Abigail George – Online Open Mic

The sweetness of the day

    I know of the sorrows of this
world. The sorrows of a mother who in
    old age has become deaf. She
    lost a brother in a car accident
    when she was a girl but she never
    speaks about it. I try too hard
to reach out to her (even now). I see God in her face
    of love. I know she has her reasons
    for the ways in which she has
    loved me. She was a difficult
woman to learn to love but now I can honestly
    say that I love her. I turn sketches of
    her mysticism into poems that
    I don’t show her. That’s my truth. All the habits
of hate-feeling faded out in me over the years.
    On the surface of the dark secret
    of my childhood was my mother.
    One day, summer heat in the bathroom
    she pulled me out of the bathwater
    and hit me like a madman. It was turned into a
story by my siblings that they recited

Over the years. In the middle of
    The night as a child I could not sleep.
    The onset of insomnia that would
    Continue into adulthood. That river
    Was wide. Too hard to cross. I still
    Hear her voice inside my head. When
    Will you find your prince? When will you find a job? You’re a
disgrace to me.
Even now in my dreams I walk up streets and down streets. Running down, running
    down to Jean Rhys’ purple sea. There
    was always magic and loneliness in sleep.
    I dreamed at right angles. In metaphor.
It was home and impenetrable sanctuary. Wing and windows to my soul.
    Yes, now I am no stranger to
the mad dance of insomnia and depression.
    When I was young, I thought my mother never loved me. My father
    did but my mother never loved me.
    I think back to that day when she hit
me blue and black on my body, screaming at
    me to stop crying and I ran with my
    bare-naked little body into my father’s
arms. He picked me up, looking at my mother.
Looking at me. Saying you shouldn’t be doing this. I always thought he
would leave her but he never did.


Insomnia

    At 3-years-old he’s like magic.
Every fragment in his life has a spark. We
    said to each other, that ‘the child’
is already an old-soul. Already we could see he was gifted.
    That he was going to be like
    his father. We built a sandpit for the kid.
    Fed him ice cream and bananas when he came home from school.
    He played in the dirt making
    mud soup. Grief too has bones.
    In his hands paper becomes an ocean.
    The bees have no wrinkles.
    Even the dogs hidden by mist
    are on edge. Here, when the
sun shines we sit at the river’s edge, fish on the coals.
    With the desires of our intellect, our goals in our heart.
    And, for me, a pure dream of a husband appears in evening
shadows.
    At the end of the day I know

    what loneliness is, (that bright
    burnt sparse river in the valley
    of a dream husband appearing
    in shadow). I think of other men
    (like my father and brother). Men
    of great intellect who live for
    books, education and museums.
    Their robust work ethic. The women that they admire, love, yearn
for and respect.
Think to myself how I fail at being that kind of woman.
    My own mother (with age)
    has become a frail frightened monster. It
frightens me to say the word ‘elderly’. Her pretty mouth a
    startled frightened bird. In water,
    in my far-off youth she was a
    mermaid. Now she has dirty fingernails.
    In morning light, you will find
    her in her garden of succulents as beautiful and
    elegant as she was as a young
    bride (I was never going to be a bride at 25-years-of-age). I
    think of when the decay of
my own life began. When my mother took me to a psychiatrist. When I received
    my first diagnosis. My very first pamphlet on mental health.
    I wore too much makeup. I
    wore my kitten heels. I’m not as
    precious to my mother as her other daughter. Lovely daughters
    are always precious. Always
cherished. Clothed in beautiful statements.


Avalanche in my soul

    (It happened 15-years ago. You didn’t
speak about it then, but you’re speaking about it now.
    Maybe that’s the difference.)
    You must forget, my father said. Forget
    about the past. The man in the workplace
    who grabbed you, fondled you and stuck
his tongue down your throat. You must forget for
    your own sanity. You must forget
    the man whose name you can’t remember. The man who
changed his son’s diaper in front of you. The man you went
    for coffee with. Had breakfast with.
    It was Natasha who said he only wanted
    your body. Lebogang said she had
    the same experience. That he tried to
    kiss her too. All these things you will remember for
the rest of your life. This is why you left Johannesburg.
    Never pursued filmmaking. You were a
    girl then. Now you’re more mature. A confident woman. Now you
think to yourself, you survived. You survived.
    You survived it all to write about it.
    You didn’t speak about it then but you’re speaking about it now. That’s the
difference. But my father is telling me to forget about it.
    (It happened 15-years ago. You didn’t
speak about it then, but you’re speaking about it now. Maybe that’s
the difference.)
    I must forget, my father said. Forget
    about the past. The man who made
    an inappropriate comment about ‘whipping
    me into submission’. The man in the
    workplace who grabbed me, fondled
    me and stuck his tongue down my throat. I must forget for
    my own sanity. I must forget the man whose name I can’t remember.
The man who changed his son’s diaper in front

