A Few Good Citizens

Youth. 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 and a child caught in the drift of time, of a storm is raging inside my head, deep inside me I am a still life, a figure whose reflection’s glitters. The dead do not speak of trivia. They no longer can bask in the orange disc of the sun with their infirmities and stiff upper lips, shielding their malnourished children who suck their gums in hunger, in thirst, waiting in a line that does not move, they wrap their arms around their mother’s graceful neck, as graceful as a swan’s. What does a poet see in this, what is revealed in this time and place, psychology and consciousness, how do certain words, the poet’s imagination perform. There is still hope for this ravaged continent that is hurting so, it hurts to breathe, to think, to stare at this poverty, this nation in the face, are they too hungry to even think of revolution, their eyes can melt the hearts of stone in any scenery and anything that flows into and around their world, through their mouths, into their bodies is an elixir-even the spacious expanse of the sky above their heads. As they sit day in, day out they click here wait to live through their fate; do they feel hatred towards the God of this society?

Poverty. What warms their hearts, the impoverished, is it only the ancient traits of teachers and guides, things they know or poverty, that imperfect feeling of something missing that has moulded them into the earthy creatures they are today, the drumming noises of the planes in flight, how close they have come to dying instead of being. What are they most grateful for? They will never know of the wings of a poet writing about a prayer for hope for the continent of Africa, of my obsession of them, of the foreigners who descend like wolves, people trapped in a terminal, of my roots to the universe. The sun is silent over the sea, mocking me while gliding across my shoulder blades like falling water. Just as there is a miracle of life in seawater so there is in translation. Magic mother eats like a bird keeping all her secrets to herself like the surface of carrion passing triumphantly into a blue oblivion where closure is self-imposed, like the intimacy of letters in a novel language as thin as the width of a thread, all thumbs. The weight of water has lightness in it. I wished for someone to end my sentences. Could we stop the sounds of falling rain if we weren’t exposed to the song in it, if we paid more attention to it like a dream? As hard as air, poised yet fragile, you, father, mapped with fragile lines.

Adele. I’ve endured Adele’s harvest, her fairy-tale feeling, her time away from me, the fact that summers have stolen her away from me, emptied my heart of wonder, of spells, locked me instead into building a wall around me, where I wait for her in silence to release me from the voice inside my head that has carried me from our childhood years, now to our passage as grown women. She has taught me to hold onto the familiar, the passing of the heavier moments slipping into time, pools and curves of momentum and motion of the land that time simply forgets to acknowledge. She seems to perfect everything. Her being is not as wooden as mine, her manners as stiff; her words are not strange and challenging. Words do not cure her like they do me instead she fills me up with meaning, with her pure rituals that came on the brink of her womanhood. Time has marked us as a minority, liberated us from a scheming mother, a quiet and gentle father; they have faded into the background like voids in the inner space of a lucid dream.

Rivals. After Adele I have realised that there is nothing ordinary about this land of rural countryside, the wild, the wilderness, commodity, routes of heat and dust high in the blue of the sky and the slow caress of the sweep of larva, the inhabitants’ eyes like dark pits. A land of calculated bullets, sensual young women, fierce youth, stifled judges and the white fingers of galloping mist. And for those that are city-born, educated, amongst the privileged few, the only information that they have about this land is what they read about in books. What they are pulled towards and pushed against in the plane of their consciousness. In other words, the lies they were told as children. We are made in our personal capacity to hope and there will always be a haunting beauty in that like stone and iron in earth, just like the stone, iron, fire in our blood, denizens of Africa in the copious movement of struggle against colonialism, against backlash, poverty, wealth, that great divide where boundaries lay unquestioned, tolerated at best. ‘Smile,’ you, magic mother, dew blinking bright in your eyes, in your black stockings, your tender physical body so different from mine, slender, health rushing through you pure and earnest said, but it hurt to smile.

Culture. The Port Elizabeth and Johannesburg of my childhood were far away from this. The cities I experienced as an adult were meaty and ghoulish that smelled like a vagrant imposing his presence, the smell of sour mildew, the residue of stains and the air of loneliness, homelessness, tragic circumstance and of being mocked, chastised on his person. A sourness on his breath of wine or something stronger like spirits that warmed the death of frozen him up on wintry nights, when it rained, the vagrant, a bone man with a lack of education and a bleak future teetering on the brink. Port Elizabeth, more town than city, more smear of mouse than a wild, hirsute, obscene giant in its outlook than that great bustling bee hive of a hub of a city, Johannesburg. Its people with their slogans tattooed on their chest working hard to pay their bills, to escape from their failures and triumphs being eyed in the workplace. The landscape of Port Elizabeth has an orange afterglow in the late afternoon – pollution from the factories on the industrial side of town. The people glow too but it is more internal. It is as if they are lit up from the inside by a flame. They’re people who burn like a volcano, that fades into the night, marching onward, focused on their destination, complete, sated.

Time. The pear juice dribbling down my chin tastes sweet. I can imagine the look of love drifting into view for some of them, family, children and lovers, expectation meeting the rise of anticipation. It’s nice out. Muse has a new name – children playing out on sunny roads. On waking there is the thought of the onset of age, of peeling back the layers of being, of nothing from the present to the scenic. Mostly for now I sit and write about my mother and father and the tears that came and went like ice in a waterfall staring right through me as it floods my mind’s eye. There is something heroic about the day. About the people with their being and nerve fused to their vision of the day. If I were like them I would turn into a green-eyed monster,

Bluebeard. Even the flawed, the tarnished, the idiot, people who time forgot are loved. There’s a period of growth even in silence, a pause between acts, stillness when you gather your thoughts in inner space. Code starts with me first, as soon as the destination becomes important so does the secret language of women, men, children, their angel tongue comes with this volcano rushing through my head, shadows drowning out the switches from the philosophy of a child to woman.

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