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.”

Loss

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.

Yet,
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
Alone
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 suit.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.

Mental Illness In The Wards Of Elizabeth Donkin

I am at Hunterscraig. I am here because I am not coping anymore. I am not coping because I am not the doctor. Because I am not the pharmacist with their jagged little pills. With their pharmaceuticals. 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 isn’t that what I am first and foremost. 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’re like bees. They’re 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’m 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 don’t know it. All feeling leaves me and I long for the stress of crazy. I long for someone to tell me I’m beautiful. And to the mock wife that I would give my eternal screaming life for. 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 don’t 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 to my birthday notes. Grief is only a warning. Denial too. I need to find out why the brightness dies so effortlessly and with artful commitment. The heart of commitment. And the flowers heads. Every one. The night is blue. The night is dying and whatever flame of light and love I have treasured in my hands from the smiles of my children with bars of chocolate in their hands those are the walls of my prison cell. Inside my head there are brick walls. In my arms there are cells too like the laughter of clowns. The pathetic frustration and laughter of clowns that will never be enough. Nobody deserved this. Nobody deserves this depression and the lid of this pressure that catapults them from yesterday, today and tomorrow.

I find myself at the local swimming pool. The air is cool. The temperature is freezing as I pull the sweater over my head. My limbs have found freedom in a sense. My children have already found themselves in the water. I can hear them laughing. It makes my heart smile. I leave the stressors of the daily grind behind me. I long to pull away from the wall and to kick my legs as if I was swimming in my childhood quarry again with my friends. I can feel my heart hammering inside my chest. In the water my limbs find a harmony. I find a harmony. This is something precious. A father spending time with his children. My oldest has a faraway look in her eyes. She has just started high school and every pang, every hurt that she feels I feel it too. The other two are just babies. They know nothing of the grown up world and I thank God for that. That they will remain children and innocents for a while longer. I wish this with my whole heart but already I feel that I have damaged them irrevocably in some way. I wish I could turn back the past but I can’t. It is out of my hands now. I do not know what will happen in the near future. I know nothing of my failure as a parent to protect them from the dangerous and shark infested waters of this cruel world. I know nothing yet of their own failures.

They’re so innocent. I look upon the magnificent angelic shine on their faces. Those were the days I worshiped the ground their mother walked upon. I climb down the steps at the side of the swimming pool. I feel as if I am an authentic unique. The water gets a hold of my legs. It takes a few minutes for me to gather my bearings. I feel the weight of water around me. My older daughter’s face is sullen. She has not become rebellious yet but I know that one of these fine days she will refuse to pray with us. She will give me the silent treatment and the cold shoulder as the chip that she carries on her shoulder grows and grows. She will no longer be the loving dutiful daughter she once was and tell me all her secrets. She will no longer think of herself as being beautiful and wonderful. She will begin to see herself as less than perfect, less than extraordinary, less than beautiful and wonderful. She will, and it breaks my heart to say this, begin to see herself as flawed. Her mother will become less familiar to her because she will find it therapeutic to spend quality time with her other children who see no wrong in her. And then she stretches out her arms and begins to swim elegant stroke after elegant stroke. She loses herself in the womb ceremony of the water. She finds herself here.

My wife and I have never discussed having prodigies for children but prodigies they are but aren’t all mother’s children prodigies? I have been an educationalist for decades now so I am the expert. I know what I am talking about. I have met many gifted children who have had no one sadly to believe in them and so they have been lost through the system and the establishment. These gifted children have had no platform and so they have in return become delinquent and criminal. The girls have become shop assistants and lovers and the young men work at menial labour toughening themselves against the injustices of the world that they find themselves in. They get married too early. They have those kids too early and sometimes they become fathers when they are mere children themselves. Their sunny road is not sunny for long and so they turn to alcoholism and the insanity of addiction and sometimes become demagogues yielding violence and brutalising their wives, their children and their families. I have met all of them in my teaching career and I saved those that I could save. I saved those that were in my power to save but unfortunately I could not save every one when their parents themselves are lost too. There were times when I came too late on the scene, on the scenario.

