Jaine Hannath

Two poems

And still it rains

First falsehood of spring falters as
day discloses the truth
of obvious lies.

Spring. Spurious words sprout petals, wings and horns
I claim virtue only for the thoughts I
keep constrained in my throat.

Thinking “thank god for silence” – thinking
about absolution, thinking about
the tenet of world

end. Endless silence, end
of all seasons.
Autumn abdicates and still it rains.

…And still it rains

First fucking day of spring and still it rains. My
day in ruins. What did I expect? Sunshine, T-shirts and skirts? A crock
of sentimental shit brewed up by the stupid weatherman.

Spring! Scabrous words sprout forked fiery tongues and the devil’s tail.
I can’t believe this! Angry and disjointed thoughts
keep up a cacophony in my head –

Thinking
about striking out at someone. The Someone Up There! Thinking about
the maker of all seasons – the one who decides when a time will
end. The bearer

of ominous tacit, this rain, on my wedding day.
Autumn abdicates and still it rains.

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Jaine Hannath

I am standing alone – all one
The words are mine
but they are cold

If I step back
a watery existence awaits
a mirage
on a hot desolate road

I realize that I have resisted
for a long time
The cusp of the abyss –
your warm embrace

I could lose my mind
to the sheer terror of the fall

Muscles release
My body relaxes
I swallow fortifying words
on the way down

The words are mine
No more obligation, of sorts, to commit
Intimacy is the abyss
I commit

Jaine Hannath

Her voice smelled like citrus    

Her voice smelled like citrus. Words rolled from her tongue like bright
oranges and yellow grapefruit.

Her voice smelled like citrus – plump words in winter sunshine, suspended
between cool green foliage, close to harvest but not yet ripe – the need
to catch them before their meaning falls heavy and rolls bruised and lost
onto the dry red earth.

Occasionally the lime zest bite – stinging and tart after the sweetness
of the first sound – pointed and clear like bitter lemons slicing through all the fat superfluous words.

Her voice smelled like citrus, clean and refreshing, from her lips to my
ears, revitalizing my body and spirit. Her voice stored in my mind, fluid, like orange freshly squeezed into a clear glass jug.

Her voice smelled like citrus.

Jaine Hannath

Number 22152

Unobtrusively placed between a gold merchant and the noisy African market she had nearly missed the entrance – a small arched door in a huge slab of obsidian. So tall the monolith cut the sun’s path and cast shadow over a neighbouring church steeple and the surrounding area.

She stepped into the vaulted entrance. It was both brighter and cooler in the foyer than on the hot cobbled street. They were expecting her. Armed guards twitched their bristle moustaches above thin lips and with clumsy hands secured her possessions before ushering her across the stone floor and through a vitreous opening.

Still cooler air and the cold blank stares of a handful of workers marked the crossing of a green-carpeted floor. The girl received a curt nod of acknowledgement from a tall bodkin of a woman. Needle thin and walleyed the woman marched the girl past austere black and white photographs of men long dead hanging, impotent now, on striated walls. The soft floor covering gave way to stone again and their footsteps clacked and echoed as they swiftly made their way through grey steel doors and into a small vestibule housing a stairwell that spiralled through the centre of the monolith. Descending the well-worn granite steps, one white knuckled hand gripping the sleek handrail, the bodkin teetered in front of the girl. An obscure route with strategically placed guards led them to a labyrinth of long passages, empty offices and permeable glass cubicles metres below the bustle of the city street.

They came to an abrupt halt between two steel doors. A generator loudly kicked in and masked the dull thud of the one door closing. The bodkin had gone. Silence. The opposing door opened with a gasp of warm air. Tentatively the girl stepped forward into a furnace-like heat while a reverberating mechanical noise assaulted her senses. She realised that she had entered a hell on earth.