    of me. The man I went for coffee
with. Had breakfast with. It was Natasha who said
    he only wanted my body. What
    he could do to it. Lebogang said
she had the same experience. That he tried to kiss her too.
    All these things I will remember for
the rest of my life. It is why I left Johannesburg.
    Never pursued filmmaking. I was a
    girl then. Now I’m more mature. A confident woman. Now I
think to myself, I survived all of that shit. I survived.
    I survived it all to write about it.


Even when my soul sleeps or studies and observations of clouds

    It is a hot, dry summer with water
restrictions.
    Our parents and you thought rehab was
necessary.
    Let go of the world (I want to tell
you. All is a majority. Even this pigment. This
    gold feast of peace). Once we were
    made of water but who made up these
rules.
    We followed them like fools growing
up.
    The kingdom of God is within. I have
    finally left childhood radiance behind.
    Spiritual maturity is when we become
    like the Christ-figure. I hope they are
    teaching you that where you are. It’s
    summer. Days of thunder. The unseen
    is eternal. I am listening to your music.
    Lying on your bed. Barefoot. My feet
    are dirty. You’re not here. You’re here
    but you’re also not here. You’re in rehab
    and we’re all made of water and rain.
    Tears a waterfall. I think of the dirty
    dishes I must wash. The stories I must
    read to your son. The garden I must
water for your sake. That has been your ‘sanctuary’
    after all these months. How before you
    left you could never sleep at night.

    Are you growing spiritually, I wonder?
    I think of you in your sadness. Silence
    closing in on your loneliness. Daylight.
    The cold in the morning hitting your face.
Summer touching you as you work outside. Your limbs gaining vigour
    and perspective. I guess there’s order in
    that kind of routine. I am in need of
    crayons to colour you in. Your passion.
    Your history. Your progress. Your borders.
    Your trembling voice as you talk to your
son.

    I miss your shortbread. You riding around
    in your car with young goddesses who
    wear too much makeup. Drinking single
    malt whiskies and vodka and pineapple
    juice but you’ll have to stop doing that.
    You’ll really have to stop doing that. And I wonder,
if you’ll make it after all when you come home.


Journey into the centre of summer

    My father, the artist, sleeps
the sleep of the dead in the hot afternoon.
    In this house, we do nothing but
    sleep and eat. Live to survive
    another day like the winter leaf finding
refuge in the blue light. We find our way through
    instinct. I kiss his old, tired-looking

    face. Tell him to take the cup by
    the handle. Everything goes electric
    when he cannot walk. Make it to the
    bathroom. I see it in his eyes. He can’t
    believe he’s old. I repair him with
    food. I’m not a good cook but I try.
    Making mostly pastas. Making mostly
spaghetti. I count out his pills. Iron his handkerchiefs
    for church. He has one good suit.
Wonder if (the pills) they’re really doing any
    good for him. His limbs play up.
    Sometimes they’re invincible. Sometimes
    not. My father, the poet, is a gentle-

    man. The wet stain of trees against his
    fingertips. He knits flesh in his hands.
 I think of my father as a young man. Doing research
    for his doctoral thesis. Traveling from
archive to archive. I think of my own journey.
    Journey into the centre of this summer.
    Then I am sad and I think to myself is

this the last summer that we’ll spend together
as father-daughter. This thin sea in my hands.

The tide in my hands. The current
telling me to step back from the strange, silent sunshine
of the day. There are glass fragments
in my heart and evening swallows, a
Chinese dragon breathing fire, and
I’m turning the page. I’m turning the page.
I give up this day to the rain. I am
standing on a diving board. I am standing on a diving board but nothing
feels real to me. I think of J.’s guitar. I think of S. and her
frail deeds.
Her wheelchair. I think of water. The radio
which has become so sacred to us. Repairs to the heart. Leftovers.
Posts on social media. Antelope that linger.


Artist:

Abigail George

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