Varsha Patel

Shards of Mountain

A mountain of girl is desperate to be small.
A mountain girl is eroded to sand. Made small.

The sand girl screams to sound like a mountain.
Her mouth is Empty. The flatlanders keep her voice small.

The sand girl eats alone. The flatlanders, they point they
throw sticks and stones. Shove her down. Easy, she’s small.

The sand girl is hard. Invisible. Glass. Nameless.
The flatlanders throw bricks. Biceps big. Cocks small.

The sand girl shatters into millions of pieces.
All of them small.

The flatlanders cut their feet as they pass over shards of her.
The shards put together into something – something not quite small.

I haven’t seen you around before, what’s your name? the flatlanders ask
after the gluing is done.

Varsha.

Varsha.

Varsha.

And I sure ain’t small.

Varsha Patel

Poison’s antidote

Ash black thoughts choke me
in the harsh fiery mountainous ruins of my mind.

Jagged menacing rocks of my yesteryear quake me.
Mercilessly, they split in two, and deliver me crying,

my blood and spongy vestiges spilling. My mother’s cord threadbare,
my hands grab hold at barren air. I freefall.

The dregs of me surrender. Thy will be done.
I fall free

into cool indigo waters, a treasure of inky words I discover
that ebb my spillages and balm my burns,

surge through me and expunge me
of my ash black thoughts.

A picture of a mountain ruins
strewn with green I hold.

Varsha Patel

lost

a scared lost little girl
in this huge body. my whole life
my whole life running. like
the wind i feel stuck – running. back
home hiding. safe from love
life breathe everything. how brave i
was then to risk to live.
now a lifetime of ghosts for me
a scared lost little girl.
my heart says go where the wind of
my life trembles beckons
my mind twists angles meanders.

Varsha Patel

To Reach

To reach for the Unspoken; Whisper
No more lies. No more cover. No more denial. I am
To reach for the Unspoken; Speak
No profit in pain. No profit in self-murder. I am
To reach for the Unspoken; Resound
Pitch the words. Pitch the truth. Fly. I am

To reach for the Unspoken; Whisper
Be. Create. Breathe. I am!
To reach for the Unspoken; Speak
Alive! Strong! Magnificent! I am!
To reach for the Unspoken; Resound
Powerful! Passionate! Pure! I am!

Varsha Patel

What you reap … you sow 

The merciless African sun, the sweet scent of flowers and the incessant buzzing of bees infused the silent room. I was clammy, covered in sweat, my clothes stuck to my flushed skin. The spicy cologne of youngest, sexiest lecturer at Kalibu Uni was almost arousing as he passed my desk. I survived the mother of all all-nighters by drinking seven cups of coffee. The caffiene and nervous adrenalin combined to keep me alert. It was the day of my most important final. Intellectual Property Law. 

I recalled the cases I’d reviewed yesterday as my mom chatted to Aunt Josephina over the phone.“Yes,” I remember her saying, “Eugenie is a good girl. She’s taking her law finals you know.” After a pause she continued, “Oh, that’s wonderful that your Jean-Pierre’s been accepted at UCT. Congratulations! Eugenie is also headed to R.S.A. She’ll have to sit her bar exams there again, but what’s one more exam for the opportunity to work in the New South Africa?  I must get Godfrey’s address from you, so the kids will have someone from home to visit.” And after a longer pause punctuated with a sniffle, she said, “I know we’ll miss them, but there are more opportunities there. We must sacrifice…” 

I loved D.R.C, my home, my country. But, my mom was right. I had to go to South Africa, the land of opportunity. To leave, I had to get my degree summa cum laude. To do that, I had to score 75% for this course.  And to do that, I had to ace this exam! Focus! I kept going, until Mr. Ngoy said, “Time’s up. Pens down.” 

The silence was broken by the shuffling of answer books, the sliding back of chairs and the post-exam murmur complaining about the questions. I joined the mass exodus to the front of the lecture theatre.

My Ngoy’s deep voice called out, “Eugenie and Gordence, if I may have a word.”  

I looked at Gordence, my brow creased. What was up? I tried to get Gordence’s attention, but she was looking everywhere, except at me! The last student left. Mr. Ngoy closed the doors.  

“I’m bitterly dissapointed by this behaviour. Especially from you, Eugenie. You had such potential. Gordence, I saw you reading Eugenie’s answer book! You were both cheating! You’ll get zero for this exam and you’ll have to appear before the disciplinary committee.”

 “But, Mr.,” I started to protest. 

“I don’t want to hear it. Get out. Now.” 

