun still sets only ’til the morrow,
the world still spins even with one less soul.
Time ticks on habitually;
the flat heart line as endless as the memories of an unforgettable soul.

However, with darkness is the inevitability of light.
And with monsters, the surfacing of an ever watchful hero.

Never Cease

In a single palm
Or at end of finger tips
To live and to have lived
Not one life
But many

The plea of love and light
The keyboard keys echo
In the dark

This twilight of dreams
The one who writes
The one who reads
Lives more than once

What then of love?
What then of filling or being filled by light,life and being?
This their verbose immortality
Or brevity sweet

The unwritten realities shall day with thee
Universes in mind
These words
These lines

Merely paper scattered with dreams
This pen and ink
Or keys
The life and times of endless beings
In thy death
They shall not with thee
Ever end

For we and they shall read and be read
And again
They shall with thee
Never cease

As ek moes

Geen woorde is ooit genoeg
Om die diepste van diep aan jou te beskryf
Maar as ek ‘n gedig deur die woordeboek moes ploeg
Sou ek die volgende struktuur skryf:

Die titel sal wees ‘Ons’
En met ‘n hoofletter begin
Want dit verwys na geen ander, behalwe ons s’n

Twee versreels in elke strofe
‘n Verteenwoordigend van ek en jy
Nooit sonder mekaar, nooit gebroke
Nooit net ek, nooit net jy

Paarrym, kruisrym, selfs omarmde rym
‘n Span
Pas saam, vleg saam, is goed saam, wen saam
Nooit so gebroke soos gebroke rym

Woorde soos ”vriendskap”, ”liefde”, ”sielsgenoot”
En ”verewig” sal lewe aan die gedig gee
Met metafore wat aanpas by die blou lug en ‘n stil see

Groen en geel blare
Met ‘n hemelse verskeidenheid kleure
Van blomme op die aarde
Met ‘n hemelse verskeidenheid geure

‘n Enkele afsluiting met ”Ons”
Want jy’s my begin en my einde
Wat ook al in die middel geskied
Ek bly ewig joune, en jy bly ewig myne

