archive - issue 1

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  • /

    By MJ Turpin
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  • Apartment / Containers

    By Vincent Bezuidenhout
    These diptychs are the start of a series of images I have been working on regarding the visual landscape we choose to surround ourselves
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  • Collage

    By Claudio Parentela
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  • Drag and Snap

    By Leigh-Anne Niehaus
    This series is inspired by the childhood game of "snapdragon", which allows for simplistic and delightful decision-making through random selections of colour and number.
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  • Human/Nature

    By Lydia Anne McCarthy
    This series explores moments between nature and human beings that are at once idealistic and unsettling. Each picture is an independent narrative, but placed
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  • p u n c t u a t i o n

    By Ula Einstein
    Einstein works with a diverse range of media, including drawings and installation with fire, thread, and blades. The series of drawings and installations with
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  • Pretty Babies

    By Peregrine Honig
    With the premise that "/ " presents what is IN and what is OUT, the "Pretty Babies" series explores the fashion industry's well-published and syndicated DOs
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  • River Bank

    By Mario Sughi
    The symbol / is intended initially as a symbol of division. A real or unreal line divides the girl from the water, the girl from
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  • Seasaw

    By Sol Kjøk
    Here, the motif is conceived of as a seesaw (the typo in the title is intended, as this drawing is part of a series
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  • Series Seven Up

    By Noel Fignier
    Text by João Branco Kyron, HipnóticaThe collision is imminent and in the fraction of time left, the eyes shut and the vision is superbly
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  • A battle over samoosas between the snobbish Cinderella and a homeless electrician is mediated by Cinderella's boyfriend JJ. The samoosa battle is conflated with
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  • Untitled

    By Wilhelm Saayman
    This series of images, made using pen and ink, photographs and Photoshop, explore alternate/dream realities.
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  • Let's go there

    By Leigh Le Roux
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  • The space between.

    By Mehita Iqani
    It's a handy little line, the one that we use to make our options known. Either/Or. Paper and ink or binary code? Its clichéd,
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  • /

    By Ruth Barker
    On the QWERTY layout of my computer keyboard, the symbol / appears beside the questioning symbol ?. They are represented together on the same key, and
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  • I returned home after my first year in college to discover my younger sister had turned gorgeous. This was a disappointment, but not an
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  • Forward! Slash!

    By Travis Lyle
    You think you're a forward-thinking kinda person, do you? Lemme be the one to break it to you, sunshine – you're as lame as the
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  • Letter to the Editor

    By Elan Gamaker
    Dear Sir/Madam I should like strenuously to object to the subject matter ("/") of your current issue. It must first be mentioned, however, that it
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  • Butterfly

    By Adriana de Barros
    The pupa, a silk wrap of emotionsIsolated, within breathing, wanting to bethe intense pronoun of selfIt is silly to be one's own pronounShe giggles
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  • Evidence of Life

    By Tamlyn Martin
    Below is an extract from a series of 11 poems created in parallel with visual artworks. 5. Memories laced with visceral realityFlooding herThe gentle
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  • Immigrants

    By Stanley Onjezani Kenani
    you want to livenothing leaveto liveyou swimor like fresh sardinesyou are packedin boatsyou leaveto live.  you leavegold in the belly of Africaoil in
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  • In Between

    By Tania van Schalkwyk
    Raised in an Arabian land of heat, fire and temper,sometimes the calm of England clamps downlike damp in a bathroom with no windowand a
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  • Or: a line drawing

    By Gabeba Baderoon
    Pencil and nothing. Her face turned almost entirely away. Forehead, cheekbone,jaw,the bun low in her neck,shoulderand down,the long linejust enoughthen left alone.
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  • Scissor

    By Charlotte Gait
    There was a time when you and I were connected by iron, acid, vitamin and blood. Where every mouthful I took was with the
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  • Un Hombre Fuerte

    By Tamo Vonarim Written these words are, at times of a subconscious flow – whether they are mine, I don't know. All I know is that I
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  • Unbroken Awareness

    My life is now a floating shellI am a vessel on that river.The storm, the ship, the sea,Whose shores we lost in crossing.  I
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  • Untitled

    By Aryan Kaganof
    /At R550 rand I thought I'd rather die/ My mother: can I trust this woman?/ I thought the Romans were coming, dinkum/ …and always
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    By Sean Hampton-Cole
    Keys. John speaking. 'Lo?Good morning. May I speak to Bob Mitchell please?Bob in Bonds?I'm not really sure. I'm trying to...You want extension 125. This
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  • Wayne Porter, freelance journalist, donned his anthropologist's birthday suit and hit the bowling alley. Bar the bowlers hat tipped gently off centre, the man
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  • The Incised Wound

    By Joanne Hichens
    "Please, for me, Dave," I placed my hand on his, and really, no begging, just asked him nicely, "Lay off the booze tonight." Whether
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  • He had been driving for hours through that unstable, somnambulist night when he fell asleep at the wheel. He awoke with a start and
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Abigail George

Abigail George

She has written a novella, volumes of poetry, and collections of short stories, a play, and a YA novel. She is the recipient of two National Arts Council Writing Grants for poetry and manuscript development. One from the Centre for the Book (this book was launched at the Grahamstown Festival), and another from the Eastern Cape Provincial Arts and Culture Council (ECPACC).

