Phantom Forest

Ghosts? Yes I know of ghosts. I know that there are various sorts of them, from poltergeists to vengeful spirits and of course, phantoms. Poltergeists like to get up to all sorts of mischief and are in fact very common. I know of many a person who has fallen for the deceitful tricks of poltergeists. Take Lenny Kleinbooi for example. Lenny had suffered from asthma his whole life and as such, he always carried a pump with him. When he was at home, the pump had a place on the bottom shelf above the kitchen sink. Then one day when Lenny fell into asthma induced breathing fit, he found that his pump was gone. Fortunately for him he was able to stumble his way outside and was seen by a concerned neighbour who then took him to hospital. Later, Lenny’s pump was found in the fruit bowl on the dining room table underneath a bunch of bananas. A group of us deduced that such a shrewd hiding place could only be the work of a poltergeist as Lenny had a very good memory and organised manner about him. That was not the only occasion that Lenny had found himself the victim of a Poltergeist’s prank. He had left home one morning to go into town only to come back later and find to his horror that his house was burning down. It was found later that the gas stove had been turned on sometime that morning and a candle had been lit and had fallen over onto the stove, igniting the gas and starting a fire in the kitchen which then spread throughout the house. The chief investigator for the insurance company deemed it to be a deliberate case of starting a fire and was ruled to be arson and so the insurance would not pay out until the culprit could be apprehended. Many people thought that it was Lenny himself who had started the blaze so as to claim the insurance money and take an overseas holiday to Malta, but I knew that it could only have been a poltergeist and a poltergeist being what it was could not be apprehended and tried for his crimes. Thus, Lenny had to move into low budget accommodation downtown. That was before they discovered that he had Alzheimer’s, otherwise Lenny’s attorney could have claimed that, due to his condition, Lenny had been unable to find the light switch that morning and had to light a candle to see what he was doing when making his breakfast. He then could have further claimed that, again due to Lenny’s condition, he simply forgot to both turn off the stove and put out the candle next to it. Had such knowledge been available, Lenny could have bluffed his way through and need not have made mention of any poltergeist in the process. Partly due to his condition and partly due to the poltergeist constantly stalking him, Lenny passed away a few months later. A few days after that however, the chief inspector in the arson case died of a heart attack while munching on a boerewors roll. This brings up the next type of ghost: The vengeful spirit. The coroner put the inspector’s death down to poor diet and failing health but I knew that it was really an act of retribution exacted by the vengeful soul of Lenny Kleinbooi. Such was plain.

So you see where poltergeists enjoy committing mischievous deeds, vengeful spirits carry out acts of revenge and retribution. Now we look at the last kind of ghost: Phantoms. What makes phantoms so mysteriously different from the rest is that one simply cannot tell when they are there and when they are not. It is easy to tell when one’s car keys have been misplaced that a poltergeist is about or that when one is met with series of misfortunes that the vengeful spirit of one’s old mathematics teacher is paying one back for every time one fell asleep in his class, but with phantoms it is more difficult. As I have said, it is difficult to tell when one in fact is in the presence of a phantom as they take great care to conceal themselves when they are in the vicinity. I have had experiences in which I have been sitting in the living room and felt a sudden chill come over my shoulders. I would spring up and spin around hoping to observe some sort of paranormal phenomena but as I have said Phantoms are difficult to see, especially when invisible as they often are. The most that I would observe is that I had left the kitchen window open. The distinction between a phantom and an evening draught is also a difficult one to draw, but one who has ever encountered a phantom may be able to tell you the difference. I am one such person, having first encountered such a spectre in my naïve and simple youth before I believed in such things. A long time ago it was, but the memory is no less clear now than it was back when it happened all those years ago.

It was late one spring afternoon that myself and some friends of my youth set off on a camping trip to the place known as Phantom Forest. “Why is it called Phantom Forest?” asked Arnold Aldridge, the new boy in town. “Because” answered Jimmy Jones while taking a moment to take a bite out of a green apple “there are phantoms living in there.” Joseph Mdaka and I sniggered as he walked behind them but Arnold nodded with wide eyes as if this were some profound revelation. “What’s the matter Arnie?” Joseph goaded, “Are you scared?” Arnold immediately puffed out his chest in indignation and vigorously shook his head. “No, no, no. Scared? Definitely not!” We all chuckled again. As the new boy in town, it was our job to initiate Arnie by taking him into the heart of Phantom Forest, waiting until darkness fell and then getting him to tell us the spookiest story that he could. Following that, one of us would put out the fire and then we would all silently step away from the campsite in the dark, leaving Arnie alone to fear for his life. The purpose of this scare tactic is to test the mettle of the new boy and see if his character is worthy enough to join our crew. Even if the poor guy was scared stiff we would still welcome him in. We had all gone through this rite of passage and tonight it was Arnie’s turn. We had crossed the White Bridge and taken the right turn off of the main road. We now followed the dirt road with the estuary on our right, shimmering gold as the setting sun shone upon it. It was warm and the late day had a docile almost lazy feel to it. The four of us continued along the road for about another quarter of an hour before Joseph pointed to the hidden path leading off of the road. We stepped off the sand and gravel and onto the cooler, softer dirt of the path leading into the undergrowth. The shade provided a cooling sensation and the sweat on my back began turning icy, which was pleasant at first but as always it inevitably became too cold for one’s liking. “How far into the woods are we going?” Arnie somewhat nervously asked. “You’ll see.” was Jimmy’s simple reply.
The undergrowth was thick but it was not so thick that we could not see that the sun had almost set. It was dark in the forest, dark enough to warrant taking out and turning on our torches to illuminate the path before us. We had been walking for quite some time before Arnie spoke again. “How much farther?”
“Five minutes or so.”
About that amount of time later Jimmy halted causing the rest of us to stop as well. He slowly shone the light from his torch around him in a complete circle to observe the surroundings then turned to us and proclaimed: “We’re here” and abruptly dropped his pack and knelt down to begin setting up. The rest of us followed suit and together we set about establishing our base for the night. We had two tents between the four of us and one sleeping bag each. Joseph and Arnie took charge of starting the fire and Jimmy and I busied ourselves with erecting the tents. It did not take a considerable amount of time nor effort and soon we were all camped around the fire, joking about habits of our teachers and coaches while passing around a bottle of brandy that Jimmy had nicked from his old man’s cupboard. “Hey Jimmy bru,” I piped up, wincing after having taken a swig myself, “won’t your pa have your balls for breakfast for pinching his dop?” He just sniggered as the bottle came his way before saying “Nah, trust me bru, man is drunk enough when he comes home to worry about what’s not in his cupboard. Besides, my ma gets really pissed at him whenever he comes home with booze; he’s actually forbidden to have it. If he ever realises that the shit’s missing, he’ll just think that she threw it out.” We all chuckled at this and continued with the comments and wisecracks, this time about each other’s parents and the misadventures many of them had had in the past. Joseph recounted an absolute gem about a time when his mom drove into the shallows of the estuary while she was inebriated. She was able to get help and get her car lifted out of the waters and still get home before sunrise. She never told Joseph’s pa and he would only find out several years later when by freak chance he happened to be sitting next to a man who had been there on the night of the occurrence while he was recounting the story to a friend. We had a good laugh at that one. Arnie had been rather quiet which was to be expected given that he was new in town and did not know anyone too well. It was alright though as his time to speak was soon to come. After a period in which our laughter and conversation had died down, Jimmy called on Arnie. “Arnie, now the time has come for you to prove your worth to us.” There was a nervous yet determined look in Arnie’s eyes, he was nervous, yes, but refused to be intimidated. “You have to tell us,” Jimmy continued, “one scary story, the scariest that you can come up with and then the three of us,” he indicated to himself, Joseph and myself, “will judge whether or not you are worthy to join our crew.” The three of us chuckled but Arnie stayed silent. “So,” Jimmy went on, “without any further crap, let’s hear what you have to tell.” He was silent for a few moments and was staring at the fire in front of him, probably running whatever story he had over in his head in order to ensure for an immaculate delivery. Then he lifted his head, looked at each one of us in turn and began. “Okay, let me tell you the story of Tabitha Swindley and her family.” There were still a few quietened sniggers to be heard from the rest of us. Arnie was not to be perturbed and commenced with his tale. “Tabitha, her husband and their two children lived in a cosy cottage overlooking the bay, right next to the beach. They lived happily together and often went out onto the beach to go swimming and collect shells and sorts in the sand and in the rock pools. This was routine for them pretty much every day after the children had come home from school. The two children and their mother, Tabitha, would go to the beach while their father would usually read the paper, joining them only about once every week. This was almost an integral ritual of sorts for the family and always ended happily with the three, or sometimes four of them going home to make supper. Then it happened on one Friday afternoon, something terrible. It seemed a day like any other where everything was as ordinary as it could be, with the children playing on the rocks by the pools by Castle Rock and Tabitha watching them from the beach. Her sights were usually fixed upon her little ones and their antics but on this day it was different. It is said that the ocean has a way of sometimes playing tricks with one’s mind and on this day it had apparently done so with Tabitha. Rather than keeping her eyes on the children, her gaze had been captured by the sea, causing her to stare out towards the horizon. It was while she was in this mesmerised state that a rogue wave had snuck up without anyone noticing and swept the daughter, Alicia was her name, off of the rock on which she was stepping. Tabitha saw this out of the corner of her eye and it was enough to break the spell of the ocean and prompted her to scream for her daughter and run towards the spot where she had been taken. She tore over the rocks and stones and was there in a flash but it was still too late. The back-wash as I hear is strong up at Brenton and there was no sign of Alicia at all. In the ensuing hours search parties were dispatched and boats and helicopters went out to find any sign of the poor little girl but to no avail. She was lost.” There was no hint of laughter amongst any of us now and we listened intently to the story which Arnie was telling us. “The father, John as he was called, took the loss hard and felt it difficult to forgive Tabitha for her negligence and so too did Tabitha struggle to forgive herself but it was for different reasons that neither of them felt that forgiveness was forthcoming. In John’s case it was anger and in Tabitha’s it was guilt, something which burned one’s insides greater than anger of any sort ever could. They both struggled immensely with the loss, Tabitha probably more so. Such was her guilt that one night John awoke from an uneasy sleep to find that he was alone in bed. He called for his wife but to no answer. He walked into the living room and saw that the front door had been left open. He then called for her again outside but still no reply came. He then grabbed a torch from his cupboard, checked on his remaining child; the son named Harry, and then went outside to search for his wife. Despite the number of times that he called there came no response and he could see her nowhere either. After having made his way onto the beach he was able to make out what vaguely resembled a fresh set of footprints. It was a difficult task to spot such in the sand, especially in places where many had walked during the day but John had lived by the sea all his life and could tell fresh prints from older ones. He followed the trail from the soft sand until it reached the harder, moistened sand which had been touched by the waves and saw that the trail led directly into the breakers. She had simply,” he paused for a moment “walked into the sea.” He stayed quiet for a while after this, joining us in silence. What had intrigued me the most was not his story, impressive though it was, but rather his knowledge of the beachfront and the ways of the ocean considering the short amount of time he had been here.
Joseph then stirred. “What happened to her?” he asked.
“She was taken by the sea.” Arnie said simply. “Some think that she had been driven to madness and walked into the ocean to search for her missing child and retrieve her from its treacherous depths but it would simply claim her as well, or so they thought…” I interjected at this point.
“What do you mean by ‘or so they thought?’”
“What I mean is that that is not where the story ends.” The rest of us shifted in excited yet slightly uncomfortable anticipation. I thought to myself that surely Joseph had to make a move to put out the fire now so that we could slip away and give Arnie the scare but he seemed transfixed by the story and was as eager to hear the end of it as Arnie was to tell it. He went on, “A few days after his wife had gone missing a distraught John, who had begun to drink himself to death following the loss of two of his closest family members, awoke on the living room couch after having passed out from too much brandy to see that once again the front door was open and leading from and to the open door across the room were what appeared to be two sets of wet footprints. He jumped up to follow the first trail which led into Harry’s room and was shocked to see that Harry’s bed was empty and there was no sign of him at all. John then ran out of the front door and in a drunken haze, he stumbled down to the beach. There was no telling what he saw next. Some will say that we was simply drunk and was hallucinating but others believe that what he saw scared him to death, for…” and at that moment an eerie and chilly gust of wind was suddenly conjured from nothing and possessed such force that it extinguished the fire in a pinch. “Perfect timing” I thought to myself and slowly crept away on my hands and knees out of the clearing and into the bushes. “Jeez, where’d that come from ey?” I heard Arnie say, but to no answer from the rest of us. Although it was dark, it was a task which myself, Jimmy and Joseph had performed on numerous occasions and as such we knew exactly where to tread and where to find each other. “Guys?” Arnie called out with a slightly worried tone in his voice. After about a minute and thirty metres crawl out of the campsite, the three of us found each other. “What you think hey?” Jimmy whispered.
“Ja, it was good.” I said. “But in any case, regardless of the story, he was in from the moment he agreed to come along. Now let’s get to seeing what he’s really made of.” Arnie’s inquiries as to our whereabouts were becoming more frantic now. “Seriously okes, this is not funny.” We all quietly chuckled. “Good job with the fire by the way Joe, perfect work.” I said. Joseph stayed silent for a moment and then said in a somewhat confused voice, “I thought that was you.” Now I was a little confused myself and turned to Jimmy. “Jimmy?”
“Random gust of wind?” he said worriedly. Then we heard the scream. It was enough to curdle the blood and root all of us to the spot as if we had become trees of the forest ourselves. It took a moment before any of us were able to uproot ourselves and run through the bushes to the campsite to see if he was alright. Upon immediate inspection it was found that he was nowhere to be seen. We had all become panic stricken. What was it that extinguished the fire? What had caused Arnie to scream so terribly? And most importantly, where was he now? “Did anyone see anything that could have put the fire out?” I asked in an exasperated breath, “That could be what scared him.”
“I saw nothing. Nothing at all” said Joseph. And with that, Jimmy thought of the only plausible explanation that there was to be had. “Phantoms.” he said aloud, dreading his own words. I was sceptical. “Naai man, phantoms don’t exist. They’re make-believe, like the Easter bunny.”
“They’re not make-believe, you just can’t see them!” He said.
“If you can’t see it, it’s not there!”
“So are you saying that there is no such thing as air? Or the Holy Spirit for that matter.”
“That’s different!”
“The Holy Spirit, we know exists because it says so in the bible, air we know exists because of science.”
“Wait, is the Holy Spirit a phantom?” asked Joseph.
“No Joe,” I said, “The Holy Spirit is a spirit.” Joseph seemed satisfied with his answer but Jimmy was not convinced. “What’s the difference?” he said. I thought for a while and then replied, “Phantoms haunt people while the Holy Spirit offers only salvation.”
“Maybe the Holy Spirit came to offer you salvation Jimmy, by coming to get you to repent for stealing your pa’s brandy.” said Joseph.
“Yes, but he mistook poor Arnie for you, Jimmy, and he must have been so overcome by the glory that he could only scream in disbelief.” My words had reminded us of the real problem we faced, that Arnie was still missing. “Yes, speaking of Arnie, we should go look for him.” Joseph said simply. We all nodded and set off with our torches to try to find our missing comrade.
In spite of what must have been about an hour of walking through the undergrowth in the dark calling out his name, we were unsuccessful and eventually decided that it was a futile search in the dark and that it would be better to resume the search in the morning and that we need not worry about him too much as he would be in the presence of the Holy Spirit. Jimmy still disagreed that it was the Holy Spirit as such an entity would not have made such a mistake as confusing Arnie for himself. Joseph and I agreed that should such be the case, it must be a phantom in whose presence Arnie now finds himself and we should thus resume the search immediately so as to rescue him from further harm. At this suggestion, Jimmy suddenly agreed that it must have been the Holy Spirit, that he was safe and that we should go to bed. He then promptly fell asleep and was followed into dreamland by Joseph and myself shortly after.