Letters From A Father To A Daughter

I miss my mother more and more every day. My wife says a lot of unkind things about people that I don’t like but perhaps that is just her way. But on our wedding day she was my Cinderella. I was her prince. For the young making love is just for fun. I have never read Charles Bukowski, William Faulkner, D.H. Lawrence, Nadine Gordimer, and J.M. Coetzee. I’ve never even heard of Salinger. They have all swept my eldest daughter away. Sometimes I think to myself will she ever be a bride? Will she ever fall in love? Feel what her dad felt as he looked at his new wife. With our married life ahead of us. A day old. Will a man ever take her in his arms and say, ‘I love you best?’ But these are just the thoughts of an old man in the autumn of his years. This morning I felt depressed. The world can do that to you when you’re infirm. You think nothing will ever hurt you again. You’re built like an impenetrable fortress in the mountains at the end of the world. Our marriage had promised us new beginnings. Wonderful beginnings. But now there’s silence. I cry for what I have lost. Not real tears. Just a sob or two that wracks my body. She’s not so far away from me. The two double beds are in the same room. Gerda is reading by the light from a lamp while I search for my pharmaceuticals. Swallow my tablets as if they were aspirin. Curbing my enthusiasm as I watch her disrobe. Looking at her now I realise how much I still love her. Let me count the ways. Love has a delicate smell. It means to offer you the rituals of sacrifice, buying a house, moving furniture, a wife by the name of Gerda staring at her reflection in the mirror while she brushes the tangles out of her hair, pats her hair down, puts a stocking on and wraps a scarf around her head. She is still beautiful, but not just to me, to other people as well. I still think I didn’t deserve her. Is she happy? Have I made her happy? She stayed with me for better or for the worst. I ministered to my children. I lectured my children when it needed to be done. To set them straight. To set them on their life journey. Their pilgrimage of sorts. And I took them all, my loving, boisterous family from hell to an eternity of hell. And of course in the wards of hell, or the wards of Valkenburg, there is not much of a presence of becoming indoctrinated by religion. I didn’t find Buddha when I was in Valkenburg. I didn’t turn in a Brahmin. I was only introduced to that much later when my children were teen-agers. Things like meditation. I did give up smoking, but not red meat. Wiping the fat off my lips. I never drank much. I hated the stuff. I saw what it did to my own father. Gerda is silent. In her own world, and I wonder (it is not for the first time) what is she thinking about? Does she still love me as much as I love her? What I wouldn’t do to embrace her like I did the first night of our married life? I hate this loneliness that is flowering inside of me like a lotus. I must write about what I like, what I mesmerises my all-knowing, all-seeing eyes, about the difficulties of married life, the first meal my wife cooked for me as my wife, how I watched the movements of my wife at our wedding feast set out in a church hall, filled with Johannesburg people, and a few members of my family. I must write about what makes me emotional (yes, even men get emotional, over-excited about the annihilation of evil by good). I must write about what makes me misty-eyed, what cuts me deep where the depths of suicidal illness awaits, watching my children in Victoria Park playing while I watched them from afar, sitting on a park bench that was once reserved for Whites only in a White people’s park. Over weekends the park would usually be deserted. I’d get chocolate and packets of crisps for the children. I’d see their smiles. Their laughter and sticky fingers would lift me. Give me a buoyant mood. Perhaps you are sensing that I am not telling you the whole truth. There were days when I had to force myself to get out of bed. I was a man who had plenty of responsibilities. I couldn’t just give in, quit life, quit family life, lie on the sofa, stop taking cold, refreshing showers that restored some vitality, some energy to my brain, and clarity of thought, vision and self-actualisation to my insight. I couldn’t escape my children, I couldn’t not acknowledge them (their pain was my pain, their emotional fabric in time, was my emotional fabric in time and place, and their moments of childhood depression stopped me dead in my tracks). I couldn’t just quit my children’s world, divorce their mother, live without the difficulties of a husband, live in a bachelor pad with relative freedom, no domestic responsibilities from their world, because they needed me. My family needed me. And as I watched my small children looking at all the things I couldn’t buy for them (their choices they already knew had to fit my pocket), things like that would melt my heart in the Greek’s shop, and as they carefully made their purchases I was eternally grateful that I had made it through another day. I had made it through another manic depressive episode. No more aspirin for me. I had put Valkenburg behind me. There was Elizabeth Donkin, and the beginning of lithium therapy. There was my beautiful wearing blue jeans, a comfortable jersey that I had seen her in many times, and a white shirt. There was my wife getting out of the car. I was waiting for her on the steps of ward F. Waiting for her perfunctory kiss on the cheek. Waiting to sit down in well-worn chairs.
‘How are you?’
‘I’ve missed you.’
‘I’ve missed you too. When are you coming home?’
Well, the conversation would go something like that.
I watched her shield her eyes, looking, looking, and looking for me. And then her field of vision changed. Her eyes met mine. And then she was locking the car door. Making her way towards me with that day’s newspaper, a selection of magazines, bottles of juices, or a fruit basket. And the depression, with its elated highs that felt so invincible, that made me feel exquisite frustration, the faith that I had that the feelings were killing me, every day would come with their turning points. My heart was suicidal depression’s apprentice. My brain was its master. I put my wife on a pedestal, but did she know it? In the beginning before I was married, I thought of all women as sex objects. Did I tell her how much I loved her? I worshiped the ground she walked on. Before her I was not romantic. Before I met my future wife my style and technique of a lover was dry when I was depressed. She made me into the man I am today. Throughout it all she convinced me to choose life, discriminate death. For every season there is a senseless tragedy. In love nothing is insignificant.
‘Off to the old age home with you.’ She said the other day. It broke my heart to hear her say that. We don’t make love anymore. We sleep in separate beds. There’s a distance between us now that I can’t describe. It has no time or place. It’s like a bridge. If we stayed together or even for as long as we have it is only because of the children. Sometimes I wonder what my wife was like as a child. The grief she must have felt as a young child after losing a sibling, a brother. But we never spoke about things like that. I never yearned to ask my fiancé, or new bride anything that would make her feel uncomfortable. In her eyes, I wanted to be give her only good memories. I wanted to make her forget about the pain of her childhood the way she made me forget about my own painful childhood. How I was bullied, terrorised on the playground, teased, called names.