She has been published in, All Things Girl, Best of Beauty and Advice, Beyond Beauty Tips, Ezine Articles, Hackwriters, Identity Theory (Poem The Accident Editor's Choice), Indite Circle, Modern Diplomacy, New Coin, Nigeria Tell, inaugural issue of Peaches Lit Mag, Peoples Daily, Piker Press, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, and Spontaneity. As well as StoryTime, The Artist Unleashed, The Cerebral Catalyst, The Copperfield Review, The Dangerous Lee Network (The Creative Outlet of a Woman Named Leigh Langston).

The Istanbul Literary Review, The Maple Tree Literary Supplement, The Voices Project, Three and a Half Point 9, Unlikely 2.0, Voice Out Digital and Zimbabwe Online Press. She blogs at Abigail George's blog on Goodreads. Her fiction has been nominated for the Pushcart Prize. She has been published online in other countries from Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, South Africa, (Istanbul) Turkey, Zimbabwe, to Canada, England, Finland, France, (New Delhi) India, and the United States. Her work has been anthologised in England, South Africa, and the United States.

Raised in a family of educationalists and schooled in Port Elizabeth in the Eastern Cape, South Africa she is a feminist, a writer, and fulltime poet. She writes a monthly article/commentary for Modern Diplomacy and contributed to a (2014-2015) symposium that appeared bimonthly on Ovi Magazine: Finland's English Online Magazine. Her work has been anthologised in Being Bipolar: Stories from Those Living with the Disorder and Those Who Love Them by Rachel Ellen Koski (Editor), Poems for Haiti (Poets Printery), a South African Writer's Circle anthology, the Sentinel Annual Literature Anthology, The Sol Plaatje EU Poetry Anthology IV (Jacana Media) and Mini Stories, an anthology of children's stories (Kwarts Publishing).

Abigail George's work has appeared in and is forthcoming from African Writer, AIDS Here and Now Project, Birds Piled Loosely, [FictionMagazines] FIVE Poetry Vol. 03 No. 03, Hackwriters, ITCH The Creative Journal, Literary Orphans, Kikwetu, Modern Diplomacy, and Ovi Magazine: Finland's English Online Magazine, Peaches Lit Mag, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Spontaneity, The Artist Unleashed, The Copperfield Review, The Maple Tree Supplement, The Voices Project, Three and a Half Point Nine, Toad Suck Review. She is a feminist, a fulltime poet, and a writer. 

She has been published in South Africa in Botsotso, Carapace, Echoes Literary Journal, Kotaz, LitNet, Ons Klynti, Ou LitNet, New Coin, New Contrast, Sun Belly Press, Timbila, Tribute, Upbeat, and Writing Works.

She briefly studied film. Her poetry has most recently appeared in the Best "New" African Poets 2015 Anthology, Lonely (an anthology), New Writing LitNet, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, New Coin, a Special Report in Modern Diplomacy, Vigil Pub Mag, and short fiction in Ovi Magazine: Finland's English Online Magazine.

Work appearing and forthcoming in Birds Piled Loosely, Brittle Paper, Bluepepper, Dead Snakes, Hamilton Stone Review, Praxis Mag Online, Sentinel Literay Quarterly, Spontaneity Issue 7 and Issue 9, The Five-Two: Poem of the Week, The Writing Disorder. Opinion published in Marie Claire, The Herald and The Weekend Post. Her flash fiction appears in The Harpoon Review. Fiction appearing in Vigil Pub Mag.


Friday, 29 January 2016 17:04

Athol Williams

Xenophobia –
Outside a wasteland of rain.
Goodbye dragonfly.

It is too early –
In the gathering stages.
Transfer of energy.

J.D. Salinger –
Classics almost spiritual.
Jhumpa Lahiri.

Arteries of water –
Letting it burn in the end.
Propaganda soaked.

Sense of urgency –
Extraordinary boy.
Flux of experience.

Hibiscus in light –
Extraordinary man.
A moth's wing paper.

Visions of angels –
Mikale sits across from me.
White moth genius.

Razor sharp shark teeth –
Leaves each with their own flight risk.
Bough down amongst trees.

Death to poverty –
Dandelion parachutes.
Tik addicts don't quit.

In need of a knife –
Grass roots-pollen on my fingertips.
In need of a wife.

Blueprints of classics –
Psychiatrists like insects.
The moth swallows me.