We recommenced with our search immediately upon waking and could not have been walking for any more than a minute when we came across our previously absent friend lying down in a foetal position at the base of a large tree. He was awake when we found him, unless of course he had taught himself to sleep with his eyes wide open as if he had seen a ghost, which we all agreed that he probably had or at least felt its presence since certain types of ghosts cannot be seen. We got him up and walking after a few prods and picks at him and we walked back to camp to pack up. We had hoped that by telling him that he was now officially part of our crew he would cheer up a little but he still said nothing and would maintain his silence throughout the entire journey home. We were worried about poor Arnie for a few days afterwards, especially when we did not see him at school on Monday but as it turned out, he had left town with his father who was apparently a diplomat and spent most of his time moving from town to town. But we knew that the reason for him leaving probably had something to do with our misadventure in Phantom Forest. Looking back at the manner in which he behaved after that night, the remaining three of us deduced that it in all likelihood had not been the Holy Spirit that visited us but something far more sinister and what it had said or done to Arnie was something of which we would never know anything other than it was probably less than pleasant. It is funny how such things happen to the most unlikely of candidates and why but regardless of who was plagued by ghosts of whatever sort, myself, Jimmy and Joseph saw it fit to never tread upon the earth of Phantom Forest again.

Capture and Release

A flash of red caught Thomas Gene’s eye. For a brief moment he thought he was delusional. The closer his car got,the more bewildered he became. Red wellington boots. Green stockings. A toothy smile. A thumbs down,the universal sign for ‘hitchhiker’.

Looking back,he would have liked to believe that he stopped because of the rain,but he knew that a large part of him stopped out of intrigueness and a vague wonder of whether or not she was color blind.

She slid into the car with a sigh of relief,wiping away the dark hair from her pale face. She looked up at Thomas and he soon realized that her lips were moving.

Shaking himself out of his reverie,he cleared his throat.”Pardon?” “I said thanks a million for stopping,I’ve been standing there for over an hour. I know the colors are off putting but they don’t exactly say cat skinner “she giggled softly.

He smiled weakly and decided to concentrate on driving. “I’m Levi” she said quietly. She didn’t mention her last name and Thomas did not ask.

“So where are you off to?” Thomas glanced at her sideways and saw her shift uncomfortable in her seat. “Oh you know,here and there,just wondering about”. His eyebrows creased,you don’t wonder about in the middle of a highway during a storm.

“I’ll be fine at the next gas station” Levi blurted out abruptly and the rest of the drive continue in silence.

Soon enough they came to a gas station and Levi stepped out,mumbling an untangible thank you and disappeared around the corner. Thomas sat for a minute,started his car and went around the very same corner.

He looked left and right,trying to spot her and suddenly there she was. Red wellington boots. Green stockings. A toothy smile.

Levi stood talking to a scrawny man whose only contribution to the conversation was a few curt nods. A warm handshake was exchanged and they went their separate ways.

She looked over her shoulder and spotted Thomas sitting behind the wheel of the car and fled,but not before he could see the look of horror in her eyes.

He ran after her,twisting and turning in the slippery streets and finally into a dark alley. He could see her shadow lingering in the corner. A dead end. Thomas approached her slowly and heard a whimper of fear escape her sweet lips.

“When did you start dealing?” Echoed his voice in the isolated alley. He flinched,surprised at the harshness in his voice.

Levi shook her head. “Don’t lie to me!” He grabbed her jacket and felt it rip. Several packets of white powder scattered across the grimy floor.

Taking a deep breath,Thomas looked into her huge eyes. “You know what this means don’t you?” He asked her. For a second he thought she was going to flee again but then realized she was surrendering. There was no more fight in her.

Thomas gently turned her around,bringing her hands behind her back. He heard himself reading Levi her rights.

The rest seemed like an out of body experience. Walking back to his car. The fingerprinting. The statement taking. She looked so small surrounded by large grey walls. She transformed into a little ball,rocking back and forth,knowing that there would be no rescue,knowing there would be no savior.

Detective Thomas Gene couldn’t sleep. He knew the system would swallow her up and shuddered to think what would happen to her in prison. Cursing loudly,he leaped up and hurriedly put on his clothes. He knew that his window of opportunity was rapidly closing.

At 3am,Thomas knew the station would be deserted,with only the guards monitoring the inmates. He glanced at his watch. He waited and soon heard familiar voices.

“Its quiet tonight Jay. There’s no trouble here.” Thomas identified the voice of the guard leaving.

“Well that’s good to know,I’m off to get a bite to eat downtown” said Mike the guard that would be taking over.

Soon the voices became distant and Thomas knew it was now or never.

He reached the cells and unlocked one. He helped her to her feet and wiped away the black smudge under her eyes,which were filled with awe and gratitude.

He smiled and gave a nod of acceptance. She walked into the night and he watched,emotions within him running amok.

He took in the sight that was slowly disappearing before him. A toothy smile. Green stockings. Red Wellington Boots.

Munich Sheep in Winter

There’s a woman reading a book in a museum while imagining she should be cleaning house.There it was. The thread of a winter’s bone communicating the royalty of flowering suffering, the dangers of it while I lay sleeping. I awoke as if from a dream. The woman with hair like silk had not left me, not left him, her family. I took to gardening like voodoo, growing spinach like Mozart composed his music. Blood stings like a wasp, dragonflies draw near, so does sleeping, sleeping it off and the articulate words. Stubborn ghost that I just can’t get rid of. I was a woman under a lifetime of dirt, sun and touch where heaven meets earth’s paradise. Never have I seen such poverty in a town of mines, borne of flame, grit, coals, dark light, goals and dreams caught in ears. Such drama. Tender is every burden masked and unmasked, is flesh, the image of Christ and the origins of wedding cake. There it is. Nearly fifteen years ago. The affair. The matters of the heart. The man and a guarded woman, child in her belly, an orchard prospering like a constellation, the Milky Way. I got in the way.

When someone has broken your heart what do you do? You come home, you clean house.

I wanted to know if you still think of me, dream of me, the elements and dimensions of our relationship, with one eye open and the other shut as moonlight and your soul killed me. I try and not think of your cold touch close to my ice heart. Dark blooms as sin suns. Scorched violence so early in the morning is not becoming. My thoughts are becoming darker and darker. Where do people go, where do they come from (swimming with the fishes)? The glare of the brightness of it was like an illness. It is easy to blame the hunt, the red chakra light seeping through the woman’s physical body. It has its own relevance, silence, compulsion from whence it came and its own opinion. It was as sane to me as the day I realised he would not, could not let go of his family’s life. He had white hands. A veteran’s eyes. At night he would open my veins, true blood, spilling it into the lake that covered Canada in my heart, it would hiss like a flap, pressure building into a force of torture, illness.

Women know about abortions in Johannesburg. You can go to a hospital or a private clinic.

Down the winter road came people walking past me more damaged, and serious than I was. I pulled my scarf around my neck tighter, balled my hands into fists in the pockets of my coat. The moon people I called them with stars in their eyes with their celebrity hanger-on style, their exposes that I can’t fathom, nor understand. I detest it in my world, in my reality. I watched a man out of the corner of my eye on the opposite side of the street with his pose. His Hitler moustache. He looked sinister. As sinister as the double life in the history of Germany. I switch off all the lights when I leave the room. Hit the repeat button on classical music. I am mystified by the onion and all of its layers. The thrill of the knife in my hand as if I am going in the for the kill. Its intricate patterns will be no more like the married man who seduced all of me at twenty-two boldly, bravely who found me bright, capable, extraordinary, exceptional, and brilliant. Of course he doesn’t remember tragi-comic me.

In a house filled with books from top to bottom, in layers how can you ever feel wounded?

I never believed in diamonds, furs, the monthly maintenance cheque, finding love after Mr Muirhead, wifedom and children, being a mistress beyond my thirties, religion and church. Men can teach a girl many things outside of the bedroom. They can educate them on grief, sacrifice, manipulation, mean smiles, standing solitude, music, desperation, loneliness, self-help, rejection, the adult game of motherhood’s throne and even though they are barking mad at you their words sound as simple as a tree leaving you to think where do these petals fall.

He taught me primarily, how to cry in the bathroom and that the Immaculate Conception is not theirs. A family is only perfect in a photograph. They’re discreet about sex, romance, death and being dysfunctional. Do the Munich sheep in winter feel the cold as the sheep on farms in post-apartheid South Africa? I only believed in hitting the repeat button to hear the spiritual madness of classical music over and over again. Muirhead taught me that.

For a long time I didn’t feel anything, no love for anything green that grew nimbly.

I dreamed we were perfect but the flesh at my wrists was calling me, the shark teeth of a razor blade. There’s no welcome mat at the door for people here anymore. I am a shell, purified through ritual, through ceremony, sometimes a dazzling thinker, sometimes a child in a fairy tale childhood continued standing on the shore facing the emerald hypomanic Monday ghost of a sea. Jean Rhys dances. She dances her heart out on the stage but she knows it will never be enough to make up for her lost childhood in Dominica. The rolling hills and green feast of valleys ahead of her. Her wounds are not yet evaporated. Disturbingly so they entertain us. Tragedy. Freeze. Closer. That door to childhood is shut forever. And we both believed that love would save us. Tenderness in the dark that would chill us both forever to the bone. He was the enemy. The thief. Women writers. Watch out for them for they flex their muscles sharply, collect their day’s work, creativity and spirits in a warm bath.

Their brains are like crumbs, cuckoo clocks and the think tanks of war poets all inseparable.

They say, ‘I am turning over a new leaf, destination anywhere collaborating with transport, and people.’ They keep time and routine operating with shocking maturity and a brilliant clarity of vision like any great poet, great thinker would. Oh to move without any sense of direction, to think only pure thoughts, of rituals and nothing else but then again there is the mocking, terrifying and informed needle, the doctor in her white lab coat (who exactly is the rat here), the merry bunch of student nurses, the mansion, the doll house, the swimming pool, the library, the teenagers with their liberal mannerisms, romantic eating disorders, tik, marijuana addictions. Alcoholics everyone by the time they turned twenty-one I predicted. This was the next phase of my life. Loss, breathing lessons, physical science for matriculants at twenty-two and tongue. Every day at Tara the air had a curious oppressive ring to it, the texture, the awareness of the sun. I could not function extraordinarily anymore.

I had to manage being silenced, pray at night that the footsteps in the corridor wasn’t a ghost.

North America wooed me although I couldn’t accomplish anything anymore and think straight. My writing room is quite comfortable. The room is quiet and receives a lot of light, the room is bare with just a few essentials. My writing desk which I can’t do without and my bed pushed against the wall. It’s a small space but it is my space. If I want to sleep, I sleep. If I want to read, I read. And I have left the Johannesburg people and the Swazi girls swanning at St. Marks High far behind me. The air was filled with sweetness in Swaziland. Bad memories are bad for you, they’re wasteful, starve you of goodness and intrigue. Good memories give you stories, allure but they’re also quick to ambush you, quick to forget. Mantra, meditation or prayer? He needed to explore the world. I didn’t. He had a collected detachment. Friendship ended and a great suffering began for me. He needed to be the curator of his own museum. The light went out of my eyes, so did the world’s moon, the innocence he touched.

Cry for your children Africa, not me, cry for courage, pray that your sins will be forgiven.

And so my life began with my father and my mother in Port Elizabeth once again at twenty-two with ripe figs and children in a post-apartheid Rainbow Nation African Renaissance kitchen. The fig trees were slowly dying in the backyard. We would go outside my father and myself and stare up at the stars in the polluted sky (we lived on the industrial side of town) as if the stars were divided into districts. The intricate lines on his face did not bother me, every ripple, every wave multiplied. He was still ‘daddy’ made out of the sight of grit, stupid gossip and distraction pulling him in every direction now that his first grandson was born. The sleeper. Ethan the three month old cherub whose name would have been Heath or Ambrose. Babies do not run on electricity. They run on milk feedings not pasta or films that Tarantino directed. And so I began to feel again. I began to feel love again. You can never let go of the past completely because it has made you the person you have become.

There’s the smell of love coming out of our kitchen that hasn’t been there for years.

Love, passion, empathy, it has influenced me in some way, I have been its slave even though I haven’t gone swimming with dolphins yet or gone to Starbucks on Wiltshire Boulevard. This is a family made for eight. This was a family made for five once upon a time and then we were four but now we are eight. Eight is a wonderfully elegant number. Eight plates, eight knives, eight forks, eight glasses. Pots cooking away on the stove, fragrant meat, this house is a home again. And I adored this marriage almost as much as I adored studying history in school. Old shoe. Old shoe. What to do? What to do? Wait for it to dissolve, dissolve, dissolve but then those who live in poverty will have nothing to live for. I recognise them by their old shoes. They drink water like there’s no tomorrow and possibly retch it all out of their system anyway because they’re starved to death, scared to death just thinking about where their next meal is going to come from. And it’s not focaccia, chicken and it’s not spaghetti.

Is the glare of poverty, disillusionment is this a test God, my assignment, my grand purpose?

My sister tells me she stands atop buildings in the Johannesburg Central Business District to take pictures of sunsets over the skyline and the rooftops of other buildings. For a beginner she is not bad at all. While either people dream of London, Thailand, India, North America (Florida and New York), Cancun, Mexico she is ready to book the plane ticket, get a visa and pack her bags. My sister is the wedding photographer. She takes pictures. One in a while she takes a break, talks to someone who has taken an interest in her, her friend calls it ‘love at first sight’. She wants everyone to be paired off, to drink sparkling wine, to compliment her on her dress, to talk about my sister’s speech at the reception at Thorny Bush a self-catering game reserve in the middle of nowhere that the bride’s parent’s own and visit twice a year over weekends but my sister is having none of that. She is friendly. She is always friendly but if she’s not interested she’s not interested.

‘He can’t take his eyes off you.’ The bride says. My sister just rolls her eyes ingloriously.