As a child I was a watcher, a dreamer. I was always in love with books. With self-learning. With teaching myself new things about the world around me. Life experience. That’s what White people called it. White people had cars. White people sold. White people were business minded professionals. When I was a child I fell in love with education. Maybe that’s when I became a teacher. In childhood. I had an unquiet mind. I still do. There are a lot of rituals when I go to church on Sunday morning. There’s the breaking of bread and Holy Communion. It’s not real wine of course. It’s just grape juice. I’m a changed man when I leave the church (less depressed. I feel less lonely. I don’t know why that is. Maybe is has to with the biochemistry of the brain, or social activities, being involved in something even if it is as mundane as going to church). And the bread is not the thin wafers we used to get at the Union Congregational Church that the children looked at so longingly in their innocent hearts with that angelic shine on their faces. My wife and I would bite into the wafers. With that one bite the body of Christ was now part of our spirit, our soul consciousness, our physical bodies. Abigail couldn’t understand that she had to be confirmed before she could partake of the body of Christ and the drinking of grape juice. She told me that we (it was always we even though I was the one behind the steering wheel of the car) road past Mrs Turner in the street, and that although Mrs Turner (Abigail called her Mrs Turnip behind her back after that day) saw us, must have recognised our car she didn’t wave back. Well her body is all weirdly shaped like a turnip was Abigail’s thought and I told her that’s what happened to people as they got older. Everything physical changed and sometimes they started to forget things too like their manners (etiquette to Abigail).
I just smiled and then I laughed and said, ‘Really? Maybe she didn’t see us.’
‘Daddy, really? Are you sure? She looked right at me and I waved and I waved and I waved and she still didn’t wave back.’
I couldn’t tell her this then. She was too young. An innocent. They could hurt me, but I would not let them hurt my children.
The following year we started going to Pearson Congregational Church which was situated in Central. Everyone who went there was White. You love your children. You really do whether they’ve done something good or bad. You’re the one person in the world they can to when they need anything. If they ask you for money you bend down and you tell them to pick the money off the money tree. You tell them that you love them because that is the remedy for everything. When they’re sick you nurse them back to health. When it’s their birthday you buy them a cake, presents wrapped in brightly coloured paper, blow up balloons, and you give them a party and invite all the neighbourhood. You give them a hug when they it the most even when they’re at their most rebellious nature. Shower them with fatherly concern when giving advice. It’s also your honour, and privilege to provide daily inspiration from a verse in the Bible, to school projects. But when they get depressed of course you worry for them. You have discussions behind a closed bedroom door in the middle of the night that go and go on until the early hours of the morning and you think back to when you were in high school. I was from a different generation. The more things change the more they stay the same. Isn’t that what the adage says? Should we all go and talk to someone like a family counsellor, a therapist. Gerda was always the one who was two steps ahead of me. She didn’t come out and say it or tell me what she was thinking. She took Abigail when she was barely out of her teens to a psychiatrist who studied in Vienna. He had wild hair like Einstein. She had been prepared for an eventuality of this magnitude. She was the one who had been prepared. Not me. And there was a part of me that felt like a failure. I had been completely blindsided. I had not seen the diagnosis coming. Not from a mile away. My beautiful, darling daughter. My darling, darling daughter was a manic depressive just like me. Bipolar. Bipolar. Bipolar. I was struck dumb. Speechless. What could I say? How could I comfort her? She hated school. She hated every minute every second of it. A monumental waste of her time it was she said. She already knew that everything she was being taught came out of a textbook that supported the cause of a colonial master. That supported a White cause. A liberal’s issues. Not hers by a long shot. We had to do a lot of talking, and listening, and the having of more conversations behind a closed bedroom door at night to try and convince her to stay in school. They were lots of tears. Everybody cried. There were arguments. There were times when she stayed with her aunt in Johannesburg and we would be under the false impression that now everything would be all right again in her world. We had dreams for me. She was brought up with norms and values. And we didn’t, couldn’t just let her throw her life away like that. Somehow, somewhere when she was fifteen years old she had written away to The London Film School. ‘So she wants to run away to London now.’ Gerda sighed. She wore a perplexed look on her face, chewing her bottom lip in pensive mode. I thought back to Abigail’s last words of the conversation the three of us had, mother, father, with their rebellious, fiercely intelligent, highly temperamental daughter. ‘I hate you.’ She almost spat. ‘You’re killing me. If I stay here I’ll die. You’ll see. I’ll show all of you. I’ll kill myself if I don’t go to film school. I want to go to London.’
Gerda had more intuition, knowledge and insight into how females thought and bonded and suddenly at midnight she bloomed. Her face pale in the moonlight, with aquiline features that her daughter Abigail had inherited from her but not her tennis legs or her mother’s love for that game. I couldn’t make out her face but I knew it was shining full of love for me, and for our daughter. All three of our children had been conceived in love.
‘Where will she stay? Where will she sleep? What will she eat every day for breakfast, lunch, and supper? Is she sleeping now I wonder? She just sits glued in front of that television all hours of the day and night. Ambrose tell me, what do you think I should do? We? Us? She’ll never be accepted. I read that story. It’s terrible. But if I say that to her it will break her heart. She’s fifteen going on sixteen.’
Back and forth my flashbacks goes. Presently we are here. The house is quiet haunted by ghosts from the past. Stephen. Jean. Magdalene. My parents. Gerda’s own mother and father passed away when Abigail was still a baby. Baby Ethan is sleeping soundly between his parents on their double bed. He is a real busybody. He only has eyes for his mother Already he has two milk teeth which has everyone in a frenzy in the household.
I wish sometimes that I had listened more, praised her cooking skills (even though she burnt the pots more times than I could keep track of), given more attention to my wife. Had not treated her like I had treated all the women in my life. Indentured slave girls only there to make me tea, be my secretary, flirt with. Women who would stroke my ego given the chance. She had given me everything of herself that she could as a wife, but I had not been completely open with her. Only in retrospect when I look back at the events of the past decade and they shaped all three of our children’s futures did I see how selfish and arrogant I had been. I had not come clean. Pharmaceuticals cannot wash away sins. With my silence I had passed down three life sentences. I wish I had done something. Said anything to console my wife it would be twenty years until we got our daughter back. Have I made Gerda happy, and what about my children, are they happy? Are they successful? Have my children fulfilled all their childhood goals? People change from one generation to the next. That’s the thing with people, milestones and events. They are always changing, and yet always staying the same. I thought I would be my daughter’s anchor in that moment like my mother had been in mine.