No myths about ghosts –
Love is often not enough.
Spreads its wings in light.
Saturday, 17 January 2015 21:18

The Resting Place

'Blubber. Whale.' Her brother's eyes are wild tonight. He is high. Something plants itself in her spirit. A wretchedness. Something uproots itself. Finds another route, another flagrant destination in the world. The word 'visa'. On the one hand, she is anchored by grace, on another the physical abuse of her brother. It feels as if she is burning up from the inside up but in an elegant way.

Her mum goes on wild wilderness trips on a Saturday afternoon. Off her mother goes running errands, buying paint at the mall leaving behind her eldest daughter, playing nursemaid to her father. There is the smell of wet paint on the walls. The housekeeper's lunch on the kitchen table. Her tea getting cold. It is now lukewarm and in a few minutes, it will be cold. There is the greasy pan, the breakfast plates in the sink. Later on there are children's stories to write, armchair travelling, a boring novel to page through (too many big words, the landscapes are bigger than her visions it seems, than her own soft, fragile awareness of the world at large).  Society does what it wants with people the way her own tribe of people in her life treats others. If there is mistreatment, there is hurt. There is a wound. Rub salt in it. Go ahead. Her reflection in the mirror seems to be telling her. She opens the cold and hot water taps. Water spills into the bath. She hides her head in her hands. She sobs knowing that her tears will not be heard by anyone else. Her nose becomes runny. Her face is wet. She wipes her nose on her sleeve.

Is it dementia? It is that time of year again. The time of year for doctors and their well-meaning bedside manner. She wants to interrupt the handsome doctor with his sea green eyes. Well, they seem to be well meaning today. Not cruel like her brother's eyes. Her brother's hands as she lifts up her hands to protect her face. She wants to confide in him, this handsome doctor who is marrying for the second time. He must have a nanny for his children, she thinks to herself. She wants to tell him she is writing children's stories now. Tell him about her mother's mental and emotional abuse. Her father has taken to walking. He takes long walks. He is becoming forgetful. People are kind. They do not make him wait for anything anymore. People are kind to him. It also seems that people are kinder to her it seems. When her father goes on these walks, she wants to tell the doctor that it seems he will never return to her. She cannot live without him. She knows that the doctor will not understand what she truly means by this. Her father is her life. Nobody can understand this. Now she knows that there is no escape.

Now she knows that there is no Canada for her. This is called survival. Once upon a time, she had lovely bones, good bones (she only had to say obey, that was the spoken word), bones that understood the routine and order of the day, of the planning of meals but now they murmur self-defeat. They have a tongue (could be called an oracle). It is called renal impairment. She cannot have any kind of food that has table salt in it anymore. If she does, it will surely mean the death of her. She would be hooked up to all kinds of machines and tubes. Kidney dialysis they call it for the rest of her life. She can see things sometimes. Things that go bump in the night. What other people call ghosts. It has become so natural to her. It inspires her writing. Is it because she is bordering on both sides of the fence, bordering on life and death? She writes one word in her writer's journal repeatedly. Gethsemane. Gethsemane. She wonders to herself what does it all mean. Too much time. Too many ghost stories. She writes in her writer's journal.

Princess Athobella Ndamase is a woman who has had visions from childhood. At night, she always left her bedroom door ajar, slept with the light on, with the bible under her pillow. She is visited by men and women who have passed on to the hereafter who think that they are still in some indefinable way connected, tethered to this world, this earthly plane and to the ones they have left behind. Children, husbands, spouses, pets. She believes her auditory hallucinations are very, very real and that it is her duty, her moral obligation to record the conversations that she has with them be they writers and poets who have suffered the anguish and despair of suicidal depression (Assia Wevill, Sylvia Plath, David Foster Wallace, and Anne Sexton). Be they South African men and women detained during apartheid (Dulcie September, George Botha, Biko aka Frank Talk), men and women of African, British (Anna Kavan, Ann Quin), North American, Dominican descent (Jean Rhys) or from the Biblical era (for example Moses, Jonah and the whale, Elijah, Job, Noah, David, Solomon, and Jesus, key figures in the history of civilisation).

This she does fastidiously, handwritten in black Croxley notebooks. When people around her can see that she is different, special in a rather extraordinary way they begin to doubt her sanity and she is found to be certifiable, told that she should get plenty of rest, be put under psychiatric treatment and put under the care of a team of doctors. She soon though discovers her identity. Its borders in the powers of her own feminine sensuality, her ego, the perpetual balancing act between the psychological framework of her intelligence, and intellectualism, and the final analysis of the sexual transaction.  With that said, she rises to the occasion and meets her new life head under feet. She soon finds herself in the tiny one roomed library of the hospital and begins to read everything she can get her hands on from Doris Lessing but most importantly the genius poetry of TS Eliot. Once she surrenders to the fact that everyone around her thinks that, she has lost touch with reality she pursues love with an art second to none. She is or rather becomes Orlando.