The Control Officer, a lone man in a room full of women greeted her with a limp wrist and a lupine grin. He encouraged his teams to work faster and harder, praising servitude and reprimanding miscreants and malingers. The Women worked like small cogs in a big wheel as they pushed and pulled trolleys laden with boxes around the underground chamber the size of a city block. A Scalelectric-like conveyor belt linked two huge machines to the main axis of operations. The girl watched in fascination as money – shredded pieces of money – danced through a clear glass tube and disappeared down a chute to God knows where! Notes spat out the machine moved along the conveyor belt. She had never seen so much money in her life.

Behind a gridiron dark skinned men, muscles taunt, clicked in their mother tongue and waited to push cages heavy with processed notes into a deeper, less accessible chamber of the citadel.

At the end of a gauntlet a ten-inch solid steel door masked a musty dank crypt. Bullion and paper currency was stacked on shelves and racks from floor to ceiling. New coins were piled waist high in burlap sacks on the scratched linoleum floor and obsolete coins filled filthy fifty-gallon drums. The Toadies, clones of the Master Toad counted and recounted, checked and double-checked the money with sweat running down their florid faces. It was a life of repetition – starting before sunrise and ending at sundown. Check the coffers, feed the machines, check the coffers – the figures must add up.

The Master Toad seldom seen, sat squat –gut and wattle hanging while proudly proclaiming that he slept well at night – he did his job while his team did theirs. His gout stricken minions – the Toadies – countersunk and denigrated any request from the women with obloquy and jeers as they limped around in their stocking feet.

Human nature and spirit disappeared along with the sunlight and fresh air.

Caged like Pavlov’s dog the girl learned to conform and survive.

Years later, portraying so much part of her bleak surroundings no one noticed as she explored the fortress. Deep in the bowels of the stronghold she found a skip full of shredded money, worthless and ready to be disposed of at the city dump – as worthless as knowledge. There were no books in the bizarre Citadel – only attendance registers and cash ledgers – an attrition of her soul demonstrating a system of values so different from hers.

Sanity prevailed (or was it finally madness?) – she planned her departure. One day wearing a bright red jersey, she tore a page from a leather bound ledger, and with child-like attention she carefully folded the paper. Finally pushing back her office chair she placed the origami bird on her desktop – its outstretched wings accentuated and enhanced by the rows of fine printed black numerals. The bird appeared to be taking flight from its pool of ink stained blotting paper. Taking her cue the girl was gone.

Jaine Hannath

Rites of Passage

What a mess! Blood soaked panties lie in a twisted roll at my feet. Red smears stain my legs from thigh to knee and the white toilet seat carries the mottled impression of my buttocks. I pull the last piece of toilet paper off the roll. No way is it going to mop up this mess!

So much blood, yet I am not dying, not even feeling ill. I am mortified! What is my body doing? I’ve experienced childbirth and a miscarriage with less blood than this! Listlessly I sit back on the toilet and let my menstrual blood flow free and turn the water pink.

The voices of my brothers drone on outside the bathroom, suddenly drowned out by a loud crack of laughter. We are here for a party after all, yet I am totally distraught, feeling like an eleven-year-old girl again.
Kevin, my brother, best friend, and tormentor sat in the front passenger seat of my father’s Humber Hawk while I lounged in the back. We had been to the London Motor Show, and now, close to home, we waited in the darkened car park as my dad ran into the pub ‘to see a man about a dog’. From the sofa-like back seat I could just make out the silhouette of Kevin’s spiked hair standing up, defiant and resolute after a quick-home haircut. We ate plain crisps, drank lemonade from the bottle and told each other scary stories. A day out with Dad – without our mother or five younger siblings! Just the three of us!

The occasional car crawled in, yellow headlights sweeping like searchlights, illuminating beads of moisture on the dark bodies of parked cars. Dad came running back towards the car, his warm breath forming pockets of misty air. I shifted on the back seat, feeling wet and sticky around my bum and sure I had spilt lemonade on myself.

It was late when Kevin and I, over-excited, barged into the kitchen. Like conquistadors replete from adventure, pioneers having forged new frontiers, We: my brother, father and me, We were safely home from London!