‘Fine. If you want to go then leave. We won’t stand in your way if this is going to make you happy.’ I said with my eyes meeting the floor we covered in carpet.

I didn’t want her to see the dejection in my eyes. I would miss her laughter, our talks, heated discussions, and debates. Mostly I would miss her presence. But she was depressed. She hated school. She had done very badly in the exams. Magdalene was still alive then. So Swaziland it was then for O and A levels and then The London Film School that is if she could get a British Council scholarship if she was lucky.

My mother had been my anchor throughout my depressive episodes. The crushing highs that took me to the wuthering heights of Rhodes and London and the numbing, frustrating lows that took me to my bed. Sometimes I would just lay on the bed still in my body was not sore, did not feel tired, my eyes were burning, but sleep would not come, only a numb sensation starting from the top of me head that would make its way down to the tips of my toes. Every parent wants to protect their child, sometimes protect them from everything. The world isn’t all bad. Tomorrow isn’t going to be all doom and gloom like today was. There are good people in this world who are just as affected by sickness, chronic illness, cancers, diseases

Madness? Madness! What is madness? What a question! Do people question John Nash? Do they call him mad, insane, tell him that he’s weird? Do they question this genius’s sanity, his intelligence, or do they just write him off as wired differently from the rest of the human race. Is he an anomaly? One evening my children came to me. My son looked at me. Tall, dark, and handsome, one would be forgiven for thinking his introversion is arrogance he said, ‘Dad. It’s time for you to sit down and write your story. Write your memoir. Write your autobiography if you will.’ To tell you the truth it has been two years now, nearly three. I can’t clearly recall if that conversation ever took place. I can’t remember who said what, when, the how I was going to go about it. I have written about depression. I have written about mental health. I have written books. South End. The aftermath of the forced removals. To be honest with you people didn’t stand in line for me sign that book. My guess that that was a sign. A sign from God. I paid attention. I listened. And I turned my attentions elsewhere to committee meetings, reading the newspapers. People just didn’t like me to talk about apartheid. That book quietly disappeared, and went out of print. People just weren’t into that vibe. The book wasn’t giving off good vibrations so people weren’t turning up to buy that book. But out of everything that I have written so far that book is my favourite. I have written about depression before from a sufferer’s perspective, and that little book turned out to be an enormous bit of loose cannon, then a diamond in the rough, and then a little gem of a book.