She becomes Orlando in an asylum, in a hospital and finds that she must play her role in this establishment's class, gender and economic system. She becomes a phenomenal African version of Virginia Woolf's Orlando. Beautiful, wanted, adored, worshipped by men and women for her intellect in a dazed, confused world where pharmaceuticals, head doctors with textbook knowledge of case studies are the elixir, the essence of life. She negotiates the shark-infested waters of having intimate relationships with both men and women acutely aware of the danger she finds herself in of engaging in licentious behaviour. She is in danger of losing more than the fabric of her psyche, or her soul. She is in danger of losing the safe world, as she knew it as a child, youth and adult in her twenties. She finds herself in danger of losing everything.

Too much scribbling. Words seems to illuminate the tragic figure that she has become. God, she is thirty-five years old. The time has flown by. Sometimes she forgets that she has left high school behind. The other night she found an old high school magazine. Her face stared out at her. Youth! She realises now that she has lived with scarcity all her life. In the evening, surrounded by vegetable skins for the soup she is making from the special diet she follows now (a novel habit-forming, lifestyle changing diet) she dreams of ideas, thinks them up, and sums them up. The wheels of them. She writes in her writer's journal. These are the ideas for other stories. Perhaps books. Perhaps even shorter prose. Ideas for haiku. Ideas for poetry. Too much scribbling is not good for a woman.

It leads to disorder, killing, immorality and mayhem in unusual ways. Perhaps that is why her protagonists are always at the mercy of disorder, killing, immorality and mayhem in unusual ways. Perhaps that is why the past is now is always on her mind. She conjures up restaurant dinners from the past. Sipping a cappuccino beforehand. Jonathon on the phone with the 'New York' people. This is a tribute to you, farewell my friend. I have to begin writing tributes to all the people who were kind to me, she thinks to myself. I have to start with Tara, then with Garden City Clinic, then Hunterscraig. I have to go back to hospital life, aloof, indifferent nurses filled with grace nonetheless.

'You have sexy thighs.' She says nothing. For she is a clandestine Sappho, living through this Greek vicariously. She just remembers flying across the room into a chair, and then settling there struggling with the animal self inside of her. Not struggling with the knife in his hand. Red connect the dots in her hair, her head, all disheveled in her brain cells, the walls, the floor, her father's vest. The air tasted bitter. The hour past was filled with regret as the hours now were filled with regret. There was politick at play but where was the social cohesion? Where was the sweetness of childhood, her brother's gentleness, and her mother's girlish laughter? There are just empty beer bottles. One of the colour of urine. She has an idea now for a story. On the surface, it is true like all the stories she has written before. It comes upon her like a thief in the night. Catches her unaware especially when she is distracted or disoriented. Bees in mist, birdsong, 'catching the deluge from a paper cup' from a pop song. She continues to journal.

Stephen is five years old when he dies in a car accident. When his younger sister's daughter grows up and becomes a celebrated South African poet with her photograph in the local newspaper, she discovers a photograph of him in an old shoebox in her mother's childhood home. The shoebox is filled with blue airmail letters, postcards from her father's university days in London and buttons. In it, the little boy is serious, wearing a hat and a coat. Time has stood still for him but his family has moved on. Pushed forward intensely to forget their grief. The poet wonders why her mother never spoke of him, why her mother dislikes her intensely, remaining aloof, indifferent towards her for all of her life. His niece begins to write letters to him (Stephen) while she is admitted to a psychiatric hospital in South Africa (she stays there for six months), imagining him studying literature in a faraway country filled with castles. While her own emotional state hangs in the balance it is her mother that plays the role of the elegant, Christian with purified-and-holy-rituals figurehead in this scenario.

Her father is her anchor. Her father is a brilliant man. He keeps his distance from his son and second daughter and has a love affair with a social worker that cares deeply for him. They confide in one another but know their love cannot last. In a diary, we first discover the psychological framework of the protagonist of the story. He tells his daughter that his lover is dying and that she is the only woman, who has ever really understood him, loved, and appreciated him. His daughter begins to tell the psychologist that she has visions and dreams. The psychologist asks her permission to read her diaries. Notebooks she has kept since her nervous breakdown. He hopes that they will make a breakthrough together in the sessions that they have. The protagonist confronts her mother and asks her why is she treated differently than her siblings but her mother ignores her and does not reply. She also does not tell her mother about her father's affair. She has a dream about Stephen. She tells her psychologist she does not want to be discharged from the hospital because she feels safe there. She tells her psychologist that she can see Stephen.

The psychologist asks her has she ever had this encounter before. She answers in the negative. The writer cannot understand her strange behaviour ('her madness'). She cannot understand why her family rejects her. So in her mind's eye she feels the only way she can replace the 'hell' she finds herself in is with a kind of paradise and with revenge, the only way she will ever be accepted is to become promiscuous. She 'sells her soul', disillusioned with humanity, women, with men so her relationship with her younger siblings becomes more estranged.