You see he isn’t the first. My sister wears ivory and rain in her hair. She has golden hands, is light-skinned like my mother (that Germanic, St. Helena blood in her I think) and her palms are a-glitter. I remember how we used to feed the chickens biscuits in my paternal grandmother’s backyard, eat ripe figs, pick as many as we wanted, could carry in our t-shirts. But it was an acquired taste and as children we didn’t very much like the taste of it. It was a strange fruit. The seeds tasted like confetti on my tongue. We would split them in half and almost stare in awe and wonder at them because we had never seen a fruit like this before with a beautiful white flower inside that looked like jasmine. But we ate it in front of her because we loved her. I loved her hands, she had beautiful hair, a fine collection of hats for church, her cooking, and her roast potatoes after church on a Sunday, and the pickings of her Sunday lunch. She loved making soup for us and wholesome nutty homemade bread as she welcomed us from school in the afternoons. She loved watching us eat, couldn’t take her eyes off us as we did.

But now that door is shut to her forever.

Look At Me

I miss you most when I am most alone with my innermost thoughts. When I am walking, perhaps talking to another student at the college. My innermost thoughts are just dreams, waking memories. I turn to look for you and then I chastise myself because you are never there. I turn to look for you hard sometimes in a passing embrace between a couple or perhaps when I see someone who looks like you from afar. A fleeting gesture of romance – passé and after all your hard work that was all that you achieved in the end. The solution was love or what you imagined it to be. Your nose had been caught often in a book. Now when we pass each other we both stare coolly ahead, oblivious to the world at large, to each other’s past impassioned pleas, imagined infidelities and shielded by an impenetrable gaze.

Professor Mahola was startled out of his reverie by a passing student’s greeting.

A simple remainder of what has passed – what is left behind is this: a self-righteous person who is lovelorn, a Prima Donna who aspires to lead both a hermetic life and to be incredulously pious. Lecherous prig, pig, leech. She screeched a thousand, a hundred murderous, damning insults in her head but nothing, nothing can calm, can dull the quandary that she found herself in. He remembered her slipping into something slinky. The negligee felt, soft and cool against his skin as she lay beside him in the bed. The fabric was silky, slinky and smooth. No longer the teen screaming drama queen but the sordid little drama queen. You had the evening perfectly prepared. You had lectured yourself over and over how to catch your professor’s eye and now you had the perfect opportunity to be the elegant hostess.

She watched the daytime dramas after her lectures; talk shows and she taped any show that she missed. When she took her bath at night or stood in the shower she imagined that she could see into and through her body at the democracy of the veins. The past sometimes left fingerprints for future reference.

She was no longer a girl who was demure and docile in the presence of the opposite sex but a woman who was alluring and feminine. Whose walk was sensuous, whose body was curved and talk light hearted, conversation intelligent.

The geometric patterns of light at play on the leaves reminded her of the cufflinks on his sleeve as he prepared to leave to a literary awards ceremony. With a backward glance he would say, “I promise I won’t be back too late.”

Sumaya Naidoo’s upbringing had taught her that discretion was the better part of valour. Professor Mahola, of the English Literature department at the University of Port Elizabeth seemed perfect and she was the partner who seemed less than perfect – flawed. She watched him sleep and wondered what the language of love was; picture perfect or alchemic.

She wondered why she hadn’t noticed his haggardness (which she had mistaken for rugged handsomeness), his dark, black hair, slightly curling and greying at the edges, lean frame, his hubris, turkey neck, his indifference towards what she championed for or whether or not her preference for that evening’s meal was the mundane or for the exotic. He didn’t like lipstick. He dismissed it as hedonistic. A streak of red across her lips always signalled emergency. Kohl-rimmed eyes, perfume, teeth stained yellow, eyes bloodshot the morning after promiscuity. Her mood swings signalled depression and emotional instability.

Perhaps that is why in retrospect he had chosen her out of all the girls in the class. She was intelligent, she did not smoke or drink, frequent bars, nightclubs, and she was attractive but also insecure.

He always disregarded her impertinence, rudeness, cruelty and her standoffishness, arrogance and recklessness as immaturity in class when she aggressively debated. Once they had met in a supermarket aisle and they briefly nodded to each other. He remembered her although then she seemed devoid of sexuality. What she was wearing and wore to class never betrayed her sensuality; her mouth was provocative and sensual. After that meeting they spoke after class, on the telephone, at a film festival and they emailed each other. He had brown eyes, dark hair and he was taller than her. She had always thought that was romantic like Lord Byron – a knight in shining armour. She excelled at fidelity, secrecy, privacy, the ownership of both persuasion and possession and so she thought, guarding her rights against the whispered voices that say, he is married you know and standing up for her self. He was married. He was divorced now. His wife had remarried and moved abroad with their two young sons.

Her arms, her back, the back of her legs and her neck were moth brown like driftwood. She proofread the book he was working on as extra credit. She was his best student. They lived in harmony unlike his married friends, he confided in her and the one friend he had who was separated.

She wondered sometimes if it was appropriate that he told her since some of them worked at the university but then she dismissed it, thinking that he had probably told his male friends about her. Did that make her a mistress, a harlot? When he started talking about his children for the nth time she finally began to ask herself divorce or denial?

There were the ones who really hurt. There were names that belonged in a little black book of secrets, misery, heartbreak, lies and loss.

Sweet talk. Sweet nothings. He runs his fingers up her spine. If this was happiness then on some days it felt as if she had died and gone to heaven.

You have made me so happy, she said but he could not bring himself to say the same words, even though he felt the same. Slowly as he realised before her that day by day they were no longer in sync. They were moving out of reach. He was the first, he realised, in a line, a succession.

Soon she will find him tiresome. Handsome! He scoffed. There is a vacancy and urgency behind her eyes. She was an amalgamation of the woman of his dreams or as close as he could come at this age. Wouldn’t that intimidate anyone? He would hold her hand, charming, old school, old fashioned. Whenever they watched television he reached for her hand and they would sit with their fingers intertwined. Now when she came into the room and took up her seat at the back of the class he realised she was beautiful. Striking. Crikey!

Gone were the baggy clothes, the extra pounds mysteriously disappeared and the dark circles under her eyes. The unsmiling, serious student, articulate and domineering whenever her intelligence materialised. She laughs and embraces people non-discriminately on the campus.

He would notice that others were beginning to notice too – the male students clamoured around her outside of class and the female students – Amazons from another time zone – are attracted to her for different reasons.

She is formidable. Intense. Intensity has been replaced by wisdom, worldly laissez faire sophistication.

He would take charge. End the affair. Say it was for the best. He has his male pride.

In the beginning he made risotto, chicken tetrazzini. Everything was always very fancy, to impress and he was always going out of his way to show off his experience in the kitchen.

First he admonished her and then he reminded her. “Take care of yourself.” She always promised she would. She had subsisted on comfort food, macaroni and cheese, lots of pasta and fattening sauces, greasy pizza, fried chicken, roast chicken, mashed potato, spaghetti, potato salad, cheese (feta and cheddar) and creamy apple pie.

Later that evening he looks taken aback when she puts her arms around his neck and stands on tiptoe, kisses his cheek. He smiles. “What? What? I read a lot. I watch a lot of films. In the bedroom she confesses quietly that it is her first time. Ambitious would sum up her academic career in one word. How could he have missed that on the first day of the new semester as she floated into his class with a slipstream of other students? He had taken her for a dilettante. Everything had come too easy for her.

He is excited by her ideas, her impressions on everything; they debated about everything whether they were in his office working together or in his bedroom. He convinced himself perhaps this time it was different. She was older in more ways than one – than the others – even though she was younger than them and more emotionally mature and grounded. He likes the way she fusses around him to make sure that he is comfortable. She has decorated her own place – a flat where she lives alone – with flair. He approves. He catches her off guard when he kisses her on the mouth. He anticipates reproach but none is forthcoming. He kisses her forehead. He kisses her lips and only then does she withdraw from his embrace. He watches her with intelligence. Her pose, her extroversion that is uncharacteristic of her. He reads her external behaviour and her non-verbal cues like a scientist. She is forward (pretence) and too trusting of his practised and elegant advances but he finds her electrifying.

Her face unsmiling. She looks like a goddess. She is innocent. “How should I wear my hair for class? Up or down? Which do you prefer?” He would prefer down but he is noncommittal even though he can see it is important to her. When she wears her hair down it frames her face. It had been shorter at the beginning of the year like a pixie cut but another boyfriend who she was no longer seeing asked her to grow it back. Later that evening as they lay side by side there is a new desire, a new fire in her eyes. To forego discretion as he had once put it so succinctly one evening would mean that a woman is no better than a common whore.

What do you think inspires home wreckers and misanthropes? Prostitutes bill sex as a means to an end, he continued while he wondering what exactly was he flailing at.

She said nothing in her defence, unsmiling, lips pursed in a moue. She wondered just how quickly she could get rid of him. She had been running and he had been waiting outside her flat in his car for her. Her feet hurt and she was tired. Volunteering had taken up all of her free time and she was thinking of doing a diploma in management the following year but only if she had the spare time. He was jealous, he was cold, he was snivelling and she felt irritated, annoyed even and she felt she had every right to be. This is what men do. Men are weak. When they are uncharitable, malign your character and accuse you of unimaginable sins.

She went into the kitchenette for a glass of water, came back into the sitting room and sat down on the sofa. He was smoking. We were both consenting adults. I think you should leave now. She decided that was what she was going to say and leave it at that. She had enough credits in his class to pass and it was only a few more weeks until the exams and she would leave the campus and find a new place to stay or decide whether or not she wanted to go home for Christmas.

“I am not a monster. It would be very cunning of you to lay a charge of sexual harassment against me. To say that I raped you.” It was his reputation and tenure at stake here so he had to cover all his bases.

He had expected histrionics. Perhaps he should not have come at all. Her demeanour had frightened him when he left. Her face was blank. What people don’t understand, she said time and time over and over again to herself, misanthropes are incapable of love. She was strong and he was weak. Perhaps all men who were brilliant, who were educated, cultured at some indecipherable turning point in their lives were misogynists.

If he had hurt her, it didn’t mean she would love him any less. Like all the rest he would go unequivocally into her little black book. Silly men! Men like boys, women like girls. Sometimes she would cry herself to sleep when she watched orphans, refugee camps on television, children who were soldiers in war-torn African countries or the violent backlash between activists and the police in protest marches across the globe.

The next day his beautiful, independent and wise protégé was in class. She was alone in the world. She didn’t have anyone. The protagonist in the story she had written was estranged from her family because she had a mental illness. He tried to catch her eye and to imagine what she was thinking or what she was feeling. He felt like kicking himself. A glimpse was all he was longing for. But not once as he read the story she had written aloud to the class did she look up. When the bell rang, she was the first out the door.

So it went on for the rest of the term. He was embarrassed and mortified at what he had said and alluded to in a moment of supreme weakness.

He saw her at the track one day and watched her from afar as she stretched her limbs, jogged on the spot, ran up and down the bleachers. He noticed that she looked thinner. Her face haggard and her face looked tired; as if she was carried the weight of the world or the wars of the world on her shoulders. She sat down and took a gulp of what he presumes to be a sports drink. Those things were filled with electrolytes so he supposed they were good for her. She hunched over to tie what he assumed was her lace but then he noticed that her shoulders were trembling. She was crying. Tears, perspiration, moisture blended together.

She wiped her tears away with her sleeve and he realised she was just a child. Everything had been pretence. She acted older, she assuaged his insecurities about his teaching abilities, she was gifted, talented and that went without saying. She assumed responsibility when she didn’t have to. What he remembered most of all was that to her their relationship had never been a game. Mind games. She had never posed being sultry or that their lovemaking was a thrill, always spoke respectfully of his wife and she never asked him questions about the divorce or why didn’t he see his children more often instead of spending time with her. She understood things about him that he could never put into words, with one look; with one gesture they could, as odd as it sounded almost telepathically communicate. What had he described her as being? Formidable. She was fashioning a life for herself, a conjugal love, a husband who was a friend, gentle teacher, mentor, educated, clever and a best friend who would also protect her. They would represent the family she always wanted. He could see that now clear as day why now she had always loved making him smile. She mistook his seriousness for grumpiness.
It had all been an act. He walked slowly to his car, dragging his heels.

Oh, God, he asked himself. Forgive me, what have I done?

Just like people say when something bad has happened and they call an emergency service.

The Last Hope



In the past few years Tshu s have become the most endangered species of the twenty first century, it remains to be seen whether we will be saying goodbye to another animal species. Here comes a story set somewhere in Africa where the last number of Tshu s still exists but not for long, a number of hunters have been contacted worldwide by a wealthy sick king who went to a fortune teller whom told him that the only thing that can heal him, is to drink medicine made from Tshu horns and said loudly that only medicine made from Tshu horns.
The King contacted three of the most notorious Tshu hunters of our generation, the task was simple to deliver enough horns for the king that can make enough medicine for the whole year. In the past this was as simple as a, b, c now the only hard part is to locate where Tshu s can be found, because during the years of slaughtering, their number decreased fastly so and only few exists. But one thing was for certain Africa is where they can find the last number of Tshus, and the first country they visited was the capital of Africa, South Africa. They packed their refills, the best money can buy and started their long journey to the capital, so the story of tragedy begun.