Angry and discontent at our late return, Mam stood solid with her arms akimbo. For once Kevin and I didn’t care! Too much adventure, junk food and lemonade had made us wild! We danced and pranced on the scuffed vinyl tiles between the deep freezer and the Flatly clothes-drier – kicking up our legs and laughing.

‘Do it again,’ my mother said looking at me, as exhausted we finally slowed down. Happy to have mother’s attention, even under her mordant eye, I danced once again and then sped off to the bathroom to empty my bursting bladder.

With one tug I pulled my elasticised cotton trousers down below my undeveloped hips, then with relief perched on the cold toilet seat. I looked down and saw blood. Lots of it! It had seeped through my panties, soaked the trousers, and then, like a Gestalt inkblot, spread across the seat of my pants.

What was happening to me? I had survived ‘the Curse’. I had ‘had My Period’ just the previous month. I thought I was dying as my mother covered her chagrin at my premature downfall with a nefarious laugh. I was shocked and also ashamed to be bleeding from ‘down there’. Traumatic as the experience was, the bleeding had stopped and I had gone back to being a Tom Boy – not knowing that in 28 days, it would return.

Why was it back again? Surely something so terrible only happened once in a lifetime? A shadow passed over my soul. My mother had seen the blood as I danced with uncharacteristic abandon in the kitchen that night. She had gloated over it.
That was my first and last day as the young Artemis at play and I would never again feel such joyous abandon. I had moved from girl-child to womanhood with my father and brother as my guides through an unacknowledged rite of passage. A passage through a never-to-be-repeated-or-forgotten road trip, where my father, for the last time, held no distinction between my brother and me.

That night I learned that the blood would come back – to date, four hundred and thirty-one times. Yet today, thirty-seven years later and sitting on a stranger’s toilet, I am again strangely devastated by its arrival and feel sure should my mother learn of it she would, again, surely relish my distress.

I had been emotionally exposed and then emotionally abandoned at eleven years old and I feel exposed and alone again now at a West coast holiday home as I prepare to celebrate my parents’ Fiftieth wedding anniversary.

I call for Helen, Kevin’s wife, shouting above the music and social chit chat – ‘Helen. Helen help me!’

Like a determined sheep dog Helen soon rounds up the women. She busies herself, finding toilet paper, soap and towels. I am served hot sweet tea in a Wimpy coffee mug.

My sister Julie, just recovered from a hysterectomy, sits Baubo-like on the mosaic step of the shower stall and I laugh as she bravely shares her menstrual misdemeanors. Like the biblical gifts of Frankincense, Gold and Myrrh, my nieces present a plethora of pads, panty liners, tampons, painkillers and other feminine protection. My youngest sister Sarah thrusts a box of super tampons into my hand. Her husband has dug them out of the glove compartment of their bakkie for me.

There is no shame – only love, laughter and support.

Jessie, my own daughter is pregnant. Thanks to ‘the curse’, to life’s ebb and flow, by the next full moon I will be a grandmother. From Mother to Crone – another rite of passage. One that demands acknowledgment – a shedding of skins. In this case, my uterus lining!

Eventually I go outside.

‘What took you so long?’ Dad asks.

‘Oh, I had to see a man about a dog,’ I reply. Holding a glass of wine I sit on the low stone wall, sunlight on my neck and a warm breeze ruffling my skirt.

My mother, ever garrulous, stops talking and squints at me against the sun. With a grin I raise my glass; ‘Cheers Mam, to you!’
 

Jaine Hannath

But it really doesn’t matter, he said,
slowly gazing straight into my eyes.
You are the lady of the wonderful playroom.
He suddenly knelt down and ran his fingers down my leg
From the book Dibbs in search of Self pg 184
Virginia M. Axline (Penguin 1964)

Twice Born – an intimate Glosa

I remember (he said)
Watching mother as I furtively crouched behind the heavy brocade settee
I watched as she stepped carefully up onto a sturdy timber chair
ready to wallpaper the living room walls
Her legs, her gorgeous legs, beautifully presented and caped by a soft wide skirt
The paper lay unfurled like a gleaming sash over her left shoulder and then draped across her full “cross your heart” breasts
In her right hand she clutched a faded damp cloth ready to press out the air bubbles trapped beneath the newly hung paper and to wipe off the excess cold glue
But it really doesn’t matter, he said

