Two Poems

Poetry
Abigail George


Photo Credit: Henti Smith/Flickr (CC-by-nc-nd)

To Johannesburg, with love
(for my parents)

I’ve been living underground
like graffiti, the grunge scene,
gravity and volcanic rock for the longest time. I’ve been many things
in my life.
Feminist. Romantic. Poet.
Aunt. Independent woman.
Sister. Daughter. Ex. Girlfriend. I’ve clothed
myself in veil-and-shroud.

Having the presence of a
child around me has changed all of that. I want to be a
good woman. I want to give and love
and most of all be kind. I don’t want to think that suffering is
noble anymore. I want to put away my loneliness
inside a kind of Pandora’s box.
Along with my solitude. The futility that
I’ve carried around like baggage with me for the

(longest time).

I don’t want to say things like,
‘the longest time’ anymore. I
want to be happy and loyal to
the people who love me. I want
to be loyal to the girl inside my mother, my sister, my aunts, my cousins
in the family way. Far away in America and Swaziland. South Africa.
I’m a nation. I’m a soldier. I’m a

warrior. I’m a servant girl.
I’m a nursemaid. Caregiver. Lover.
Fighter. Daily I take the vows of a nation, of
a Christian-soldier, warrior,
lowly servant girl, nursemaid, caregiver, lover, fighter.
I have the personality of the
sun on my side. The characteristics of
and morality of moonlight.
I can wail against the choices that
I’ve made in my short life or
I can embrace the watershed. The men and women,
the translations of them that I’ve
loved in my short life. If it’s been
tragic-comic-significant-happy,
it’s been that way from start to end.
And once I reach the finish line
I will meditate on the feasts and festivals
that winter has brought me and
I will savour the photographs, the special moments
that summer has brought to me.

 

The handsome stranger
(for my mother and father)

I can smell the hungering sea
on my fingers. Your dancing
is bittersweet. The royal-loyal
invention of the cracked day overcast. Birdsong finds
itself in my palms. Between
my ears. Inside the charity of
my head. The tops of my brain
cells. The margin and extinction of night comes with
you still. An acute challenge
lies before us in what used to
be our own private ‘dream’ world. Invite the garden, you
used to tell me. The winter-guest.
The dead. The union of the spontaneity of
blood and the waves of flesh

but I no longer invite you to sit at my kitchen table. No longer
do you understand
my worldview. Your touch was concrete once.
Golden. Once your kiss planted
reassurance in my soul. Your
language musk, heat, sun, translation, weather.
Your eyes the window to your soul.

I don’t want to remember you.
I don’t want to remember your breath
(on my skin) but I do. Truth has a smallness. An urgency about its air.

Love is trapped in that smallness.
That urgency. Love is a wedding feast.
The bride a vine. The vows a list.
The groom a beast. There is stress
everywhere. In race, nature, humanity.
Where ancestors feature. Once
you were radiant. You put me into a trance. It took me
years to understand the ways in which

you did not love me. Nonetheless I
dreamed the vision of you into my soul.
I’m trapped. I know it. In order to be
free I must surrender the memory of
you. The more trapped I feel the more
I must bury you in the past. In history.
Like letters trapped in an archive. Old
pieces of furniture and paintings found in
a museum. Treasures lost and found.

pencil

Pushcart Prize nominee for her fiction (“Wash Away My Sins”), Abigail George is a South African blogger, poet and writer. She is the recipient of writing grants from the National Arts Council in Johannesburg, the Centre for the Book in Cape Town and ECPACC in East London. She blogs
here. Email: abigailgeorge79[at]gmail.com

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