She writes and writes and writes. Skins that she peeled from vegetables almost as longsuffering as she was on the kitchen table. Speech, speech! They seem to say. All colours. All shapes. Smiling and frowning at her. This helps. This is therapy. This is kitchen table wisdom. This soup will take me faraway from obesity. Soup. That is all she eats now. It is as if she is in her own dementia ward.
Wednesday, 16 July 2014 23:36

Marilyn Monroe

Blonde threads.
Standing solitude.
Every tear a waterfall.
Amidst the oblivion
of Pompeian-Hollywood.

Drug addict.
Alcohol done her in.
The earthly possessions
of an American symbol
of movie star royalty.

Once upon a time
a red-haired Norma Jean Baker.
The showgirl.
The butcher's wife.

She was blue.
A phenomenon.
Her skin organic too.
This cuckoo-bird.
Nothing dumb about her.
Thursday, 31 October 2013 19:59

The Kenyan Mademoiselle

It is a Sunday. The wind is up. It’s been one of those long and boring afternoons. Nothing to do but count the hours to your favorite television show. It has been a beautiful day. Do you live near the beach? I do. I should walk more but I don’t. And I think too much. I always want to say the perfect thing and the words must be elegant. Maybe that has something to do with me being a writer. Lunch is over and so I think I’ll spend the rest of the afternoon doing nothing or read something. We don’t buy newspapers anymore. Magazines once in a while and what I’ve learned is that I really like to read inspirational stories. People who’ve made it in this cruel world, and who have lived to survive it.

With all the rain we’ve had there’s has been flooding in the low-lying areas. We see rain as God’s gift but then there are others who don’t see it as that. I am fortunate that I met you when I did. It was more than luck that brought us together and you’ve said so more than once. I wish I could have written more to you, spoken to you more often, been there for you the way you have for me. You are made of kind folk, a kindred spirit. It really feels like we’re related or connected somehow on so many levels. And I have found a sister in you, family and so many things, a comrade. I can hope that you will write, write and write and that it will turn into a beautiful book filled with joy, written with eloquence, enthusiasm and audacity.

There are many bad people in this world but as I discover more of the world I live in, you live in, there are just as many if not more good people. I believe in you. I believe in your literary work and your devoted commitment to that work. When you have courage and display that authentic sense of self and selfhood to the world it gives me courage. You understand what it means to be an artist, a creative marvel who surrenders (no matter what difficulty she encounters to reach the turning point).

You are the mistress of your own destination, forging quietly and with steely determination ahead. You make me want to pay close attention to what having empathy means, to tolerate what I could not tolerate before, for my heart to listen before my intellect, ego, consciousness does. You illuminate me and I suppose that is what great friends do, great sisters, great teachers, and poets do. (And now I feel I can go on but I’ll stop here.) I want to be brave. I want to be a brave forward-thinker making progress like any adventurer in pursuit of a dream expedition or pilgrimage.

It’s hard to want to live sometimes. In my world it’s a feeling I can’t escape sometimes but knowing that there’s a lifeline out there sometimes makes everything, everything easier to bear. So thank you for your spirit, thank you for your soul, thank you for being so angelic in your communication with me. I wish I could have printed out some of the stuff we have ‘said’ to each other. It is food for thought (much food, much nutritious thought). I see art in everything now where I didn’t before and I see artists everywhere I go and I think to myself. They don’t even know it. They can’t see it and it is in front of their eyes. There’s so much to live for.

There’s so much life even in bread, even in fasting. Around every corner are communities wanting to learn, wanting to be educated. There is so much joy. Joy in the faces of people, strangers whose names I do not know and faces I will not remember. Today has been a good day for me. Today has been poetic. I think that we’re on the brink of an extraordinary era. If only everyone had poetry in their spirit then there’d be more than enough joy to go around for everyone.

I’ll never forget your friendship for as long as I live.

I hate the dark. How it expresses itself, yields crime, and brings oddities to the surface. I love the moonlight. I’ve grown used to the cold. I’ve found its elements useful in some ways. I’ve become mindful of the miracles I’ve found in other poets writing and their love and passion for writing that ignited the flame of habit within them. If others can see those personalities of the stems, haphazard roots, spinning flowers, spinning like the red heads of poppies in the wind of the poem’s soul why can’t I?

You ask how do poets prosper today if people do not read poetry, find inconceivable pure threads among it, seize it as if it was life itself? I ask how do people live if they do not read? Do you, should we find it necessary to put ‘African’ in front of writer or poet these days? I need to lose myself and not cherish the separation anxiety I feel sometimes.