People like to romanticise apartheid now but I don’t. They put up pictures, photographs, paintings of struggle heroes and heroines in museums. There are public holidays, streets, buildings, foundations, bursaries, books, poetry, memoirs, autobiographies named after them, written in memory of them and some of them are even given honorary doctorates. Some posthumously. All I think about these days in the autumn of my years as I watch television at night, bits and pieces of the news, well, it means absolutely nothing to me. Climate change, global warning, it’s just the recession that has hit us all the hardest. My friends are no longer here. Most of them have passed on. I remember them fondly. Sometimes with tears in my eyes. I’m an old man now. I’m losing my hair. My wife, young and pretty. She will always be young and pretty to me. The blushing bride in her white lace on her wedding day. I remember I lost one of my white gloves between signing the register (I have a Scout’s knot in my throat now when I think back to my wedding day. My own children won’t understand this. They won’t understand what married life is until my son steps over that threshold with his new wife. Until my girls have said, ‘In sickness and health. Till death do us part.’ Come hell or high water I will be here for them all until the day I can’t be here anymore. I do what I can. I put the apron on and wash the dishes. Dry them carefully. Pack them away. The women in this house are always rearranging the furniture in the kitchen. But that has nothing to do with me. I play my part. I have a role to play in this family. I am the patriarch of this household. I am father. I am uncle. I am nurturer, caretaker, provider, and breadwinner. If we must eat pies for supper, then I walk down the road and buy them. I swing my arms. I walk much more these days than I did before but not far. Not far.) So now where was I? Right. I lost my white glove and Gerda was laughing at me. I got lucky. I didn’t really deserve her you know what with everything I put her and the children through. But somehow we made it to the other side. She’s angelic. She is. My wife. My wife. My wife. Abigail is the oldest and the brightest star in my universe. My Beethoven and my Kubrick. She has been through so much. Up streets and down streets. Johannesburg and Swaziland. Film school. School after school after school.
Psychometric tests. She’s done them all, and they have all said the same thing. She’s been psychoanalysed to death by psychologist after psychologist but she has a fighting spirit. All my children have fighting spirits. My son has done the impossible. He has given me an heir to the throne. Words can’t express what I feel when I look at his son. My son. My son and his son. Abigail, well, I think she thinks too much (she’s curious about everything, every impulse that the human species has, everything negative that happens in the world, the aftershocks are always of biblical proportions. I worry for her. Her personality is different. She lives by a completely different set of rules. People who live with depression often do live a life made up with a mind-set of elegant mathematics. She doesn’t think like a woman. My son and daughter are both complex creatures. Their mother elegant, and cold. When she descended upon Port Elizabeth after the honeymoon she seemed so exotic, so out of place here but she soon picked out furniture for out flat. Made it comfy. We had so many plans, dreams and goals. It was very, very difficult to conceive children. It took us five years and then we had Abigail, who was followed by another short stop and then my son, my son. Ambrose, my son. He is my namesake. He is my pride and joy. All I do these days is talk, and talk, and talk. Mostly about the past before I forget. I have to remember to write down everything I say because if I forget then who will remember the forced removals, South End, Fairview (where my mother had property, a domestic worker of all people, a seamstress at one of the best high schools in the country. She saved her money for a rainy day and bought land.) I think if you want to romanticise anything don’t romanticise your education, romanticise your culture, your heritage instead. Don’t romanticise mental illness, your London experience, or your European experience, visits to castles, trips in gondolas, the palace of Versailles, romanticise your family life, your domestic duties. Romanticise writing. Abigail is a poet. My second daughter has done very well for herself. Well, she lives in Johannesburg, works in a bank. She’s moneyed. Now she’s a socialite, a connoisseur if I ever saw one. I just didn’t mean to bring up one. If I don’t write nobody will remember anything about the Coloured identity, psyche and intellect in the Northern Areas from my generation. We’ll all be six feet under, pushing up daisies pretty soon. And then what? Ghosts. Getting a dead man to tell you a story about his childhood days is like squeezing blood from a stone. Have you ever tried squeezing blood from a stone? I remember when I was writing up my historical research about the London Missionary Society the state of mind I was in. I was on a hypomanic high while I was writing most of it. Nearing a complete collapse. I thought my professor would tell me, ‘Ambrose, what is this? It’s a complete and utter disaster from start to finish’. But I persevered. He’s in Canada now or dead. But I give my peace wherever he is. He was a part of my life for a very long time. I appreciated all his help. He was very liberal of course in his ideas of politics of course. We would never have tea together. That’s what I mean. Sometimes after driving hours from Port Elizabeth to Grahamstown. After making the trip I would make my way to his office and to my utter astonishment he would not be there. The door would be locked. It would sometimes bring tears to my eyes. Yes. He made me cry. For ten years up and down. I was principal at the time at a public school in a sub-economic area. I taught the kids there to reach for the stars. I can never seem to place names to all the faces who stop me in the street or who kindly offer me a lift home. I take their hand. And in their faces even when I don’t recognise them all I see is affection, honesty, and gratitude for what I taught them, for what I said, even though I was tough on them. I sometimes took a lot of heat for what I said from Inspectors, from irate parents who would come to see after I had given their angel six of the best. There was no detention in those days. Corporal punishment wasn’t abhorred as it is now. I loved those kids like I loved my three children at home. Hundreds and hundreds of them. Where are all of them now, I wonder to myself sometimes? Are they all successful? Are they making money? Are they paying their mortgages, seeing to the bills, or are they unemployed. In the good old days when we had a near perfectly run education system even in the Northern Areas (even though it was under an apartheid government run by Coloured Affairs) many of my kids made their way to universities overseas. Many of them live their now, are raising their own families there now. Many have it to easy. They’re living the easy life. And they’ve completely erased the past. The poverty, the spiritual poverty, the hunger, the desire to learn on the faces of the children who came from much more impoverished homes. Matchstick houses we called them in those days. They’re still standing in the Northern Areas to this day a symbol of racial hatred for all the world to see. Our society is traumatised. People are traumatised. The youth are affected mostly by drugs. The drug of choice these days for Coloured youth is tik. Babies having babies. More and more children being born out of wedlock. Where is this taking place? In the Northern Areas.