The remaining Tshus had no choice but to gather and try to find a solution to their slaughter, two families of thus where the only ones left the Hangis and the Gurters where the only Tshu families left. Sunset came and they met in one of their hide outs and the proceedings went as follows,
Thank you everyone for attending this meeting although we are not many like we used to, we still carry on and search for solutions to end and fight those who threaten our existence on this earth.
Hangi I don’t mean to disrespect you but we must face facts we are the only five Tshu s left in the world in the world for now, can’t we just stop hiding and surrender to our hunters?
Dad Hangi
In anger and disappointment) don’t you dare disrespect our race and our ancestors like that we will fight until they take us all but we will never and I mean never surrender, I have a plan that will make sure that we preserve our race although we might not be around to see it happening but our sacrifices will be worth it to our grandchildren and their children and so forth.
Mam Gurter
Sir what are you talking about we are the only ones left soon they will locate us, and just like the rest we will be no more (in tears and sadness)

Dad Hangi
Yes that’s true thy will find us and they will kill us because they have more strength than us, they have machines at their disposal that can eliminate us at a blink of an eye, but they will not take our race with them.
Mam Hangi
Yes my husband is talking the truth but we can preserve our race,
Woman be realistic our race is gone, we are the most priced race in the world right now we are even worth way more than gold, so you tell me that we can preserve our race come on
(Shouting) Gurters behave yourself we are not infants grow up and shut up and listen, my wife is pregnant that child can be our hope
(Emotional) ah another victim will be born and that will make more money for the hunters
That’s not true we can preserve our race all we need is you and your wife to reproduce, then both of our infants will be taken some where were their survival is guaranteed, a while back I saved a man from drowning in the river he was dying that was certain, after I saved him he sweared to God that if I ever need anything he would be there for me. So my long journey to the north was all about that I went to him and told him my idea and he was more than happy to help me, as he already knew about the problems of our race.
(Angry) Hangi u two slimming busted you have a solution but you stayed with it why don’t we all go there?
We can’t all go there it would be too risky for Gordon’s family, the hunters could hurt his family even worse kill them because of us
So sir how will we get them there without being noticed, the infants I mean?
No sailor we won’t get them there, you will
But sir I can’t even take care of myself how do you expect, me to take care of new infants? (Nervous)
Hangi you are really messed up, sailor can’t even gaud his food how do you expect him to deliver our last hopes to the Promised Land.
Don’t worry yourself about that Gurter, you worry about making our last part to complete the puzzle. Do we have an understanding? Loudly so
I don’t have a choice do i? Ok I’ll do it but if this plan fails you are to blame
Am glad we have an understanding, now all we have to do is wait and wait for the members of the clan
Immediately after the meeting the next sunset that came saw Hangi heading off for his long journey to meet the Saviour Gordan, and to tell him that the plan is in motion along his journey, Hangi was plotting and creating secrets routes that will be used to transport the two infants. The map he was sketching needed to be entirely new routes as it would be necessary so that Sailor can’t be seen when travelling.
Back in the plane the three groups where making calls to all known rangers that they had one’s worked with to capture the Tshus, and one ranger became use full as he told them about the last Tshus that are believed to be hiding in the bushes. To the Hunters that was the perfect start to their journey while that was bad for the Tshus, as trouble is heading for them.
In two days after their long flight they eventually landed in Africa and with no time to waste travelled to meet with Mthombeni the slimy ranger who sells Tshus out, immediately he showed them the bush that he last saw a Tshu in and that was as far as it went Mthombeni was to stay outside and keep his eyes and ears open for anyone who approaches or tries to enter the bush.
Riffles where being loaded with the best weaponry available and the hunters started their hunt and they kept in mind that they had only limited time to find as many as they can. That first day yielded no results as they did not find any clues of Tshu existence, sunset came down and they went back to the hotel to prepare for another day of hunting
Back at the Tshu hide out
It’s been days since Hangi left the bushes and there has been some developments in the Gurter clan as miss Gurter has finally been confirmed as being pregnant, The plan was coming together softly but Dad Gurter had mixed emotions yes he was happy to be having an heir, but he wondered if he would live long enough to see that heir play in the bushes or take its first meal.
Gurter was heartbroken but with the news of that heir coming soon he started to see and share Hangis dream, he also wanted to see his race survive this war, he now more than ever was prepared to do anything to preserve their race even kill and most of all die for that dream. In excitement and in motivation he wanted to see Hangi to apologise for all the wrongs he has said and tell him that they will fight in battle as brothers. Gurter was excited early in the morning he went to the nearby river to fetch some water for the wife as she now required more water than usual.
Another sunset was approaching and the hunters were already up at pass 4 they wanted to get there early, upon their arrival in the bush the hunters separated as they thought it would be smarter to search in different places at once, many hours passed but they still could not find any foot prints or anything that showed that they are any Tshus living there.
The hunters where getting frustrated and started thinking that perhaps there are no Tshus there and it would be wise to move on to another location, yes they agreed to move on but on their way back they saw a river and they were thirsty so they rushed to it for drinking, while drinking the leader saw something that he should have never seen, yes he saw a footprint of a Tshu that was left by Gurter while fetching water.
The others looked at him and said “is that what we think it is” the leader smiled and said yes it’s exactly what we are looking for, but they were amazed as to when was this footprint made because they were here all day yesterday and saw nothing. The only possible answer was that it was made during early hours of morning as they themselves arrived there early too, then a thinking came to them that said perhaps they should change their hunting strategy but the leader said no our hunting strategy has worked for years why change it? All we have to change is our hunting time, the leader said to the boys that they should prepare themselves for a steak out.
That was the plan the hunters went back to the motel to refresh and come back at dark, Tshus were running out of luck as they were in the danger of being sported. That nightfall Salar went out to fetch water and food as he had done so many nights before as they only eat and drink in the bushes at night to avoid being spotted, the hunters made their way back to the bushes and more specifically started at the river and there they arrived to some surprises as they found Salar the silly Tshu singing and dancing besides the river with this words to his song “ I am the saviour of our race but I prefer to be called the protector of our last hope”, the way he was singing it shocked the hunters as they listened closely to Sailors words. Just when one of the hunters wanted to shoot Salar the leader whispered quietly and said “you shall not shoot him now listen to his words they tell a story, rather let’s wait and see where he goes after” as the leader had a feeling that Salar was not alone in the bush as he was still young himself.
Yes they followed Salar as he was young, stupid and inattentive they followed him all the way as he was about to reach the hide out one of the hunters phone rang, that’s when Salar got the alert of that he is being followed, he started running while guns were being fired at him they chased him but with humans being slow species on foot they were just too slow to catch up with the speed star of the Tshu race.
Salar as he was running he saw that he had gotten away from them, and returned to the hide out with fear being the only thing on his mind. He immediately went to Gurter as he was the elder due to Hangis absence, he told him everything about the uninvited guests that made Gurter so angry and scared, after he heard what Salar had to say he knew that their days were numbered. He told everyone that from now he would be the only one allowed to go outside and fetch food
Gordon’s place
Godan was about to go to bed and he saw Hangi in the backyard, he was happy to see him but he could see it in Hangi’s face that he was not happy at all, he said to Hangi “come in old friend I have never seen you so sad ever” Hangi came in and started telling Gordon that the time has come for the plan to be implemented. Gordan saw that Hangi was tired as he travelled for the whole four month as he wanted not to be seen by anyone, he told him to get some rest and that they would talk tomorrow.
The sun came out they started talking and Gordan told Hangi that the habitat is now finished and ready to be lived in, he told Hangi that him and his family can come and live there. Hangi said he appreciates everything he had done but he will send the kids first and him and the rest will follow after if they are still alive, that was sad to hear by Gordan but he accepted Hangi s decision, there was no time to spare Hangi prepared for his journey back home at sunset. Sunset came and he departed for his journey.
The hunters went back to their hotels and this time they were over the moon as they had seen what they came for to Africa, this time the hunters had to make sure they had progress as time was not on their side. They packed extra food and all supplies as they now planned not to come back until they have a Tshu horn in their hands, this time the leader said they won’t search for the Tshus but wait for them in a place where no living thing can do without.
While at the bush Gurter was the only one who was allowed to go out and fetch food and water as he was much wiser but he held a disadvantage of being slow as age was no longer at his side, night approached and everyone was hungry and thirsty so Gurter was on his way to get them.
Gurter was cautious when he was getting the food he whore tree leaves to become unnoticed with luck he was able to get those food, and he started to look around and saw no sign of the hunters and perhaps thought to himself they had given up on the hunt, he was approaching the river where they fetch their water he was smiling and saying to himself “ I am smart Salar this is how u do it” , he dipped the bucket in the water to get it full to capacity, when he was about to pull it out he could feel that the weight of the bucket is slightly heavier than usual. He pulled up even harder with maximum strength yes it was coming up but not alone, the hunters jumped out of the water and screamed surprise, surprise Mr Rhino.
Oh my God Gurter was spotted all this time the hunters waited under water for the Tshus to come and fetch water, Gurter was in shock he turned around left the food and started running for his life while the hunters also got out of the water and started chasing old Gurter. Old Gurter really tried to out run the hunters but his legs had no ability to do that, they eventually fired many sleepers on him he tried to resist but the poison was too much for him to stay awake, there he was running but he could not even outrun even a tortoise with that speed, yes the poison had slowed him down rapidly eventually old Gurter fell so hard to the ground. It was a sad moment but yes Gurter was ripped to pieces when the horn was taken out along with his life, yes another Rhino has been killed one of the last 5 remaining in the entire world, gone. One would think that the death would bring peace to those left behind as the hunters have now found what they were looking for but it wasn’t to be, after they took the horn the leader realised something, something that the others did not see, yes he noticed that the Tshu they had right there and the one they saw that day they were slightly different, that one was more fatter and older than that one, there right there in that moment he realised that they are more Tshus on that bush and they are in hiding. . The other two were under the impression that their job was done when they went back to the hotel but only to find that they are only sending the acquired horn by a messenger and that thy are remaining in the hotel and will resume to hunt again in few weeks as the other Tshu will realise that we are on to them, they got some rest and stayed away from the bush for some few weeks to let things settle down.
Back at the hide out its dark the sun has gone away and they haven’t seen Gurter since the early hours of morning, panic as starting to affect every Tshu in that hide out and Sailar started facing the fact that Gurter might be no more, he told others that he is going out to look for Gurter the mothers disagreed but had no choice but to allow Sailor to go and look for him. Sailor went straight to the water to drink water first as he was thirsty but there on that river he came across an unpleasant scene, as he saw the bucket that Gurter left with in the morning and besides it food, food that was left behind by Gurter. Sailor looked down with sadness and said to himself “I hope and pray that this is not what I think it is”, but in his heart he knew that something had happened to Gurter, he followed the traits that were left behind by the running that took place as the trees were torn where the running took place. As he was walking the traits were leading right next to their hide out and he saw blood on leaves and maybe thought that Gurter might be here injured in need of help, yes he was right that blood was Gurters eventually Sailar saw Gurters body, rushed to it screaming Gurter, Gurter what’s wrong , no response as he got near he saw a huge pool of blood next to him, then he said to himself again “ Gurter only if you had listened to me” he saw that the most prised possession of the Tshu race had been removed he closed his eyes and said rest in peace Sir. He covered him with leaves and went back to the hide out to tell the horrible news, eventually he got to the hide out with a long face filled with tears before he could break the news Gurters wife just saw and felt that something is horribly wrong and started crying. Mam Hangi asked Sailor why he is crying that much, mumbling in his words but they eventually spelt and said this words “Am sorry they killed him, they killed him like a thief and took his head”.
They all could not hold their anger inside no more and started crying while on the other side was Hangi getting closer to home but he also felt mixed emotions as he felt like something big had changed that day reminded him of the day they murdered eight of his siblings years ago, Hangi said to himself is this happening again is what’s left of my race killed again he started running with many thoughts in his mind Lord please I have never asked for anything from you in my life please let them be safe. While running to the hide out he could see broken leaves and human footprints now more than ever he saw that something bad had happened, in anger he ran into the hide out screaming where you are, there he found all of them in tears “” that’s when he said what is wrong, he grabed Sailor by his throat and said tell me what is wrong”” but Sailor had no strength to tell him what is wrong but just said “They murdered him””, eventually Hangi looked around and saw that someone is missing, he screamed and said who did this who took him, who killed him? Eventually they all calmed down and Sailor told Hangi everything,
Two weeks from then the Hangi baby was born, and a week after the baby from the Gurter clan emerged also, it was a happy time for both mothers but Gurter s wife was sad as he would have wished Gurter to see his only son. Hangi with no time to spare he told the mothers to kiss and hug their young one goodbye as tomorrow the heirs would be transported to the Promised Land, sad was the state the mothers found themselves in but knew that the sacrifice there are making would be remembered by the future generations and their names will leave through the end of time.
Hangi made a confortable cart that would be appropriate to transport the newly born, in the morning the long journey to the Promised Land will begin. While on the hotel the rangers were preparing for their return to the hunt the very same morning that Sailor is supposed to head out on the long journey. Morning came the rangers arrived in the early hours of it and opened their eyes as hawks and held their guns tight like they were on war, after all preparations were done Sailor was on his way with the infants as any families do they gave a proper send off as they accompanied them up until the river, that was a mistake as they became walking targets of the rangers. One of the ranger was about to shoot but stopped immediately by the leader as he wanted to see where they were heading but after a few hours he got tired of playing hide and seek and announced their presence and intention. A scream from deep inside the bush said “”Rhinos your journey ends here, you have something we want dearly” with smiles the leader had already counted the Tshus and they were four of them. Hangi was surprised as he did not notice that they were being followed and Sailor was scared and told Hangi that those are the people who were chasing me and am certain that it’s them who took Gurters life.

Gavin the leader said ooh young one it is good to see you again and I promise you this time you won’t get away from us just get away from that cart and surrender yourself, Hangi in anger he lashed out at Gavin saying why did you have to kill him he did nothing to you, yes he did nothing to me but he had something I need so does all of you said Gavin, Hangi started whispering to Sailor and told him to prepare to run in five he would cover him. Gavin said to the Rhinos that I will count up until 10 if you don’t surrender I promise I’ll kill you all as he was about to count to 5 Hangi yelled run to Sailor, sailor started running into the bushes and Gavin immediately screamed this words to his crew “”shoot to kill ill follow that little brat”” yes his orders were followed Rhinos were being killed like chickens in December their blood was being spieled just because of greed. While the battle was on Gurter prayed in his heart and said “”dear God I never thought I would be a murderer but this I must do, it’s either I kill back or I watch my race being abolished in front of my eyes I therefore don’t ask forgiveness from you, as if I had to do this again I would do it, I would kill again to protect those I love””. Gavin noticed that Sailor was getting away and that Gurter was kept busy by the shootings he climbed down to chase him, Hangi got angry as he watched his wife and Gutter’s wife being brought down by bullets blood was running like water from the Nile river, he ran straight to one of the hunters with his horn pointing strait at his back in a split of a second that horn went through from the back to the stomach of that hunter, yes Hangi has finally done it he has taken life something he never he would do. As Gavin was coming down he saw what Hangi had done and pointed his machine at Hangi and opened fire saying die your animal closely moving towards him, Hangi was down but not out as Gavin moved closer as he thought that Hangi was down and out but he pulled one last strength and aimed at Gavin’s head but unluckily missed him and directly chopped out Gavin’s right hand. That unfortunately was the last act Hangi could do on earth as Gavin with anger opened fire directly to his head as his life fainted away, but he left a mark that will remind Gavin of him forever he took his arm with him. The other two after killing the two mothers chased Sailor behind and continued firing, Sailor was following exactly the route map given to him. Behind him was the hunters catching up as the trailer of the two infants lowered his normal speed, but he was preparing to enter that crucial hole that will lead him straight to the Promised Land. With God’s mercy Sailor entered that whole and was able to get away from them, what happened after whether they reached their destination was never known we only hope that Sailor accomplished the mission, we hope that he saved the race the entire race of Tshus (Rhino).


The Life of a Bohemian

Pale are the ripples that curl on top of these drinks we are having. Mine tastes like dark chocolate (the expensive kind you can only get at specific shops). We’re sitting outside the benches of a restaurant, not rushing to get anywhere. I want to be saturated by you, launched into oblivion. Paul walks by and waves. I ignore him but you don’t. You wave back. I feel something curl up inside of me and dive into a small nothingness.