The pioneers of Southern Africa lived a madness life exiled in the earth’s storm, living off the land with their white teeth. I wonder at the adjustments their children made. They lived off everything that had an organic description from their fruit orchards; potatoes, bread, their animals provided the meat for their progeny and workers and families. All those finicky cells all had ancient life.

The beaches of my childhood are pure to me, usually always breathtaking, a magnificent portrait, never bleak. Particularly the light of the day as it closes in on people, on me, on my mother’s back as she charges ahead of me, as she charges ahead of heaven, of paradise. Earth is not the only link I have to God, to beauty, to pioneers who came before me, to laughter.

The other day I found shells on the beach and it was as if angels had a hand in making them. I collected them as if they were fossils. As if they were ghosts from another time and place and then they became a feast of white in my hands. So mankind achieved progress. This evening there was rain on my tongue. I could not speak. The beauty all around moved me to tears. It is my sister’s year of weddings.

What is ill health, your body being, becoming more and more attuned as each day turns into weeks and months of being, becoming committed to ill health? I can no longer indulge vanity, insanity and conceit. Ill health is locked down into my sleep, my dreaming, and my goals. I am no longer my mother’s genuine futurist. I remember warm days. Something snaps inside of me. I drink lukewarm tea. I must remember love. Running into words, prose, essays in the darkened interior of a bedroom.

Acknowledgements must be mentioned. Prayers must be said. Preparations mustn’t be hurried.  Writing is like an open field; flat, bewildering. It can smell cold like the untouched keys of a piano unspoiled by fire, time, memory and place. There’s a place for you too in nostalgia. We’ll still talk of the men in our lives, past and present. Every external custom, dramatic comprehension, the heritage found in our shared loneliness.
Thursday, 31 October 2013 19:55

The Johannesburg People

I feel sick but I wait for this feeling to pass. It feels as if I wait for an eternity. It feels as if I have just licked the grimy asphalt beneath my heels. I’m trembling because I am cold. My hair is limp and straggly underneath my cap. My teeth long for a good bite of food. My teeth are tiny, shark teeth hungry for more. I haven’t eaten anything the whole day. I am not hungry. I don’t eat anymore. I pretend to push food around on my plate at night at suppertime and eat rice and peas (because they look beautiful, aesthetically pleasing on the plate). Why would I want to eat when every time I get high my appetite is sated? Everything becomes colourful, vivid, the cracks in the peeling ceiling and the seats, the thumbprint on the glass becomes sealed.

I am tired of the hierarchy of money, posse, model, celebrity, and hanger-on, poser, groupie, television executive and homosexual. They must all be valuable to society or otherwise they wouldn’t be here tonight swaying their hips to the music, their lips and mouths are sensuous, drinking shots off the bar, spending money. Their identity remains a blur the entire evening but they are never quite out of your range, out of your peripheral vision with their entertaining quips and humour. Can I get you anything?

The girls are body beautiful but they are not much else I sniff. Pretty pictures, pretty paintings of expensive trendy fashion. Their clothes are tight, snug, figure-hugging – is there room for air? Their hair is freshly washed and blow-dried, their lips are wet, shiny, they are docile these sweet dolls, their movements are fragile and they will do anything for love. They will do anything for a guy they set their sights on tonight.

My head is filled with the glare of the glow of streetlights, cars buzzing dangerously low to the curb. I imagine the sidewalk will feel so cool as I rest my cheek against it.

I want to embrace the pavement, snuggle my head into the crook of my arm and close my eyes and sleep. I think I am going to be sick.

I am again reminded how self-indulgent the human condition can be. How we improve ourselves, our boring, safe, humdrum lives through self-medication through addiction, alcoholism, drugs, exercise and diet pills.

It is early morning. No one is around in the stillness of the darkness. There is only a vapour that descends on the deserted club, mist and ghosts. I have nowhere to go but down. So far down, that it is as far away from reality as possible.

I run in and out of the bathroom changing my top. I have one long-sleeved polo neck and one T-shirt. I feel sick and my face is flushed as if I have a fever. It is all pink and I shiver when I walk out into the darkness of the club, onto the dance floor. Two girls looked at me in a concerned way when I went in but they do not stop me and ask me if anything is wrong.

I want power. I go in search of it. I dance wildly because I am so happy I do not care if I look like a total idiot. I speak to everyone because everyone is my friend. I forgive the world of all her sins. There are no evil people in this room tonight, only people who want to forget Hitler.

I am again reminded of how tough the human condition can be. People retching into toilet bowls into the early hours of the morning as the remnants of the party of the night before made itself known.

I have never felt more alone, more deeply unloved than I did that night than I did that night. There are couples dancing around me, women dancing with women and men dancing with men, young girls with upturned faces kissing their partners, making out. There were people sitting at the bar who spoke to me happily and I wanted to hold onto them and never let them go. I wanted them to stroke my hair and my face, the way my father used to do. They dance with me. They bought me drinks but they were not prepared to put up with me for longer than that evening. Was I not this perfect and invincible creature who could make people love her? Desperation clung to every pore in my body. I wanted to say,  ‘Can I come home with you? Will you be my family? What makes you happy? I promise I’ll be good. I won’t talk back.’