Dreaming of Malibu

There is nothing lost in translation when coming home to the mock husband. I am not coping because I am not the doctor. Because I am not the one who is fluent in the doctor’s language no matter how hard I try. How will I be able to benefit from wearing that white laboratory coat, stethoscope around the neck, with that particular bedside manner? Where is my infinite piano? Watch this. Watch this romance. It is clever math, no; it is elegant math with all of its violent alertness under my fingertips. What is the weather like in Los Angeles? What is a winter like in Los Angeles? What will my head say to my heart as I walk on that beach, or breathe in that valid air from that Parisian meadow with my moral compass to navigate me on those open roads, the wide open spaces of the Midwest? What will my limbs say to each other in London if I ever get around to having that London experience forgoing all my responsibilities as a writer and a poet in South Africa? For is not that what I am primarily. A South African writer and poet living in a post-apartheid apocalyptic city. City life as opposed to life in the rural countryside. Searching for greener pastures in the asphalt garden where everything is golden and chameleon-like. I have never wanted the experience of loss. The measure of loss but life has given me that responsibility. Sutures too.

And panic and I have had to thread both against threadbare knuckles. I have covered myself up with an American quilt. It has become my shroud. It has become my cover in other poetry. But I feel it all the time now. The warmth of anxiety. I feel it humming, humming, and humming in my bones. Singing to the leaves on the winter trees. Guests every one. They are like bees. They are a rapturous swarm. What do I know without having a sophisticated culture, a knowledge and education beyond this tidal moon and sun and then I think of the planets. How like the planets I am? I know my place. I know my place so well now that I cannot give it up. And why would I? There will never be a case of mistaken identity. All I will ever know about life is the predictions of Sappho, poetry and writing. And how sometimes how beautifully unpredictable life can be otherwise. There are storms in the dark and we need to speak about the acute pain from those storms in beautiful and wonderful ways. Mostly the image of depression is that of a wild thing. When I am crazy, I know that is when I am most alive. When I am not crazy, when I am most sober is also when I am most alive but I do not know it. All feeling leaves me and I long for the stress of crazy. I long for someone to tell me I am beautiful.

You are mine. The pain of Sarajevo is in my blood. Mingled there in my blood. Staring back at me in my blood and but what can I do but stare back at it? The door was somehow left ajar for me and my heart was bursting. It ready to be split open like a pomegranate. Seeds everywhere like seawater. I found wild oblivion, the safe passage from suffering in those seeds. At first I could not speak of the fantasy that I held in my hands and that my head wished for so ardently. I could not interpret those promised lands that my mocking husband returned from. I needed land and yet I needed to be reborn as well. I needed stress, a tour of the flesh like I needed the back of my hand. I flickered and then I was buried once again amongst the flowers. And with dirt upon my head I soon realised that I was supposed to be the beautiful keeper of the vanished and the unexamined. The apprehended. I do not want to age. To age means to give up your mortality like an artist giving up their brushes. To age means to give up everything. To age means that you are not bold anymore and that you do not have anything to be brave over. It just happens to be in your blood to think these things. Never mind how you try not to. I need to write to you of the quiet courage of our mothers and our grandmothers. So pay attention.