You’re on the phone talking to someone about ‘the New York people’. Good heavens, how small I feel. I feel as small as the cup they have brought my coffee in. I hate this coffee but I drink it anyway. I wished I had ordered something I really would have enjoyed like a milkshake or ice cream. But that’s what girls do in high school when they go out with their friends over the weekend, not when you go out with a man much older than you.

Next to you I want to seem more grown up. I don’t know what the dos and don’ts are yet of this relationship. I know Paul does not like me. I am not his type of girl but then I am not your type of girl too and I have no idea why you are wasting your time on me. A chill runs through me, down my spine. I am itching to leave, to want to talk to you. Your telephone call is making me become hysterical.

Who on earth are these ‘New York people’ and what do you have in common with them, why are you meeting up with them for lunch, why don’t you take me out for lunch instead, what does this mean for your career; is there a promotion in the offing? Of course I forget to ask you about all of this later on when we’re finally alone and as it ends up I discover you’re not much of a talker, you’re not funny, you’re different in a special kind of way from anyone I’ve ever met. The side I see is the side of the dark horse. I call you up all the time. I have not learnt yet that men can sense your desperation at getting their attention. You’re either with him, your son, you won’t even tell me his name, or you did and I’ve forgotten but that is what the state of our relationship means to you. It is purely physical. It is based on me not opening my mouth when I strongly dislike something you have done or said. For example when you raise your voice to me and when you’ve become tired of me and drop me off in the middle of the night racing off to get home to tuck him in and say goodnight. I see red. When we eat it is always catered food from a shoot or from the production house where you work.

I did so many things wrong. So many things I can’t take back. Have you built your empire yet, my experiment? Everything, everything was an experiment. I had to learn how to eat in front of a man, brush crumbs, specks of food off my chest in a pretty way, all ladylike. I had to learn how to dress myself in the dark when the entire planet was pitch black. I wanted to see how you looked at women my age through your eyes. Did you find them magical? I know you did not find me magical for long. I was too young and I was silly, naive. I would say stupid things not to be mean, petty or nasty or jealous but just because it was in the heat of the history of the moment. I didn’t feel I was growing older with you. I felt as if I was growing younger and younger. There were days when I played the ‘good girl’ and days when I didn’t.

I gave you my blood as we lay side by side, your body was cool (a winter tree in the Balkans), my face pale, drained to the colour of water. Your eyes are black circles and for now, at least, it is my property, the last frontier where I care about every word. Lying here, I give you ‘your space’. Your voice is Tolstoy’s, Hemingway’s, Updike’s, Styron’s, Mcewan’s, Greene’s, Fugard’s, Kundera’s, Rilke’s while I am the incarnate of Radcliffe Hall crossing both genders effortlessly. You betray nothing. There is a small boy in the picture but you don’t introduce him to me. Obsessions are unhealthy creatures. They make you mentally ill, emotionally unstable; leave you with a chemistry of deep sadness in your life. I have my writing. It keeps me from disintegrating into fractions. I should stop now before I begin to make myself cry.

In the early hours of the morning everything you say is said slowly. Words no longer hold any meaning to them.

In my dreams I would walk on hot, shouts of needy blue air, driftwood that came from the ocean bed, white bones as white as white writing, and musings. I made Johannesburg my temporary home. I had known no love like this before. The love of a city’s life, its motions, its vibrant pulse, its people and its daily sacrifice of life in muti murders, stabbings, assaults, cars, trucks and taxis piled up on the highway, accidents that could have been avoided if the driver had not fallen asleep at the wheel or speeded. There was always meat being cooked in the city. Restaurants set up just with a chair and table on the pavement while pap was being stirred and a stew was being cooked, here next to the skyline. There was never any shortage of inspiration. I could not stand people with all their grassroots foibles and they could not stand me, me, the intellectual.

I didn’t really believe or want to believe in love. I had seen nothing of it growing up, only glassy-eyed semblances of it that drove me stir-crazy as a child, stir-crazy as a young woman, so much so that I landed in a clinic in Port Elizabeth. And then just as this stir-craziness would seem to settle I would land up in another phase, I would become infatuated with melancholy, what do they call it now, depression and a sickening sadness that seeped into my body right down to my bones, soaking, saturating everything I touched. There would come periods of my life that I would find difficulty explaining away in recovery. But how would you have known this. There was no one around from my previous life, thank God, to tell you this.

Women around me became still. Composed in light, iced me out, with one stroke, with words or none, they could kill. They were mute monuments with mouths that had hard, angry lines. In the future, a time far off from the time of light, in a dry spell, in a passage of darkness then only would they embrace me. Women are emotional and jealous over little nothings, painting red over blue feelings, feeling triumphant when they have humiliated or made someone feel pitiful, pathetic. Women are omnipotent like that, that’s where they get there pillars of strength from. From putting other, younger, more or less vulnerable women down, bringing them down to earth, shoving dirt and filth and rubbish into their gaping, fishy mouths, the dead abstract, the ethereal in their heads. Because it was done to them, now they do it to others.

You, the man in my life, made me cry. When I tried to eat everything tasted like paper. I could not keep anything down so I stopped forcing myself to eat. I drank water and coffee, ate fruit. But everything tasted bitter. I willed myself to stop but could not. How could I know back then it was all a part of growing up? Weeping would come after the scorched earth systems of the sunset. Instead tongues are silenced permanently and one is left to wonder where the dead goes when they die. The death trap sucks your breath away. Perhaps fatally I wanted to insert too much of myself in you, that unseen intellectual side of me that was as cold as a frozen lake. Lipstick on a the body of a dead woman in an open casket, even in death she must be made to look attractive, lovely, even when she can no longer look you in the eye and smile or heaven forbid, flirt. And yet you taught me so much about everything It hurt when you squeezed the truth out of me, when you mocked me, when you scolded me like an errant child, told me to shut up, stop screaming, stop being so loud. You said it so fiercely, with such force that I immediately did what you asked me to and felt smaller in your prescence, young but then I was young, I was a girl. You were grown up. We were a wrong fit from the start. More than a decade between us with nothing in common to keep us glued together in conversation, in laughter; it was work, hard, disciplined work (that was what we were committed to together). Without it we would drift apart, fall into discontent, feel disconnected. I would give habitation to speechlessness and you to your pride (as we already know pride and the knife-edge of arrogance comes before a fall).

Where are you now, gone long into history? No longer a satellite orbiting my world, my planet, are you far flung into the galaxy, into Hawking’s A Brief History of Time? Our time together was not so brief. We lasted a year and then I was ‘widowed’. I’m thankful now for the words you drilled inside my head, I wasn’t then. I showered you with gifts, there were books, old films I thought you’d appreciate. You thought you didn’t have to make much of an effort. I was just a friend with benefits. Listen, becoming a woman means much more than learning about ‘the birds and the bees’, the rub, the stain of love, the infatuation of a college girl’s crush, feminism, how women’s self-esteem evolved in Gloria Steinem’s ‘Revolution from within’ and menstruation but I gathered that when you spent time with me, it was like a vapour. There was no absolute reason for you to listen to me, even now when we have nothing in common.

There were days when I wanted to scream with the roar of a lioness. Sounds coming from deep inside of me that were unfamiliar yet relevant, peeling and unpeeling from the back of my throat in the night air, but it failed in some trivial manner and didn’t balk at your indifference to me. There were nights when nothing was said between the two of us. When my thoughts were grotesque and yet I still couldn’t express myself. Who made me this way, I asked the universe? What God is this, so big on action that speaks louder than words. So big on human beings being attuned into a return to love, that many splendid thing on the one hand and on the other hand a man picks up a rock to smash against another man’s head because of a rumour going around. A rumour of a man who had been sleeping with his wife, and if he had been sober he would have divorced his wife.

A child, who does not know how to swim, drowns in the sea. On the other hand there’s been a murder in a family, paedophiles walk the streets, human bodies are for rent on beds with flowers of urine stains and missing persons with faces that do not rot, grow old, do not receive a burial in a marked grave. No one was charged. There’s a rape with no docket because the victim did not give a statement. There’s an entire family wiped out in a blaze of fire. I knew nothing of this because I was young and delicate, a white swan who thought this life was getting expensive and even when your fingers were greasy from the fish and chips I still thought you were magnificent. Every winter has a guest and that year you were mine. You polished and refined me and I found a splendid freedom in you, in what you did.

When it comes to men I am always left neglected. How can this be the best part of my life when I haven’t yet given the best part of me? You gave nothing while I, a shy animal, a quivering bird gave everything, everything away for free. You drained me of my ordinariness, my pretensions, expelled ice crystals in the language of your body, stimulated fire in my brain, left me to observe you, your cauldron of needs and your arrows of nerves. The stars in your dark eyes were my arrows too except, only my losses were my losses, it split me in two, nothing in the end very masculine about their substance as they melted into the distance.

The Journals of Nabokov’s Lolita if she had become a Writer

Losing pieces of your identity already in childhood.

At the end of every pilgrimage in my childhood, there was a line that was always a painful experience for me in my consciousness growing up and with time its intensity and disillusionment increases. It has taught me that only knowingness and completeness can begin with the path of self-awareness. And now that partnership, reconciliation and compassion in this still divided society on this continent that we live in forces us to grow together and see each other in a more real and accurate light. It is a way of seeing people in communities who live in poverty, the clarity of struggle, the monotony of routine and who are starved of art, poetry, and literature. It is a way of finding themselves poised in an exhilaratingly tender world, but they only hear the lonely sounds of weeping and it has become like a machine. Its mystique strengthens our soul.

All children are pretty.

We can choose to see the landscape we live in as a desert or a paradise but what do the most vulnerable citizens of this planet see it as? We cannot solve the escalating problems of today without imagining and visualising the end results of solutions. Even writing comes with its own mythological totem pole and so we must create new images of our life and background through our stories, the wealth of our collective life experiences. There are still feelings of fear and vulnerability that continually tests us, the philosophy of man, the anatomy of melancholia, our multiple identities, contemporary man and it is a powerful dynamic for any writer and poet to live in today. Life mirrors art and art imitates life in comic, dramatic and alluring ways. What is humanity? It is the frail human bones of the human condition, it is you and I and it is all our stories. The page is only a dead landscape until you fill it up with words and language creating a center of interest. At heart are we still war children?

I lift the immaculate transfer of the mental ropes and the chains (it’s an improvement). It is a only a song of despair from my childhood experience that took me to dark places and saw me cross the lines of society, the borders of rivers of light that traversed the palimpsest of the red columns of my heart. This transfer felt like a magical thing. I went from standing at the edge, to freedom (with all the parts of the machine, a mantle, and all the futile parts of fairytales, making imprints of circles in the sky above a storm, raging insomnia). Something changes when we grow older. People feel alone in different ways as they lay down in darkness, slide into a pose repeatedly; listen to me, pay attention.

Will I leave you guessing at the intensity behind my words? Will you embrace me when I fall, my art, this potent vessel and a poet in her gilded cage, journeying onwards into oblivion? I gesture to the moon and stars and back again, like a memory pinned down in a stream. A mother’s poised flesh, a neck, words that are flying like bats remind me of how quickly love turns to hate. Pale in alluring portraits of smoke and mirrors and the heart grows bitter and cold like a lake, which is when depression and madness collapses in on itself and all hell tends to break loose. The house is falling, falling down around me, like the melody that comes from fingers on a guitar or a flame that has a negative quality to it, more disconnected and fragile. Dazzling is the shock of trauma when you’re in the middle of it.

Don’t put it together for my sake. I melted where my skin touched the skin of water. Under I was more human, bolder yet still lost and cheated. My heart felt like snow, I could sense arteries turning white. What was once a red catalyst bleeding in hushed tones is now Braille, wet and bittersweet, reminding me that there were still guns at every rising of the sun. Don’t put it together for my sake. Whether I wanted them to be there or not, whether I wanted to wake up or not. It is only my reflection that is dead in the water.

Don’t put it together for my sake.

Writers are mostly voyagers with clean perceptions, clarity of vision when faced with the parallel world, elements of the darkest parts of humanity. Good morning, midnight. We hold each other up with the rites of public scrutiny; tell ourselves criticism will be the death of us (what does that mean to the most inexperienced). I want to drown. I want that experience. The experience of being compelled to sacrifice that loveliness of the haunting game of connecting truths to the politician who is at the core of you. No half-life lived for me. Give me a manual for being fragile, so I can disable and correct all the information effortlessly on these cold lines. Let me journal them. Read everything Africa and you will triumph because since childhood you have been an apt pupil pouring your knowledge into a distillate, standing at the edge. If it was bleak, left you with the gift of elation at and memory of the ghost of potatoes and meat on your plate. If you feel darkness in moments of being, if you feel the loss of your ego, it diminishing and that the only possession you will leave this world with is your physical body, then this is a journey you must remain loyal to its cumulative progress. When I don’t eat, when I don’t sleep there’s an intelligence that is frozen solid, given substance in the madness. There’s a reason for everything under the sun. Emancipation always leads to conversation even if it is on the other side of the world.

The question I ask myself most often these days is, what are other writers thinking, examining here, what do their soul’s look like, what is the most poetic/emotive thing to come from their background and what is the most sacred thing to them and about the information they are giving me through their literary world? We’re sitting on millions of years of creation here; art, earth, sky, diamonds, rage, literature, vision, feminism, summer, writers, writers, writers writing. There’s a writer born every second. Most of all we need each other. Good morning, midnight, hour of blue.I find in that still life quiet the writer’s soul longs for, the silence that is like a terrible scar before it marks itself as refuge, it manages itself as an intense feeling of joy, a hunting ritual, a spiritual rite, an extraordinary state of calm in that identity of all identities that is created without borders, joints where there is always a motivating space for beautiful learning.

I often wonder at the family and background, the self-assessment of African writers and think to myself that the voices, male and female will fuse in a sacred contract and their storytelling that will emerge, will emerge (with a word that has become second-nature to me) as a collective. We will prosper, cross that universal threshold together, changing, seizing the spinning web of history, becoming penning confessors of the intimate, commune with the virgin birth of interpretation with the anonymous, the creative myth, gift and the creative impulse falling into whole infinity. Should we be calling ourselves just plain and simple writers? Which is the most authentic? Why should we label ourselves? A home of writers is a profound community, like mind will often meet like mind. A community of writers is a home wherever you find yourself in the world.

Our self-possessed generation writing for the most part out of defiance is making the cause the statement, the platform ‘the waves’. If our muse is wrapped in stone, then so has been deception, identity theory, social and political commentary for, if our soul is the ghost of our spirit then what we have learnt must either be shielded or go underground. That’s the undisclosed beauty of and the brutal violence in mortal thinking that we are always in supply of. This journey is an ancient one, savage and lonely. The pattern of the pensive mechanism attached to the clarity of light is bold in the vision of literary creation and pen-and-watercolour imagination as it is to the dark side. The underpinning alchemy the experimental constructs in the absence of margins and destruction is giving us the clue to the exit, an entreaty to immortality.