I went home but I didn’t heal. I spoke to two therapists. One who was male and the other who was female.

I didn’t fix my problems. The more I seemed to talk about them, the more solutions seemed to elude me, the more it seemed to me I didn’t fix my problems, the more it seemed as if I was an accident waiting to happen.

I went home to look after my father and to realise what a mess I had become. I was such a mess that some people avoided me like the plague even my brother and sister.

I like the city at this time of the night. There is no heat, only the air that rises up from the street, smoky and grey. The windows are lit like candles from the inside out like me only the light inside the buildings seems more stable.

Other women are the enemy. I do not have any female relationships. There were no female friendships, a female mentor, a relationship with my mother or my sister in my life. I used to think it was because I wasn’t beautiful like them. My shoes are starting to pinch my toes. I want to take them off and walk barefoot in this city I love so much because it hasn’t chewed me up and spat me out yet. I wanted someone to take me in his arms tonight too and wrap them around me. Someone who would have told me it was okay to be afraid because he was scared too sometimes. Instead I got stories, beautiful, intense, sad stories from people who were just like me, an invitation to a birthday man that I passed on. Their sadness was as intense as mine and for a short while they held me in the basement of the club. I felt safe as my world began to fall to pieces around me and I crashed and burned.

The sky is black and dark like a mesmerising black hole. There are no stars but I do not need stars. The sun will be up soon and already I feel the pressure of the upcoming workweek I have ahead of me. It is Sunday and I am going to church but there is a pit in my stomach. I was hoping by now it would be gone but it is still there, this smouldering pit. I do not smile. I do not laugh. Where am I going? What am I doing? I want to be loved. I am alone. I am tired of being alone, self-sufficient, independent and brave. My mind wanders through the service. I am thinking of my family and what they are doing but they call to find out how I’m doing.

I have a headache. It spills memories into the air that I do not want to think about but then I rediscover some of that happiness I experienced when I was growing up. It is very easy to feel unloved in the city. You are lonely. You do not have any contact with the outside world. Deep down, fiercely, you withdraw from all the loveliness in this world, in this city and walk with apparent ease, without any blame, your eyes have dark circles – bags under their eyes. I know later these morbid feelings of curiosity will disappear and I will regain my self-confidence but for now I am rendered speechless by the peaceful air.

I walk everywhere. I bite into the first taste of a muffin at a bakery in the morning. Crumbs fall into my lap. What happened this weekend almost could never have taken place in this sunlight? I feel content and blissfully happy. Nothing haunts me in the fresh air like it does when evening comes. The city has never looked brighter, cleaner but the colours lack their dewiness, their haziness of before. They have come into focus. My face is brighter. The images staring back at me, their lines are no longer blurred. I am not crashing down the street, veering, hurtling, careening wildly, lost into space. Johannesburg, you have never looked as beautiful to me now as you do today.
Thursday, 31 October 2013 18:38

What Happened at Lonmin

In the Shadow of the Rhino

Rhinos are a great enduring love of hunters
What a precious cargo a rhino as a muse is
There’s a fragile beauty now
That accompanies that poor animal
In life and death going the dodo’s way

One of civilisation’s beauties
The pulse is a parachute opening and closing
The poacher is a coldly poised collector
The gun frozen in his hands feel like winter
The summer’s day electric

The hunted makes a mournful
Contemplative noise as it falls
There is the smell of blood in the air
Animal blood on a poacher’s hands
And whether or not the rhino is half-alive

Under the withering stare of the poacher
The poacher will wait with a golden will
The air is hot and dry under a bluish sky
We tell ourselves that there are no
Such things as ghosts when they do exist

The animal is already a ghost
Halfway there whose spirit is swimming
With the knowledge that heaven and earth
Will meet the flesh and the spirit
Of the rhino quietly

If hearts could be kept in jars
The poacher’s heart would be kept in a jar
For generation’s to come to study
The impulse of the impact
When life meets death

There’s the magic of an aphrodisiac in the horn
In the angel’s horn who fell from they skies paradise
At the beginning of time and do they feel a letting go
Or a separation anxiety
From one world to the next

And in my mind’s eye
The rhino will always be made of glass
The rhino stands as if in a mystical trance
So I am left mourning to watch
A rhino’s soul fall amongst the stars

The Rape

It felt like a sharp noose around her neck
It felt like an eternity this battle of pain
Warmth and a war between her legs
Her life slowly-slowly-slowly and with skill
Turning into a wreck
She could still feel their hands
Their claws and the pressure
Hear their voices
She remembered that it felt like a lifetime
Like a childhood experience
She could taste their spit mingling with her saliva
They were groping-groping-groping her flesh and there came laughter