Mother was singing – joining in on the Shirley Bassey or Vicky Carr lament
Her decorating project was reaching gestation
much like her swollen belly
full of baby – new baby – yet another baby
So I coveted a part of her and her legs and her hips were mine
I would grab on to the back of her skirt and hide my face in her rump
and feel safe
Cling to her behind so that I wouldn’t have to face her – and witness her switched off, cool distain and her despair while she was
slowly gazing straight into my eyes

I felt like a voyeur – a freak of nature
when really I was a child in need
“Catch my heart in your fish net stockings
Catch my heart and make me whole.
Catch my heart in your fish net stockings mother
and there you will find my soul”
And now, bright Aladdin shoes sparkle beneath a shwe shwe skirt
Freckled tanned legs casually revealed
Sexy or pedestrian? Who cares? – You are all
You are the lady of the wonderful playroom.

Legs clad in material won’t do it for me, he said
I need to see and then touch the flesh
I see his clean fingertips tentatively soft on a delicate ankle,
resisting a greater impulsive to touch and trace tendrils of tendon and firm muscle of the calf.
His warm palms finally rest flat on round silk-smooth kneecaps
So innocent is he – so allowing is she- yet both are contained
He needs to feel whole
To sit on the well-worn carpet at her feet and satisfy his soul
I watched his face as with audacity, the shame of his fantasy was at last realized and he did not look away as
he suddenly knelt down and ran his fingers down my leg.

Jaine Hannath

Alcohol

– Give me more she silently asked. What is polite?

Will they notice if she pours herself another glass of “full-ripe plumy” red wine?

She had already had a strong gin and tonic when she came home from work. It did the trick –relaxed her, made the edges fuzzy, and now a dinner party.

Barry loved to entertain.

Barry and his old army pal Mike, both pissed on a bottle of Bells – a bottle, not a few drinks.

Mike had tucked his penis between his legs and walking from the pool, he looked like a girl with his dark bush of pubic hair. Pour me wine she thought

Actually, she reached for the bottle and helped herself.

Four bottles of wine between four people. Ha!

She knew she could avoid a hangover if she stopped at one bottle – but who would count the drinks?

That night she had a dream of a green talking door. The door asked, “If I was drunk and you were a policeman would you arrest me?” – Damn right she would! – Or maybe not then.

Back then she was still too much of a “nice girl”, a nice girl who would kick Barry’s cat or chase it terrified around the house. The cat cowering away, frightened, shitting itself in fear until she, feral now, chased it outside the house to triumphantly throw water on it. She could almost feel orgasmic pleasure at the cat’s distress.

Of course I’d arrest you – you mad fuck!

You mad fuck!

Of course I’d arrest you!
She could almost feel orgasmic pleasure at the cat’s distress. The cat cowering away, frightened, shitting itself in fear until she, feral now, chased it outside the house to triumphantly throw on it.

Back then she was still too much of a “nice girl”. A nice girl? Who would kick Barry’s cat or chase it terrified around the house?

That night she had a dream of a green talking door. The door asked, “If I was drunk, and you were a policeman would you arrest me?” – Damn right she would! – Or maybe not then.

She knew she could avoid a hangover if she stopped at one bottle – but who would count the drinks?

Four bottles of wine between four people. Ha!

Actually, she reached for the bottle and helped herself.

Pour me the wine she thought. (Mike had tucked his penis between his legs and walking from the pool he looked like a girl with his dark bush of pubic hair.) Barry and his old army pal Mike, both pissed on a bottle of Bells – a bottle, not a few drinks – Barry loved to entertain.

She had already had a strong gin and tonic when she had come home from work. It did the trick – relaxed her, made the edges fuzzy, and now a dinner party.
Will they notice if she pours herself another glass of “full-ripe plumy” red wine?
Give me more, she silently asked. What is polite?

Alcohol.