Madness is a hands down bloodied affair. Madness is much more than searching with your whole heart for sobriety from addiction. This time around my stay at Hunterscraig was a few weeks. I sat and listened to my children my muscles tired, aching and sore. Afterwards we would get cool drinks for everyone. Sometimes ice lollies, popsicles, sweets, caramel popcorn and bubble gum. Things that children would enjoy. I would get the morning paper if I had not read it yet at school with my morning tea and sandwiches. Under water the images I had of other people, other people and my children’s reality would appear blurred, unnatural and disturbing. They would all appear surreal, Dadaist, subliminal. The love a father has for his children will make him weak at the knees. It will make him realise his own limitations, his own flaws and his own weaknesses. I will always remember the touch of my first love, that first empty page, those clean lines of that notebook that I filled with scrawl scribbling away, my dogs, my children’s birthday parties, the wards at Hunterscraig. High care, the discreet nature of madness. How ordinary madness could be, how cool it was for the James Deans of the world but not for you and the wuthering heights of it. I thought of Bethlehem a lot. Don’t ask me why. Maybe it was because of the illness, the nature of it. I try not to think of the most disturbing things that I felt and that I saw and that of course happened to me. The sodomy. The rape of a young man. A man who was younger than me and clearly out of his sane mind. He did not realise what was happening around him. I did not try and encourage myself to remember anything when I left the hospital or that posh clinic. I wanted to leave it all behind me. I wanted to embrace the life I had with my wife and three children. I had worked hard for it. I had sweat blood and tears for it. I needed to do the right thing by my wife. She had stood by me so now it was all up to me to stand by her. Rituals are intensely felt especially religious rituals.