Youth has taught me the key to sacrifice. Of where writers of colour will build empires of gold where no one can touch us. I write because I am instructed to and because it is the sum parts of my pilgrimage. It is a song of despair from childhood experience, a hiding place, where I feel alone in different ways, where I speak with my hands, a distillate in a wasteland of rumours of darkness and hard laughter. If I am not writing, then I am not living, my mind is not free, a clown not realising his goal beautifully. It is merely a view of life through a lens where I sometimes feel at the mercy of the inhabitants, a stranger in their strange world, ill from living the image of urban burnout. The road of recovery is hard, toughs you out from inside-out.

Beneath us, the surface is us writers’ always making examinations, hunting the unicorn, the flight, the thread, the accident of the kaleidoscope drowning in us and the life of kismet, dream of velocity, sweetness in the belly. So we become the sun, the stars that shine perfectly and limitless, the footprint, the intact channel, the feathered plumes of love. We become more humane with the aid of the sight of our two eyes, the nervous, sometimes lunatic vision in our mind’s eye. What is the situation? We are the situation. What is the conflict? We are the conflict and both are internal, both have terrifying explanations, both burn and as we follow that light as it bounces off phenomena, we store it or abandon it. We’re Masai-dreaming-philosophical-mode, signs of vertigo showing through, turning people into objects but this is what writers do – we anticipate, we prepare for it, the missing link, the alibi, and the last of the human freedoms, to choose your attitude between history and reliving it.

The life of a female writer is not liberating until she forgoes contact with identity and ego, until it comes down to battle lines drawn between boundary and voice. Until she gives the whole of herself to further study, education, research and her life, her being and soul is governed by that. Until that is a picture of what home means to her. I do not speak for this generation, the scholar, the wife and the mother who is also a writer. People have their own truth and language is still a strange tongue for me. Truth is as if we plant ourselves in a river and so we become enmeshed by it to the point where we cannot tell where we meet it and where we, our live, warm human body ends.

To me, I fear voyeurs, walking around with my life history inside their heads and then there’s me, ever so willing to give it up at a moment’s notice without any hesitation at all. What is wrong with me? What finally defeated me, all of that anger bottled up, fizzing inside of me? Was it the holocaust in childhood that exploded in my face like the freezing cold in winter, while I played in the dirt, played at ‘being mother’ or was it the war veteran inside of me’s damage, rage and brutality, the poet’s inside-out abnormal sensitivity, the black dog of depression, that coveted prize of recovery, pushing by like a pulse, that followed spells of mental illness that came in youth.

On the wings of a poet writing about a prayer for hope: Nothing about youth diminishes, about dying and culture. It is still a shock to the system when it arrives on the scenario, the scene of the volume of sky meeting a child caught in the drift of time. A storm is raging inside my head, deep inside I am a still life, a figure’s reflection glittering. The dead does not speak of trivia. They no longer can bask in the orange disc of the sun with their infinitely perfect bodies, perfect smiles. They have left us to invest in a shroud. Couriered shrouds are as foreign to the inhabitant as the splitting of the atom, population dynamics and the restoration of a refugee’s spirit on childhood dirt.

The female writer speaks in code. Women speak in colour, in structured wavelengths of them, crossing over from thought to speech with poetry written on their walls of their silence, of their honeyed wonderings, their glimpses into the expanding illuminations of flame. If only we did not realise too late that we’re stained from childhood.

The Lonely Mind of the Outsider

Clarissa is fifteen. Hector is a year older. Septimus is two years older than Clarissa is.

The silence was magnificent. In that silence poured rain and perhaps it was seeking shelter as much as she, Clarissa was. Rain. It is purity lit up. A symbol. The veil lifted up. Humanity lit up, lifted up in a way. As cold as ice. Plums stored in the refrigerator. Whatever was stolen is this. Birdsong, footstomping on the stair by children scribbling in the air, the stars survival, the change in climate. There is a map, a voice to everything (even ghost stories, even imagination, even Lolita, she found her voice at the end of it all). Moth speak. Moth dance like the matron.
The unkind matron. The fat, bosomy matron with pillows for lips. Could she not be kind? Could her army of foot soldiers not be kind?

‘I have always wanted to be beautiful and now I have two men who are kind of in love with me. Septimus is protective of me. Hector wants to confide in me. Sometimes I feel like I am kind of a joke between them. Mirror, mirror on the bathroom wall, do I want to be touched? Do I want to play their game after school in Septimus’s sitting room? I cannot believe that anyone can love me the way that Hector loves me. Is it a profound, enriching love or a selfish love? The afternoons are not the real world that I spend in their company. Septimus goes to another school. Septimus is clever and a prefect. He walks around without any doubt that he belongs here. He belongs in this real world.’

Clarissa writes in her journal. I am in love with Hector but Hector is in love with Septimus. Clarissa is the joke. The real world spits me out. It says you do not belong here. All I can do is make an examination of love. Away from the ward in the hospital now. The silence in Clarissa’s bedroom was magnificent. The rain was making spit balls against her windowpane. The cat was sleeping in a foetal position at the bottom of her bed. Hector and Septimus would understand. They would nod their dark heads in sympathy. You felt strange. Of course, you would feel strange. Of course, you would feel estranged from humanity. Youth is a wasteland. Youth is a wilderness. When I look back on my adolescence, I hope I will forget the carrion.

‘I am lovely.’ She told her reflection in the mirror. ‘I am clever. I have all this knowledge. Gosh, what am I of all people going to do with it? Sleep on it. I will sleep on it. They have decided that I am loyal and trustworthy. I will not reveal their secret to the world. I will not say that Hector and Septimus are in love and that they care a great deal for each other. I will not say that Septimus stroked my leg and that I had to try very hard not to flinch as if it was making me uncomfortable. One day I will forget this. One day I will forget how he stroked my leg. How much passion was in that amorous stroke and how gentle Hector was when he kissed me on the lips. After all, it was just a game the three of us were playing after school.’

Clarissa writes in her journal. I cannot decide whom I love best. Hector or Septimus. They are both clever. Talented. One wants to become a pharmacist. The other, a doctor. When Hector is doctor, he says he will deliver babies. Hector will bring life into this world as he brings life to me. They both say I have suffered a trauma. Hector reads me poetry. Hector writes me letters. What am I looking for? I know I am only a wolf in sheep’s clothing. I say sheepishly, ‘Why don’t the two of you walk ahead of me. I will catch up.’ Then they infuriate me. They ignore me. They walk ahead of me. I am jealous. I do not know why but I am jealous. Their heads are together. Hector is leaning towards Septimus. Then I wish I were dead.

‘Goodbye Hector. Goodbye Septimus. Goodbye cruel world. Goodbye matrons and the matron’s bosom. Goodbye fish fingers, cold toast and orange juice. Goodbye pineapple juice in the afternoon after lunch. Goodbye blurred lines of the surreal. Goodbye to Hemingway is a moveable feast. I do not need to go to Paris to figure out that it is a moveable feast. I do not have to drink coffee at a café and watch the world go by. Observe people as if they were worms, bugs or insects. A cat put to sleep using a bell jar. I must find the exit out. Finally. If I do not, everything will be a loss. Goodbye Lolita. I have imagined you for a long time. Lipstick on your pouty mouth. Red nail polish on your toes.’

The piano chair is in the corner of her bedroom. There are books that are found on every conceivable open space. They stand in the gap for her. They make a way for her. Her books. Her books. They are her religion filled with flowers of doctrine that bloom. They are her pilgrimage. She touches pages that have been turned by other hands except herself. She discovers words like elongate, thick, intimacy, school of thought, philosophy, metamorphosis, narcissism, bodily and ballad. ‘Much ado’ is a sheet of music. The masculine and the feminine nature rings inside her head like an echo. They feel like the words of a Shakespearian sonnet reverberating throughout the cells of her physical body.

‘My world on the other hand is caving in and before all the walls collapse I have to find myself. I am on fire like the phoenix. Watch me, Clarissa of all people, find herself and spread her wings like a blanket of snow across a field in winter. I saw people filtering in and out of a dream world. Foot traffic. I abandoned my soul, kissed air, hung there for a moment suspended in disbelief. Could they not feel my anguish? Did they have goals as I did? Who did they fashion themselves after? How did they live in a mundane world? I know what it means to be made a mockery of. Swift is the human nature that covets the forbidden. Now even my metallic sun’s paradise has dissolved, evaporated and I have been left pretty much alone.’

In an essay for her English class, Clarissa decides to write about hospital life. How she felt at ‘land’s end’ that she was married to the illness and that she would be for the rest of her life. There would be no divorce courts. There would be no separation, that whatever this illness was it was within her. It had all-knowing eyes. It had vision. It had awakened her spirit. Cut loose her soul like her mother’s soul was cut loose in her garden as she planted and replanted bulbs lovingly and with so much energy into dirt, bees and mist, earthworms, plucky snails, dragonflies with their angel wings and all. Clarissa knew what it was like to suffer and to cry. This much she told Hector but Hector had already stopped speaking to her. Avoiding her.

‘When I am thirty-five I will have the same fat thighs as my Auntie Ava. I do not throw dinner parties. I am not the socialite, the host nor the life of the party. I do not lip synch the words to a rock or an indie band. I would rather die than do any of those these. I do not go to the library anymore. I am too scared somebody from my past will see me like this. Whale. They will say. Look at her now. She is no longer arrogant. She no longer fist punches the air. She no longer says, ‘I have a question?’ She was never popular but she was in a way because everybody knew her name. Everybody knew she never ate lunch. Clarissa loved books. I love books. I am Clarissa. I am a vision. I am Sappho incarnate. I am a visionary.’

Diary, it is because of my madness that Hector keeps his distance from me now. In assembly, he talks to Janice, Veronica, Miranda, Sylvie, Adele, Elizabeth, Shakira (who is kind, popular and the cleverest by far in our form). Inside I feel a kind of heady violence. If the world keeps this up. Keeps viewing me as a stranger. I have been to hell and back. Is there no one out there who can understand that? I told Hector I would take his secret to the grave with me but it seems everywhere I go people stare. They know and they hate me for it. They hate me for telling because madness is something that you should keep to yourself. The hospital life. The family being counselled by a vastly inexperienced psychologist. It is because of Elizabeth Donkin.

One day, I, Clarissa, brought Septimus’s mother flowers. She thanked me profusely while my mother waited outside in the car. Of course, they are not love letters. The letters that Hector writes me. I was a woman before women had wings. I am a survivor of emotional and mental abuse. I am an idiot fish, fashioning lame stroke after lame stroke in the water, chlorine burning my eyes, a branch taking root inside the visions that I have of high school at the local swimming school. I am not like the other girls. I am tall and clever. The other girls (it is their nature) to sit on the sidelines and watch the boys swim up and down, the lifesavers. The will flit, and flirt these pretty butterflies with their lovely bones, leaving me, Clarissa out in the cold. Uninvited.

Family life. They dance around her. Her parents, and her younger brother and sister. They do not know what to make of her. Is she ill or is she happy? What to make of her discontent? Her crooked laughter cripples them but she needs a crutch. Clarissa needs something to balance on. She flickers. She loves the yellow sunlight. Clarissa remembers how she and Hector used to walk to school in the mornings (that was a ballad). How they walked side by side. How sometimes her head was thrown back into the light. Hector is not doing it anymore for her. She feels now how could they ever have been friends. How could they ever confided in each other?

Clarissa writes in her diary. You could already see that in those sessions he could not wait to enter private practice with its hospital corners neatly tucked in. The madness comes in tinny waves. Sometimes they make thud-thud-thud. Sometimes it is a thunderclap followed by extreme bursts of lighting. Sometimes it is a ghost story, a wasteland like youth, a wilderness history, a bitter orange, the scent of meat and potatoes in a watery broth people kind of madness.
I should in retrospect have said nothing to Hector and he in turn would have said nothing to Septimus. I have a feeling that Septimus is behind all of this. It is because of Elizabeth Donkin. The mad hospital. The insane asylum? The loony bin? Lunatic girl there is no going back now.

‘I am in the desert of despair amongst landscapes, faiths and relations. There is something so pure about being. Humanity. Human nature and then there is the evil in the world. I deserved a medal for the role that I play. Crazy is just another role I play. Daughter, sister, friend and poet. Those are roles too.’ The Indian psychologist stared at her. Clarissa wanted to ask her.
Haven’t you ever seen crazy before up close and personal? Take a good look at this show.
‘Don’t you understand I need to be wrapped up, literally bandaged in tenderness? I need to feel and I know what the matter is. I do not feel anymore. What I feel is helpless, empty, useless, and all I feel is grief for what I never experienced.

The things that I quit and for thinking that I was a failure. What is wrong with me? Other people live. They move forward inching, tunneling their way towards a vision planted in the stars, kismet. I am caught in a vortex. Inside my head, it is as if there is a black hole and I am swimming inside of it but I never reach the end of the other side. This flux makes me feel disoriented. I come here every week. I come here so that you can help me. I do not want to finger paint. Making explosions the colours of rainbows on paper. You have got me to think for myself. You have got me to this point in my life. I still will not be able to dance as if nobody is watching me. I have desires, dreams, am goals. I need. I cling. I want.

‘Yes, yes go on. I see we are making progress.’ Said the Indian psychologist with her takeaway coffee on her desk. From where Clarissa was sitting, the psychologist’s hair looked greasy.
‘She must put Amla oil on her hair and after her husband makes love to her she must feel as if she is a queen. Wedding vows are a sacred contract. Wives have thrones and spare keys to unlock the kingdoms of their husbands. What do adolescent girls have? What do young and inexperienced women have in their twenties? What do unmarried women have? They have books. Romance novels. Nobody to read poetry to them. An emptiness in their soul, trivia or a third eye.’ Clarissa thought to herself.

There were paintings from the occupational therapy class hanging up to dry in her office. She is making waves. She is making crazy. Yes, you see we are finally making progress if you want to see it that way, Clarissa thought to herself. She wanted to add. I do not trust you. I take everything that you say with a pinch of salt. You think you know me but you the fact is you do not know anything about me. Where I am coming from, my background, my family life, the hospital life. You are rich. You are married. You have a son. You have it easy. No doubt, high school was a breeze for you. I do not think you were ever bullied by your mother (by the way, my mother is a tyrant), by the children who hung around the swings with their unnerving competitive and threatening behaviour (by the way, they were tyrants too).

‘Your hair. Do you always have to wear it the same way? Why not try something new. Try something different.’

Go to hell, lady. Clarissa wanted to say vehemently. Why don’t you like this? Why don’t you approve of me? Is it because I am crazy, stuck up, aloof and indifferent, stupid woman? Well, I don’t like you either. I am not a fan of yours either.
‘I like it like this.’ Clarissa answered.
‘Change is good for a person. To shake things up a bit.’ The Indian doctor took a sip from her takeaway coffee.
Clarissa wanted to get up and leave. Clarissa wanted Hector but she was dead to him. If she was to all intents and purposes dead to him, he must be dead to her. She had to bury him in the past.