Fingers caught in tufts of the hair on her head
Her hands and arms in the air

And something died within her

It was followed by a succession of deaths
And something inside of her felt safe in those deaths
Also something inside of her felt stoned
As if she was turning to stone
The physical around her slowly melted away
Nature and seasons and houses and walls
And that was how she entered the ‘night’
Amidst all the talk
She held the awakening of grief in her heart
She could not scream or yell or shout
She could not tear herself away from the situation
She could smell them hate them call them animals
Wish them dead dead dead
But there was a part of her that knew
They would just laugh in her face
But she would always remember their skulls
As they penetrated her one-by-one
How would she remember every one of their skulls
No god had brought her to this open veldt
Under a sky

She wrapped herself in the darkness
Hoping that it would conceal her
From the light of the moon
She lost her shoes
As they dragged her one-by-one
Her sandals her dress her skirt her blouse
One by one she lost them all
Are you alive?
Is she alive?
They asked each other
Dead to the world to their game to their orders and commands
Defeated she closed her eyes as they all walked away
A rush of deafening silence all around her
The smell of blood her blood in the air
But there had been a spine-tingling violence in it
As well as tension and brutality and aggression
And it all seemed to be of a committed kind
This illustration of possession

Where to from here from hell
If she did get up to make her way home
How was she ever going to pull herself together
She could still hear them
As if they were waiting and watching for her
In the dark

Where was the moon to shine a light on her
On evil’s song

Her intuition had failed her
The fathers of this community had failed her
The mothers of this community had failed her
Would she go so far as to say even the church
She felt as if she was bleeding on the inside as well
What could she use to stop the bleeding

Was she being punished for something
Her feet were cold
Her arms and legs were scratched
Her clothes had been torn from her body
How do you know you’re alive
That you’re part of the living
That you’re in their midst
What do the words ‘died unexpectedly’ mean
Did they slip away after midnight
But she had no concept of time
She tastes like sugar one of them said
It slowly began to dawn on her
Pain of the mind can be more acute
More devastating than pain of the body
Nothing picturesque or pretty about it

The moonlight was pure and fluid
It stretched across this field and her limbs
There was something hauntingly beautiful about it
And then she found her voice
She started to scream
She screamed over and over again in the dark
As if she was mad
As if she was ready for battle
Not feeling lost and afraid
A distillate.

Breathing Lessons

Anne Sexton
What are you made of
An elegant older sky
With a poet’s swagger in a nation of ghosts
The angel skin of winter
Therapist suggested
I write poetry and it feels sweet
I feel out of my depth
Simply blue and feeling melancholia
Is not enough to cancel out the midnight
I write to purge unhappiness

Chasing wild sheep and ambulances
An insomniac’s trick
I’ve discovered an empire
The empire of the introspective
I’m a superwoman and actress
Drama and always being
Brought to life by it
Provocative and enchanting
Exotic and intimidating
How to stay calm under pressure
A wolfish din far away in my head

Sometimes out of my comfort zone
Idyllic life yet miserable
Living in a glass house with glass ceilings
Daring to feel alive
Bone challenging clowns all around me
Bone challenging poetry
The reflection of a warmed-up fossil
Swarming in the ground
What do I see when I look
Is my face an enchanting face

Depression comes like a thief
(Lions and tigers and elephants too)
Daring to feel alive and authentic
Doesn’t like to be photographed
Am told I am beautiful and talented
Yet I am still unhappy and long for peace
Feeling a bit like Alice in Wonderland
Wearing the dress that goes anywhere
To meet up with good citizens
Every one is a tiger on the loose
Every thing is set on the loose.

What Happened at Lonmin

Comrades you have a gifted self:
A voice to articulate the profound
Inequalities that you find yourself in
The knowledge of unrest and frustration
This is your journey
But now it has become part of all of us
You are all my rich blood
My Mother’s milk

A postcard to a comrade abroad:
Have you ever wondered what a picture
Of home means like to you
It’s lovely to dream and to think
That the world is so full
Of wonder and possibilities
Rilke, Neruda and Rupert Brooke
Rimbaud and Verlaine

All the classics
Have nothing and everything to do with it
With the Marakana inquiry
And the blue pearl that is this planet
Comrades I can see the kingdom
Of your hearts and your survival
The net and the countenance of stigma
I can see it already

The romancing of the revolution
Its tour of the world is as ancient as the stars
Torn from afar between the moon
And planets and the millions of other stars
So I am writing to thank all of you
For your spiritedness mothers and fathers
For the dream machines of all sisters and brothers
Facing the landscape of decay and poverty

To the children of the revolution
I know we have all felt the need
Admired the art that lies in the comfort
Of strangers and the world they inhabit
But God holds the world and heaven
In His thumbprint of the universe
The ash and dust of an angel’s handiwork
Not to ponder that is to be a non-believer.