And when I want to calm the anxiety that rises again and again like sweet waves with those jagged little pharmaceuticals this is how I remember Helen Martins. The Magi and the Owl House; their tethers tug like flame at my heartstrings and I wonder about her wounds, her coy magical healing, did she ever prepare a delicious, warm cake for her friend, that social worker that Fugard spoke so highly of. What stalked her for so long; a lifetime and then she had to go and die still so young, fighting fit? Oh, suicide is a forlorn, lonely way to go. Don’t do it, I would have said and she would have looked at me. Our eyes, I imagined would have connected the way the white sunlight connects with the angles and corners of shadows of furniture, against the wall, against the panes, against panels and cupboards, on summertime afternoons and then I would have understood her motives, the intention behind it all, the mystery, the spell that ‘it’, suicide, had cast over her, her life’s work and as I wander through her house I can feel her presence. Her perfect presence. She was that most perfect thing. She was that most perfect artist. I don’t think her unstable. She doesn’t haunt me, my waking thoughts as much as her body of magnificent work, her ‘art’ does; if I can call it that. Writers write, poets lose themselves in translation, philosophers who pose as academics during the day intellectualise debate over wine and sushi until the early hours of the morning. When did she know her jig was up, that her time had come to bid this cruel world adieu in the worst possible way? Who found her with her insides eaten away? I read Fugard’s The Road to Mecca. I was jealous. Jealousy and cowardice are in the sticky blood of every writer and it simply does not boil away to a faint, hot zone of grieving nothingness, fumbling bits and pieces like crushed autumn leaves dead in the centre of the flushed palm of your hand. Helen’s Mecca cast its own spell on me. To me it felt magical. A love spell launched into the language of the pathways of a warring fraction of nerves, anxious to please like a child with the limbs, eyes, soft, sweet-smelling tufts of hair and a smile of a doll’s features and yet, a spell that was blank up front, to take comfort in that blankness as if it was purified like a chalice of Communion wine and it was also a spell that spelled, ‘be faithful as a servant of God, a man of the cloth’. So what if I am not the Doctor. So what if I am not the pharmacist. I am in a ward of crazy thirsting for sobriety. He, Fugard, seemed to craft the impossible in a way that did justice to Helen, the insecure, little, belittled bird afraid of the outside world; Helen, the Outsider in a way I knew I could never because I did not get the ‘hook’, the ‘bait’ but fishing for information, our keen sense, our powers of observation of human behaviour is what writers and poets know best as we drink our coffee, brew pots of tea, grow a hunched back bent over our ancient computer. How did she, Helen who was not so insecure after all, build that wall around her? How did she approach each subject, each project; as an assignment? Did she miss the feeling of the warmth in her bedroom of another human being? The company of her dead husband, their daily rituals filled with breakfasts, hot, buttered toasts, meals that came out of cans, processed foods that could easily be heated up and eaten with bread like pilchards or sardines. They would probably have imbibed hot drinks during the day; warm milk at bedtime, lukewarm tea when it was called for, the bitter taste of coffee with grounds at the bottom of the cup in the morning. I think she had an inkling she would live on even in death and in her gift that she left to the world, was the method in her madness. Colour Me In. Colour in those apparitions. Did these apparitions that came to life see her as a mystic; a prophetess bound for crucifixion and resurrection, with her own shroud of Turin, God forbid, did they come to life under her splayed fingertips, come to her from above, heaven-sent, as natural as night and day? Were they angelic utterances whispered in her ear while she slumbered, as she turned in her sleep, twisting the sheets between her legs until finally she dreamed until daybreak or were they the of hallucinations induced by the isolated landscape, the barren countryside which surrounded her, the wilderness of her antisocial behaviour of her own making, induced by the mind of a woman slowly going mad, losing common sense, lacking that quintessential backbone of what made the English, the liberal-minded, so organised in their group or sporting activities like tennis for example, cricket or high tea; activities that required teams and cliques, so formal even in their games, proud of their progeny that followed in their footsteps, productive in the world, a world of their own making that was to a certain extent selfish, self-absorbed, not welcoming and friendly to people they considered to be not a fit partner in their climate; so genteel were they and conservative in their broad outlook on life. When I read of how people take their lives into their own hands I wonder what will happen, if there will ever be any substantial record of proof of their life here on earth. In the end, does it really matter to them, I question, yes, perhaps I judge their actions harshly and too quickly but to me it does matter because I was brought up that way; to believe that there is something holy and godlike about your spirit, your soul, your physical and emotional body and to take what does not belong wholeheartedly to you is stealing and there is nothing pretty about being caught after the act. If only, I imagine people who stumble across, infiltrate the place where the deceased lays, the body arranged in death, find the fragile creature as if taking a nap, resting, face composed, still, nothing amiss except the silence in the room where the unfortunate act of defiance, of quiet desperation had taken place without anyone’s knowledge. You learn and you live to surrender. You learn to let go of the past and live. If only, I had come sooner, not said this, said that in a moment when all my thoughts were focussed perfectly, perhaps if I had acted swiftly but depression is both mean-spirited and long-suffering and there is no escape from that if it is passed down from generation to generation, inherent in the highly feminine woman prone to emotional outbursts, hysterics, tantrums, panic attacks, melancholy, mania, self-medication with painkillers and potions brewed with herbs and the effeminate man. Most people live in altered states of minds when something traumatic has happened to them. Most people think that therapy can help them with this. Sitting down face-to-face with someone who has studied the maladies of the mind for years and years they bare the deepest, darkest secrets of their soul and then leave, feeling relieved, as if they have just done something noble. They think they will find the answers their soul is seeking once a week ongoing sometimes for several years or for their natural life. They find someone who they feel is suitable, someone motherly, fatherly or someone young who reminds them of a loved