Clarissa was a volt. Clarissa was electricity. Clarissa had personal velocity. The woman inside of her had bloomed when Hector had kissed her chastely on the lips (while Septimus had watched out of the corner of her eye). She had felt excitement building up inside of her as if she was going to throw a party for the first time her adolescent life and girls like Janice, Veronica, Miranda, Sylvie, Adele, Elizabeth, and Shakira were going to come. The popular crowd. It would be a boy and girl party. The excitement became like a sickness every time she touched herself the way Septimus touched her. She felt hot, and bothered by the brightness that enveloped her senses, her intuition. She felt starved of sensibilities, of what felt real, pure.

Clarissa writes in her journal. Septimus is in love with Hector. He is in love with Hector’s walk, his talk and the way he wears his hair. Septimus has told me all of these things in confidence. The world shapes itself around me now as I dance to the beat of their drum. The drums of two egomaniacs. Now that they both do not speak to me, I do not have to dance to that drum anymore. I can call them egomaniacs. I wish someone would fall in love with me the same way that Septimus seems to have fallen in love with Hector. They do not want to remember the good times the three of us had together. Night comes with the insanity of both frustration and insomnia. Night has become an experiment. I drink coffee and am awake for hours.

‘I will be healed. Humanity will heal me. Watching television will heal me. English teachers will save me. I do not know why the atrocities of war still fill me with hope. Hope that good will prevail over evil.’ The Indian psychologist looks me up and down coolly with a steely-eyed determination. She is a woman, a mother. She despises the female who is an intellectual.

‘But we are not talking about the problems. Your despair and indecision. You seem hell-bent on talking about post-apartheid South Africa. You seem to be talking from one direction only. A kind of a nearsightedness. You need to look at the bigger picture, at all of the details. You have to learn how to save yourself and not depend on others to do that for you, Clarissa.’

Clarissa wrote in her journal. I know she despises me. Her hair was so greasy. She could probably fry an egg with all of that grease on the bonnet of a car. All of those beautiful words. I will bow down to them. I will pick and pick at them. The fruit on the bough. What I need to do is to translate this pain, the wound into something beautiful. It needs to be illuminated.

The spotlight leaves tracks on the stage. She feels a nervous energy inside of her just by her ribcage. Tonight she will shine. Clarissa will shine and she will forget that she is not loved nor wanted in the same way that Hector is wanted by Septimus. As soon as she walks out onto the stage at the Opera House, she will forget the tyrants.

To Virginia Woolf’s Lighthouse

High school, Port Elizabeth, 1995

‘The light. What do you think of the light?’
‘It’s day. The light comes with day. The sun comes with dawn.’
‘It’s hot.’
‘It’s always hot. It’s South Africa.’
‘It’s post-apartheid South Africa.’ However, what she really wanted to say was I am in love with you. Marc, I am in love with the light in your serious brown eyes. Talk to me about anything.
‘You always have to be right about everything.’
‘You don’t think I have a superiority complex.’
‘No.’ she lied. ‘No. Who told you that?’
‘Oh, it doesn’t matter. I don’t really care. I mean if you say it’s not true then it’s not true.’ Marc shrugged his shoulders. It made him look even more handsome to her.
‘We should go to the beach.’
‘I don’t like the beach.’
‘Everybody likes the beach.’
‘By now you should know that I am not everyone.’ He turned around to look at her with concern in his eyes.
‘Are you okay?’
‘No, no I’m fine. I just had an argument with my mother again this morning. I don’t think she likes me very much.’
‘Maybe she doesn’t like the world. Maybe that’s what really bothering her, not you. Maybe your parents don’t have sex anymore. Don’t worry about you so much.’ Then Marc leaned in and hugged her hard.
‘I like the light today. It makes me happy. You make me happy. You make me laugh.’
‘Thanks.’ Marc said and smiled. He wasn’t wearing his glasses today.
‘I hate high school.’
‘Maybe you hate high school because you read Virginia Woolf.’
‘I think all her books are masterpieces.’
‘So what was Sylvia Plath’s masterpiece?’
‘Ariel. Chose another one Marc.’
‘Chose a masterpiece of Rainer Maria Rilke and Goethe.’
‘For Rilke I would have to choose and this is difficult but it is a book I love. Letters to a Young Poet. For Goethe it would have to be Faust. Please don’t choose Shakespeare but if you did because poetry is my first love I would have to choose his sonnets over his plays.’
‘Do you think we would ever get married like that?’
‘Like what? A marriage of convenience you mean.’
‘Maybe. Perhaps.’

Thirty something, Port Elizabeth, 2013

Her hair was like a rosebush. It was full of tangles after her swim. In her eyes was the waves and the lighthouse. An empty house in an English novel on the coat that was once filled with children. Rumpus and an unmarried woman by the name of Lily Briscoe in her imagination. Her face was touched with salt and light followed the glimmer of the sailboats on the horizon. It was the anglers’ doing, catching all of those fish for an eternity. In reality, she lived in post-apartheid South Africa. In reality, she wrote novels. In her twenties, she lived in the adolescent wasteland of Johannesburg, a wilderness of people who had no concern for others.

High school, Port Elizabeth, 1995

‘What are you really thinking about Marc?’
‘I am thinking about the first time I have sex.’
‘You’re thinking about the performance.’
‘You can’t really act as if you’re in love. You have to feel it. You have to feel all that loveliness in your bones. Would you choose madness or becoming a bride?’
‘Marc, you should know the answer to that one by now. I would choose madness.’
‘You know what? You are depressing. You’re stressing me out.’

Thirty something, Port Elizabeth, 2013

In her thirties, after her homecoming, after that celebration she began to write. It would not leave her. The phenomena of moths flapping their wings incessantly in the light as if they were glad to see her as she rinsed the sea and the smell of the day out of her hair in the bathroom sink. Her father was calling. They would have a light supper together of tuna fish sandwiches and red cappuccinos. The world around her had lost its exploratory feel and she became engaged in writing about relationships instead of having them with the opposite sex. She detached herself from having a myriad of beautiful things.

High school, Port Elizabeth, 1995

‘Let’s sit here and have lunch.’
‘What did you bring?’
‘Tuna fish sandwiches. Do you want to swap?’
‘There’s ants here.’
‘Ants aren’t going to kill us. Sit Marc. They’re not going to steal our lunches.’
‘I have peanut butter. Did you make your own lunch?’
‘My mother makes my lunch.’
‘We had wine with our lunch yesterday.’
‘What did you have?’
‘We had chicken. We always have chicken on Sundays.’

Thirty something, Port Elizabeth, 2013

She removed herself from the world at large and material possessions. She no longer attacked vehemently the gender betrayal and the class system. Women who had the vote should now also have equal pay if they were to have equal rights. She knew how other woman lived. They were happy with their lot in their own way. Their families were dysfunctional in their own way. The married woman. The married man. She had nothing in common with them. Even the intellectual woman who wanted the same powers and killer instinct that the intellectual man had but did you see women building empires.

High school, Port Elizabeth, 1995

‘Do you love me Marc?’
‘Of course I love you. We are best friends remember.’
‘Will we always be this close?’ As it happened, their friendship dissolved before their last year of high school ended.

Thirty something, Port Elizabeth, 2013

The intellectual woman although she wanted the powers of an intellectual man did not want to be haunted the same way he was. She did not want to be reduced to a thing like the housewife with her domestic responsibilities. The homemaker, standing barefoot and pregnant in the kitchen taking out the meat from the refrigerator to defrost. To her in some way with her hair that was like a rosebush there were still feelings in her in that pathetic, lame way to long for things that although you wish for them you know will never be yours. It will never be enough to be fulfilled. She knew it would never satisfy her.

Early twenties, Johannesburg, 2002

‘Rain. You smell like rain. Your hair. I like your hair like this.’ A style like a ponytail never goes out of fashion. She wanted to say. A man whispered sweet nothings in her ear in a club where the music was too loud. Did she smell like childhood rain, rain from a garden sprinkler (where are you now mum, she thought to herself to save me from this)? She wondered to herself. Was it the kind of rain that smelled like leftover old spaghetti sauce that you heated up on the stove on a rainy day kind of rain with the fragrance of half an onion lingering in the fridge? Sigmund Freud’s kind of rain. For her there would always be sexual healing in that word ‘rain’.

‘You are a good girl. A very good girl. I’m sure you make your parents very proud.’
‘What about your parents?’ she asks slyly or shyly.
‘I think that is why I drink sometimes.’ He answers her candidly.
‘Your parents?’
‘My parents. I think it’s a product of my childhood. Does anyone have a happy childhood? I was always being told I had potential but I don’t know if I ever lived up to their expectations. In high school, I was always the disappointment of the family I guess. The black sheep.’ He squeezed her as he said this. In reply she mouthed, ‘Me and you both I guess looking for happiness in all the wrong places on a Saturday night in a club in downtown Johannesburg.’

‘I like you, you know.’ He had glassy eyes and she was moody. He was drinking too much and she had not even touched her drink. The ice was melting fast. She was thirsty.
‘What do you say? Do you want to get out of this place?’ he staggered a bit. ‘We can sit in my car.’ As they walked outside, he put his arm around her waist.
She wanted to ask him, ‘Does this mean we are a couple now? Do you think you own me? Do you think I am your possession?’

‘Look here, what kind of underwear are you wearing or aren’t you wearing any?’ She felt dirty and saintly at the same time. She abhorred the situation but she was caught up in the thrill of it as well. All she had to do was listen to his conversation, laugh with him, laugh at his unfunny jokes, stare into his eyes, moan at every inappropriate stroke, touch and caress.

‘Have you ever been with a man, lady? You hardly touched your drink. You could have at least had a drink with me. My wife. She nags. She whines. If you could just hear her. She was going on about this and about that today. It is a never-ending stuck record. How I never spend quality time with the boys, they’re just kids, what kind of advice should I give them? On the direction to take with their lives? They’re just kids. Both of them are just interested in computers. You ever watch pornography. You are pretty in that way you know. Okay. Okay. I apologise. I went too far. What good girls don’t get half the time is how highly sexed men are you know?

‘I’m sorry. I still respect you. Do you want to come with me? It’s warmer in my car. I can put the radio on and the heater and we can just talk, that’s if you want to do that.’ He begins to laugh and this makes me smile. Suddenly we are at his car and I do not have a care in the world. He knows what he wants. He knows what he has paid for. I am cold. The idea of sex. The idea of sex in the backseat of his car. I want my mother. He doesn’t even know how old I am. He doesn’t care. Does his wife know where he is? Out at a club drinking with a volunteer who works with mentally challenged and physically disabled adults. A female who is half his age.

‘This is not your first time is it?’ He looks at me a bit worried for the first time. I can pretend for your sake stupid boy that it is not and lose my virginity to a married loser person who is smashed out of his face, his skull. Brain cells tripping high. I need love as I need the light. The light breeze in my homeland of my hometown. The primitive intimacy of my tribe, my family. Do you want to know something? I want to ask him. Do you know I was in a hospital for crazies? Yes, that’s the right term. I was normal for a long time and then I woke up one day as if curled up in the foetal position in a psychiatric hospital. Discovered it was not a dream.

Go ahead. Do your business? See if I care. Just don’t ask me if I am okay. Don’t ask me if I am comfortable. Just make me forget about the fact that bad mothers happen in the wilderness off the sunny road, that sometimes mums don’t love their children, their mentally ill and anorexic daughters or they never said it enough when they were growing up. Sometimes they don’t have the time of day for their adult daughters. She wants to forget that I even exist. The woman who gave birth to me. The woman who brought me into this world. The woman who took me to psychiatrist who studied in Vienna and thought I had schizophrenia.

He was gentle. I remember that. He was open, vulnerable and insecure. I was emotional, vulnerable and inhibitory. He was hurting. I was hurting. Wounds are sometimes the most precious things in the world. They make the world beautiful in the end. See. Even a wreck can be indescribably beautiful. He didn’t touch my face. God, I hate when they do that because it spells a closeness, an intimacy that was not there before. Married people can be the loneliest people in the world. I learned that long ago from my dad. He taught me that. He live it. He told me stories about it. Stories from his childhood. Stories about the wuthering heights of apartheid South Africa.

Sex was different from lovemaking. Love was involved in one and not the other. Decision was involved in one and not the other, preparation, planting and progress. Sometimes there were two parties involved. Sometimes sex was lovemaking. Sometimes lovemaking was sex. Sometimes promiscuousness, intimacy, experience were involved to create this incredible emotional effect. The phenomenon of lovemaking could mean everything and nothing at the same time. You could create a bond between life partners or it could be a game. A dangerous, manipulative hurting game. Promiscuity was something else altogether. A one-night stand.

Thirty something, Port Elizabeth, 2013

Thirty years old. Another birthday. Hone alone. She stood naked in front of the mirror surveying her triumph. Youth. Youth was still on her side. All the girls who had succumbed to motherhood around her from high school were losing their looks. Tired, strained, stressed out, depressed, humiliated although not all children were brats but then again not all children were angels. She pinched her skin. She was still thin. Thank God for that. She possessed skinniness as if nature possessed the world. Like a child observing the landscapes of life in rock pools.

High school, Port Elizabeth, 1995

‘How far did you get?’
‘You’ve got the Periodic Table so I couldn’t complete all these equations.’
‘Let’s take a break. Let’s listen to Shirley Bassey.’
‘Do you still have some of that wine left over from Sunday?’
‘I don’t think so. Why?’
‘We don’t drink in our house. My grandfather used to drink. I’ve never drank red wine before.’
‘Did he beat up on your grandmother? Your grandfather?’ Marc asked opening and shutting kitchen cupboards. ‘Nothing here I’m afraid. You’re out of luck.’
‘I don’t want to talk about it.’
‘Why are there so many things you don’t want to talk about? You are like a walking book of secrets.’
‘I like my secrets.’
‘Secrets are like open wounds. The more you don’t talk about it, the more it is like rubbing salt into that open wound. It stings. It burns.’
‘I have my scar tissue and you have yours. You know me so well. You are so wise, Marc.’ She rolled her eyes in mock-jest.
‘Why do you want a drink? Besides wine doesn’t really make your drunk.’
‘Doesn’t it make you forget that you’re lonely and sad and that nobody loves you, Marc?’
‘I love you even when you are this impossible to read and even when you are moody. I am going to put Shirley Bassey on. I don’t understand why you’re so moody today.’
‘I want to drink because I’m happy and because I want to remember this day forever.’ She could not believe it. She was happy. She was being honest. Too honest. She looked at his face.
She wanted to remember it forever. She wanted to remember what he was wearing.
‘You look funny.’ She laughed.
‘Why do I look funny?’
‘You’re wearing your glasses. You never wear your glasses to school.’
‘I still don’t understand why it’s so funny.’

