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.
At 3-years-old he’s like magic.
Every fragment in his life has a spark. We
said to each other, that ‘the child’
is already an old-soul. Already we could see he was gifted.
That he was going to be like
his father. We built a sandpit for the kid.
Fed him ice cream and bananas when he came home from school.
He played in the dirt making
mud soup. Grief too has bones.
In his hands paper becomes an ocean.
The bees have no wrinkles.
Even the dogs hidden by mist
are on edge. Here, when the
sun shines we sit at the river’s edge, fish on the coals.
With the desires of our intellect, our goals in our heart.
And, for me, a pure dream of a husband appears in evening
At the end of the day I know
what loneliness is, (that bright
burnt sparse river in the valley
of a dream husband appearing
in shadow). I think of other men
(like my father and brother). Men
of great intellect who live for
books, education and museums.
Their robust work ethic. The women that they admire, love, yearn
for and respect.
Think to myself how I fail at being that kind of woman.
My own mother (with age)
has become a frail frightened monster. It
frightens me to say the word ‘elderly’. Her pretty mouth a
startled frightened bird. In water,
in my far-off youth she was a
mermaid. Now she has dirty fingernails.
In morning light, you will find
her in her garden of succulents as beautiful and
elegant as she was as a young
bride (I was never going to be a bride at 25-years-of-age). I
think of when the decay of
my own life began. When my mother took me to a psychiatrist. When I received
my first diagnosis. My very first pamphlet on mental health.
I wore too much makeup. I
wore my kitten heels. I’m not as
precious to my mother as her other daughter. Lovely daughters
are always precious. Always
cherished. Clothed in beautiful statements.
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
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
Our parents and you thought rehab was
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
We followed them like fools growing
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
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
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.