one, someone they lost or who even reminds them of their own children or a substitute for the absent parent from their childhood and adolescence and young adult life. But I was really writing this about Helen Martins and for her, in defence of her and of the life she lived. Some people just can’t help making waves and the more flawed they are, the more they can’t stop making waves. Perhaps she found the answers she was looking for, the elegant solutions she craved like scientists or mathematicians craved in their own work, in her art, her sculptures, her friendship. I wanted to make sense of her thinking. What was it, inside her head that was making her tick insatiably, behind her eyes that was making her see, what exactly was her fruitful, the blooming flowers of her subconscious telling her to do, willing her to do consciously, conscientiously, consistently, efficiently and at a time unbeknownst to the world at large while she was still alive. In death, she has survived it all that she couldn’t in life and yet she is still remembered as a woman made of skin and bone; a bone-woman, shapeless, caught in a thoroughfare like kittens to be drowned in a bag; her features like a sandscape, opening and shutting, through which seawater spills. Martyrs are made of this. And whenever I am troubled my thoughts turn to Gethsemane and whatever was deathly illumined there. I lived in a brutalised society when I was a child. I witnessed my mother and my father arguing back and forth sometimes, back and forth relentlessly. I think of my own violent alertness when it came to anything cultural, knowledgeable and educational. It is both an explosion and a stagnation. The church. This dream world at large that is both poetry-flecked. How my golden flesh and the notebook from my heart that rhythm vibrates and resonates and I want to say to God. The living God that I worship and can find no wrong with. I want to say to this angelic host that he is my earth, my stone and rain and that he is most of all is my Sappho. He is the frame of my spirit. And of course all the tenderness of the natural world. Madness is just another sickness that will make you tremble. That will make you weep Remember this. That there will never be anything extraordinary about that. I don’t need to love or be loved in return As much as I need to swim towards the light. Towards the illusion that is both honesty and hostility keeping the dog on the leash as he discovers the minutia in the essences of humanity. Children playing in the child’s world in childhood dirt. The gardener planting, soil erosion, the fields, the roses and the altered states of mind that keeps humanity under wraps. For is not the church not another country? Far and away beautiful and lovely. A bride holding a book. The pages majestic. The pages smelling of roses. And together we will discover why humanity is important to humanity? Why is poetry needed? By poets and humanity alike? And night I make tea or my daughter and we escape to the sitting room. I wonder at the bittersweet oranges we use to make holes in when we were children and suck the juice out of them. Why skin and hair? The tapestry of flesh. I need trees and leaves Grass and the seasons. Precious mountains and wild life with all their simple orchestrated movements. The unmistaken frame and rapture of it all. There’s beauty in everything in the simple ceremony of pouring tea. Drinking it primitively. The sunrise is in the image of a woman. Her femininity. What would we call that muscle? Would we call those wings lungs? A well of tidiness. Springing up relentlessly. There’s blood in the old life. Blood in the new one. Prospering breath after breath. So empires are built. The crown of laughter Poetry and studying the poem’s death underneath the surface of it all. Whatever is in the nature of praying meditatively and of discovering happiness behind the aloof façade of illness and mental sickness? Sickening creative ritual and impulse is where I live now. I live yonder. I could not choose words. Because I did not have it within me to possess me. I only had everything that glistened. When will this impulse end? I did not call for it. I did not want to possess it. Although I know now that it wanted to possess me infinitely. The only response that I had was to shed tears, was for my physical body to be wracked with sobs and with every sob and with every story a light would shine on this illness. I needed hysteria. I don’t know why. I just know this. That I needed it. And then I found a leap of faith. The beginnings of a leap of faith. And I turned towards the face of God. I found honour and privilege there. And in the whine of language I found something else. Writing soothed my soul like nothing else did. Writing calmed the storms with black clouds that still had those patterns of silver linings within my heart. Hysteria is fashionable. Do you know how fashionable it is? Grief is fashionable too. Grief for your old life and your old ways of thinking. I am still here. I am a father and a grandfather. I am no longer a son. I have to fight. I have to fight this mental sickness. And that is why I have to fight because I am loved and because I love and because I am surrounded by the face of love. Illness will never dwindle in my life. It will always have its own turning point. It will always have its own pawns and revolutionaries. I know I need to make adjustments to my character and my personality. To cope, to live, to rejoice jubilantly that after all of this with my heroic friends that have passed on to the hereafter, my friends who have crossed over that I am still here. It is night time. It is night land in this posh clinic at the end of the world. I of course only think that it is at the end of the world. I cannot fall sleep. I have been here for weeks now. My children are put to bed at night by my wife. I cannot know of course what she is thinking, feeling and dreaming. I only know that perhaps she carries all the burdens of the world on her shoulders tonight. I love her. God knows how I love her. But I don’t quite know how she loves me. She does not know yet how to let go of me. She does not yet know how to surrender me to the fabric of time and the tapestry of the universe. I do. I do. I do. But we have taken vows in a church in front of our family and all of our friends. All of those unified lethal elements. It is cold. It is a winter’s night. I drink a glass of water and wonder what it is made of. I think of the Periodic Table. Teaching it to a classroom filled with misfits who have no idea of their own genius and potential. Once upon a time before I was a principal of a school I was an inexperienced chain-smoking manic depressive teacher. I didn’t think then that I had it in me to be a principal of a school. I didn’t think I had it in me to be a leader but I became one in the end and was it because of everything I experienced or in spite of those challenges. In spite of those obstacles that turned out to be opportunities in disguise throughout everything. I don’t know. All I have now are conversations that I have with my daughter Abigail to keep me sane, from the wreck that is my ego, the illusion of the man and his illness.