Thirty something, Port Elizabeth, 2013

The geeky river of language contained in a gene pool, even the gene pool of a rock pool was a private one. Biology was a beautiful subject dedicated to laws and sometimes amusing understanding. Its wards contain compromising powers and complex, complicated chambers. She remembered a dark-haired boy she used to know. All the boys she used to know where dark-haired and intellectual. This one wanted to be a family doctor and deliver babies. He had a superiority complex but she had loved him. What does an adolescent girl do when they fall in love with their best friend?

How do they forget the wars they fought and how they made up again? She remembered most of all how they both were in love with physics and music. All she could think about now was he rich (he was always good that way, talking about financial security) did he fulfill all his dreams, was he married, does he deliver babies, what color eye shadow and lipstick does his wife wear when they go out and eat in fancy restaurants, go to functions? What kind of shoes does she prefer, heels or ballet shoes? Does she have a good pair of legs? Does she listen to his speeches, how does his wife feel in his arms when they make love? Was she a Mrs. Ramsay?

She remembered his general knowledge, his laughter and while he progressed in school he left her far behind. At the end of the day, of high school he passed with distinction while she could barely keep up with him. She did not know yet then that she wanted to write and become a serious writer, a novelist. In the end, she became a strong swimmer. Today she was alone at the heated swimming pool. It was a beautiful day. Her arms were branches, warm and brown, the texture of bright leaves as bright as her eyes. The water danced and rippled around her. She felt a sudden anguish when she remembered Marc, her first love, her best friend.

Then everything went pale (the colour of the day). Everything went blank. There was a silence.
Then there was a tunnel notched into the blunt shadows of her subconscious. She began to swim and forget at the same time. The sky was like a blue atom above her head flowering like grease in breakfast pans across regions in nations across the world. There were a million clouds in the air. The ether was a white spot. The day was fluid. There was no wind to snatch tangles of her hair and twist it into a state as she cooled down after her swim. Damn those anglers! What a life? As if to say, they were free and she was not. As if she could never be, free.

Engraved on her skull was a blueprint, a school of thought of Johannesburg as she had seen it in the light. The winter light in its streets, its alleys outside of the club. Sunlight glaring. Glinting over skylines. Illuminated. Hinting at the experience of feminine sexuality up against a rough. About the morning after. Do you see that in films or only the heroic protagonist wearing the clothes that she had worn to the nightclub the previous night? She should drink. That experience would be good for her. It would help her to blend into the crowd. Fit into the maelstrom of society. People would say to themselves, men in particular, ‘Who was that girl?’

Marc had been her only friend in high school. She had never told him that she had been in love with him. In Johannesburg in her twenties, she befriended homosexuals. They had beautiful hands, light eyes, these tall Amazons. They told wonderful stories. For some reason they reminded her of Marc. Marc’s loyalty. They reminded her of how important it is to laugh, to dance, and to eat good food with friends. Thirty something and still missing her first love, Marc. Wires were growing from her head now and she smiled as she towel dried her hair. She had always had a love, hate relationship with her hair, with her ego, her lack of self-control.

The thing with writers. They never forget anything. If you are a woman, you never forget the men who left you, the men you drank with, danced with, and who shared cigarettes with you. The ones who got away.

Early twenties, Johannesburg, 2002

‘Switch off the light. Switch off the light. I don’t want people to see me like this.’
‘You’re dressed.’
‘No, actually I’m not.’
‘Okay, so you’re half-dressed. That was fun.’
‘That was what you would call fun.’ She was sad. Kaput.
‘You’re so tense sweetie. Here, let me massage your shoulders. I have to park the car first. It’s not safe out there this time of night. Never know what you might find out there out on the street.’
‘Don’t do that.’ She wanted to say. ‘Don’t leave me out there in the cold. Invite me in. Into your house, wolf in sheep’s clothing. Do your worst. I’ll still wake up brilliant in the morning.’ She thought to herself even though she knew it was dangerous thinking.
‘It’s late. Do you want me to drop you off somewhere? How much? How much do you want?’ She couldn’t believe what she was hearing.
‘You’re not serious, are you? How much? Do you think I’m a prostitute?’ Do you think you would just leave me out here on the street to walk home in the dark?’ She felt her hands starting to shake. Shark. Coward. She started trembling all over. If was capable of this, then he was capable of anything. He was capable just as much of doing bodily harm and not for the first time, she was frightened.
‘Easy there. Quiet down. I still respect you.’ He laughed then and she felt dirty. He put his hand on her knee. ‘Honestly I still respect you. I had a really nice time, and you?’ He laughed again.
‘Did you lose something? Your innocence of the manic-depressive world around you?’ That was a dig at her now.
‘I’m sorry if you were expecting roses and moonlight. Coffee for two after the afternoon rush in a quiet place. Get out of my car. I’m tired of this. I’m tired of your mind games, lady. Go home to your mother. She should have taught you not to get into a man’s car in the early hours of the morning after a club empties out.’
‘My mother doesn’t want me.’ She wanted to scream in his arrogant face with its sharp features. A face that she thought beautiful in the moonlight. It was still a beautiful face though. The tone of his voice had changed.
‘Oh excuse me; I thought you wanted the same thing that I did. I thought you wanted a good time. Didn’t you know that is all that men have on their brain? Sex. If it isn’t sex, it’s the chase or pornography. Get the joke? There is no joke. This is a man’s world and I’m educating you about a man’s world.’
She thought to herself once upon a time Marc, you were my Louis Macniece, my Philip Larkin. You were nothing like these men. She thought to herself. Brutes. Gigantic and flashy brutes they were.

Thirty something, Port Elizabeth, 2013

The day. Poetry sublime. Symbolism wasting away. Uncertainty all around her. Status and power in the men around her. Limits. Limits. This had always been, to all intents and purposes was her survival kit for mental illness. The sea.

The Imagined Journal Entries of Sylvia Plath

The page frees me in a sense, in a way I can’t describe. I write and that’s my life. I am a mother and a wife and a lover and a poet and I feel that is also just a part of my life. Sometimes the two meet and sometimes they don’t. Sphere upon sphere upon another sphere. Poetry is a god to me. When I write I am a woman on her own. Reality is out of the picture and it doesn’t seem to count for anything really. It’s never enough for me. I stand and watch the busyness of life, observing nature and most of all human nature and I slowly empty out. It’s a useful exercise kind of like transcendental meditation. I know nothing about it. It’s just something I read as a girl in a book long ago when I was at college and at the time it was just too much for me to handle. The thought of going out of myself made me go numb and cold. It gave me the shivers. If I was alone I would go mad with grief and rage and I would be that girl again.

I think I’ve been supportive. I’ve been encouraging. All I see is constellations in words and it is driving me sweetly out of my mind. I am the rabbit in Wonderland and there I go down that hole. There are people out there who have peace around them all the time. Why can’t I be one of those people? Life is a cruel trick. I want to escape from my reality. Women don’t set out to alienate men. It’s not their lot in life. Men and women are supposed to get along so they can walk down that sunny road, settle down and marry and have those kids and start the modern family. Sylvia and Ted are just complex, endlessly searching particles bumping into each other for clarity like oil and water, like acid rain. Now we, the both of this ‘us’ that he keeps on talking about have this one thing in common and that is poetry and the goal was for us to work together but now it is working against us. I never dreamed that this would be kismet.

Last night I was electric. I told him where to get off and come hell or high water I am going to stick to it. So sticking to my guns, that’s me. I put the universe under observation. To be a wonder, I sometimes long for that. To sparkle, to vibrate, to feel that there’s enough in the world, to bask in the revelation that there’s an abundance healing the world of all its iniquities through ritual, that there’s healing across family bloodlines. I long to be so innocent and pure and that I would have no knowledge of the raw energy of blood and guts in writing poetry. I go inside. Inside the deepness, the thoroughfare of the sense and sensibility of every female poet and what do I find there wherever I look. Boxes that are locked and keys that need to be found, a heart that needs to be connected to the material, the physical part of the universe to view even the light and dark battling it out.

Poetry has become my life work, my death of self, a force to be reckoned with steely-eyed determination, my love, my creative impulse and passion. It is the fruit of my spirit and the way of my soul. I have found the world, worlds really that exist in my consciousness, that state I can only reach when I am very still and quiet. The state I could reach when I was young. You only have that kind of inclination when you are young and you don’t live in a constant state of denial of fear and the ego and insecurity. So I have found consciousness, that clear and fluid stream of thought that tends to linger. The heavenly creation of a dream does not. And when you wake up in the morning there is action and vision and doing your ablutions, brushing the curls out of your hair, there’s a sense of orderliness in the routine. There is always something human. I must have courage now. This is not my first hurt.

I see myself as a poet and a female writer second. There’s no contest. All of life is feeding ghosts that came before and after, running on your own personal velocity, the flow of poetic motion, a writer saying, ‘I need an ending to this’ blasting through his or her dream. Inside the mind/vision of a poet means going into the black and that there are always two possibilities within reach, life or death, feeding the gods of beasts or feeling ghosts near your fingertips, depression or feeling that you’re more normal, stable than the next person. I think I have found my ending. Once you are there you’re running, running with scissors (and didn’t even know it). For writers all of life is childhood continued. As a writer, now is the time of my life. Sylvia write every day, that is the purest sum of parts of a writer. Don’t edit. Don’t censor yourself. Before you show ‘the work’ to anyone else, journal with intent.

Loss is a hard fall. You’re standing and then the world becomes something of a hallucination. Writing no longer is a task for me. Feeling broken is a splendiferous stain. Held up to the world it is my main inspiration. It packs it in, crosses thresholds, divides, and flaunts, what it isn’t is anonymous. In my writing I don’t have to don a mask and mask my pain. I don’t have to filter my moods and then I turn to my reflection and say, ‘Bravo, Sylvia. You’ve done the impossible. Bravo.’ Perhaps it is true. I am behaving like a spoilt, coddled child. But if I take him back what does that say about me, all my principles, the family values I cherish. People talk and what if they do. It is none of my business what they think of me, of us, of this wounded relationship. Poets do not know how to live. We only know how to die.

Daily I get glimpses of the portrait of a writer. It feels kind of surreal to me (more like a dream) especially the consciousness of the writer and the ‘thought-magic’ that we wield and that we harbour in our communities. In front of the writer lies a battlefield. The portrait’s skin and its flesh and bone and blood are made up of history and poverty, the divide between everything that came before, the divide that lies between the powerful and the vulnerable and a rich diversity. It houses the thought and the community I have spoken of before. At heart we, the writer are creative beings. The poet is the mystic being finding everything around him bearable and unbearable. Always reckoning those two forces of nature, those two cycles, seasons in the circle of life. I write because it’s my life. Writers write because it is their saving grace. I write because I don’t know what to do with the raw energy I have of blood and guts.

I regard the world as delicious images crowding my mind, jostling for position and a fairy tale filled with angels and demons. There’s always entrapment by ghosts. Oh, how they want to belong, those kindred spirits and what they wouldn’t give to feel alive again. They vanish and appear at will and call our name in the wee hours of the morning scaring us half to death, they taste like air, smoke, honey, blood and they thirst for land. What they wouldn’t give to walk and talk, speak truths and be tourists?

Today has been the colour of rain. A pale, washed-out colour and a dreary mood was hanging in the air but then Frieda smiled at me and then everything was alright in the world again. I am like a wounded animal, a hungry bear in the wild and there are days when I feel as if I am a woman on a mission. A mission to find love and I can’t rest until I have rekindled it in the ones I have lost. Poetry is my voice, my light, my sport.

I must be obedient and forgiving. Isn’t that what a wife is supposed to be? He had the audacity to stand there and lecture me as if I was a bad person, a bad mother. Have I been a bad wife? I don’t know. Have I neglected my children and been too self-absorbed? Perhaps, perhaps, perhaps. I don’t find enough time in the day anymore to write like I used to. I remember how my husband used to help with little Frieda and especially Nicholas when I wanted some time to myself. But most importantly when I wanted to write. When I first met Ted all I wanted to do was make him happy. To see him smile, read his poetry and what an effort he made by reading mine and giving me helpful advice just lifted my spirits. It felt like a dream being near him, listening to him and now I have lost that dream and I must dream another. I have lost him to another woman. Is she better than I am? Is she a lady? Is she the perfect woman?

I want to be a poet. I want to a modern poet and I want to be the best modern poet out there. I just have to find a way out of this near-madness, this state of melancholy, the pathetic little me syndrome, the pain, and the sorrow that I feel comes upon me. I have to reach for the formidable and become that. I have to reach for the celestial. Depression is the sickness of our time. I see it all around me. In the sick, men who are stressed out by their jobs, women who have babies get depressed, people who leave home for brighter, greener pastures. Then there are those who retire, who get old, on the faces of immigrants and even the young people who go to university, people who get homesick for the loved ones they left behind. Ah, the pain of the mind the doctor would say to me. All you need is rest. You have a young family and they must keep you running up and down at all hours of the day. I’ve never stopped believing in that.

Maybe it is all in my mind, the pain of the mind. I went to the doctor. I was feeling out of sorts. Not the way I usually felt and all he said was that the children and their energy must wear me out. So I was put into a situation where I had to agree. It is just this belief that I am something special because I have this talent. ‘Don’t gush. It’s only poetry and most people find poetry obscure. Who reads it?’ My mother said. ‘Don’t be in awe of yourself. Don’t take yourself so seriously that you forget to see that God is in the details and all around you. Always remember that I love you for who you are. I don’t think he is the right kind of man for you.’ I have time now to reflect when I am on my own and he comes and watches the children for me and keeps an eye on them while I can get some work done. The writing of poetry does not come with instructions. Scientists dispel myths. Poets have to reckon with truth.

There’s something sensual about writing and the order and the routine in it. I wish it could last forever but it doesn’t. It’s temporary like the sun-age on the surface of a ripe cloudburst. I feel as if I’m an alcoholic, hippie or a druggie while I experience the sensation of the morning quiet. I take it all in. My consciousness becomes a dream factory that I am still trying to find all the answers to. It must be very cold where he is tonight, wherever he is. I don’t care where he is and who his with. If I did it might mean that I still love him, that I covet feeling his the warmth of him beside me at night? He makes my heart and nerves still and soft. He fills my head with accusations and lies and every time that we come into contact now, I feel like a chip of glass. I must keep my chin up and my head held high but these days I’m prone to panic. What one earth will guide me to the courage I was once accustomed to having?

When I enter the body of poetry a sense of fulfilment and satisfaction washes over me. There are explosions of tiny waves behind my eyes. My soul has made it thus far. I have to end the poverty in my mind but I find a cold comfort in the not knowing of things. If depression happened in nature what would we call it then? Would it be organic in origin? In a marriage when it ends whom is to blame for its demise. Who is the culprit? On the approaching betrayal in any relationship I have this to say. Lock down your heart dear and look away. It means that there may be something incomplete in the moving against the current of love. It means to love and die simultaneously. I think there’s a theory behind light. When my body feels full of that stuff, the light, and the hidden energies in my aura I feel as if I have got free tickets to the centre of winter.