Let silence speak for itself like a birthday party (a series of poetry)

This daughter has grit
And brick walls and all
A solitary moon
In all her feverish anticipation
Waiting upon the machine
And those ancestors.
Why do I suffer in relationships?
There’s a darkness within me
There’s a darkness within you
I don’t take kindly to your jokes
Nor the endless possibility
In your voice and the masterpiece

That is your world
Your splintered home
At the end of the world
Let silence speak for itself like a birthday
Grief is only a warning. Denial too.
I need to find out why the brightness dies
And the flowers heads. Every one.
These winter branches are mine
The anniversary of this winter
Is also mine. My mute grief
Over every black leaf is mine
We have captured our lungs for eternity

I need to see you in a photograph
I need to see you painted
In oils and watercolours
There’s the existence of faith
And pure hope as I take you in my arms
To have and to hold
From this day forward
Jubilant is the trumpet and saxophone
All their rituals have logic
This landscape was fashioned by a gardener
I stand mute at the edge of the lake
The gorgeous lake’s mouth

Is full of jewelled water
Wind drifts like driftwood
The weight of water is inescapable
What is human? This stain
Is human. What is beautiful?
Eyes and this ordinary madness.
What captures the light?
Klimt. Is it injustice? Sickness?
The right and the wronged?
There’s too much earth and world
In the desire that we have for each other
This letter is meant out of love.

The lover of Jane Eyre and the wild Sargasso Sea

Come with me to this wide open place
This place of husband and wife, companions
This known yet unknown place of wonder
There is still a distance from the rest
Of the planets, the turning moon and sun
The tides of the ocean, the Pacific and Indian
Which is where we’ll keep on meeting
When there is a scarcity of the faces of love
Reach deep within yourself and look inside your heart
For all the assumptions that are lying there
In wait for you drenched in circumspection
For child are you not a warrior made in perfection?
The laws of suffering are not meant for you
It is not the place for you. Your childhood
Filled you with dignity and hope will not empower
You but also uplift you. You with your mind
Are meant for a beautiful life filled with passion
And many dappled things such as the poetry
Of language of the wreck at the end of the world
The gracious lady that is the ship wreck and light house
Waves may have called to you like they did to that ship
For you are not just imagined. You are a myriad of things.
All the pretty horses on the prairies
I know what I have to be delivered from
It is silence, the despair of silence, the bleak
Landscape of the rural post-apartheid countryside
But I need the fragrant air that is vital, fresh
My bones need to acquire it – that certain pleasure
My lungs need to be filled with more than grace
I am in need of wings and a rosary
You are reduced to be being a thing that is worshiped
Put on a pedestal or put on a throne wearing a crown
Once you were that sought after
You were the vision that we have of ourselves
Enough to transform and transfigure our souls
Winters will be deposited here long after
We have summered here in the hot zone of this climate
You are the filthy lover of this dream I have of you
You are the dreamer and the exotic perfumed one
You are my cure for me to be purified and my tonic
How I long for your arms and for your warm embrace
You are my extraordinary emergency service
Bright, vivid, vivacious and signalling red
War is my country but then again so are you
My Paris, my Hemingway, my moveable feast.