Outside, I turned to Gordence about to launch into tirade of this gross injustice and launch a plan of action. And then I looked at her properly.
 
And saw her flushed cheeks.  

And her slumped shoulders.  

And her avoidance of my eyes.  

She had done it! She had cheated! My friend sold me down the river. I felt the world spin
around me. I saw the future … 

No first for the course.  

No degree.  

No New South Africa.  

***      

The early morning rush -bacon and eggs, getting Liberty dressed, fighting through the morning traffic- was over! And the workday mania hadn’t yet begun. I guess this was the ‘me-time’ that the life coaches and self-help gurus preached about. A moment to savour it
all… 

I swiveled my leather chair around and surveyed the Gauteng city horizon from the glass walls of my corner office at Von Kardenburgh, Du Ville, Cronjé, and Thornton- the best international law firm practicing in South Africa.   

I was A Success!  I had a spirited eight year old daughter, Liberty; a wonderful, sexy husband! A promotion to partner in an international law firm! I drove an E-class silver mercedes benz, lived in an elegant mansion in Hyde Park. We built homes for our parents back in the D.R.C. I was one happy woman! 

“Eugenie?” buzzed Marc, my metrosexual, espresso-brewing PA, “A Miss Kanvi is here. Without an appointment-” 

“That’s okay Marc, I’ve been expecting her.” 

Three seconds later, Hurricane Kanvi stormed my office. 

“You bitch! How could you do this to me?! What about loyalty?! Why the hell did you help that bastard!? You’ve ruined me! I have to pay twenty million in damages! I’ll never get out of the shit because of you! How could you!?” 

Marc, quite pale from the profuse use of profanity, left to alert security.

I eyed the ‘woman scorned’ with contempt and said, “You know, it was really easy. When your ex-husband came here looking for representation, he insisted that the software designs were his, that you’d stolen them. He said that his competitors had planted ‘a spy’ at his company. That you had slept with ‘the spy’- like you slept with every other male employee – and given him the designs. We had him pegged for a pathetic, jilted husband, and never intended to take the case. By chance, the poor bastard dropped his wallet. I saw his wife’s photograph in it. And I knew what to do. Gordence.” 

Two muscled security officers appeared to ‘chaperone’ her out of the building.  

“You nearly ruined my life fifteen years ago. Fortunately, I had good karma! I went to the library after the exam. I thought since I’d failed that exam, I might as well start studying for the next year. And there Mr. Ngoy appeared, gave me his muscular shoulder to cry on. He realised that I couldn’t possibly have cheated. So he let me write a make-up exam, which I aced.”

It was then, that Gordence looked at the photograph on my desk. 

“Yes, that’s right. I married our Mr. Ngoy; and we came here together. When I heard your ex’s story, I knew he had to be telling the truth. So I agreed to take the case. Always looking for a short-cut, Gordence. You haven’t changed a bit! And you haven’t learnt a thing! What is it our mothers always used to say?… What you reap, you sow!”    

Varsha Patel

Pent up force to rearrange whole beaches.
Raging shock waves, heaving and rolling.
A delicate neck stem, holding onto my brain.  
An amniotic safe seclusion.
Carole Pearce

My Spirit Resuscitates

“You’re so fat and clumsy!
Why can’t you be more like your cousins?
You know, I dreamt of having a baby girl I could dress up in pretty clothes-
Instead I got you.”
Waves of words crushing me.
No Love. No Acceptance. Just Judgement. Just Criticism.
A Mirror of Her Own Inadequacies.
Until all that’s left in me is –
a pent up force to rearrange whole beaches.

“You speak in such funny accent!
Just like a Whitie!”
“Why do you eat such funny food?
My mommy says that Indians are brown because they don’t bath.”
At home – Hare Krishna Hare Rama, Rama Rama Hare Hare.
At school- In the name of the Father, the Son, the Holy Spirit, Amen.
Too Indian for School. Too White for Home. No place for me.
No Love. No Acceptance. Just Judgment. Just Criticism.
What do you want from me!?!
Raging shock waves, heaving and rolling!

I was tossed around by the angry, raging ocean that was my world.
A Child. Small. Fragile. Innocent. Confused.
“What’s wrong with me?
Why doesn’t anyone like me?”
I kept asking- until my own voice convinces me, telling me their lies:
“I’m so fat and clumsy.
I wish I was more like my cousins.
Maybe if I changed, they will love me.”

Battered. Broken. Beaten.
All that’s left is a delicate neck stem, holding onto my brain.  

Battered. Broken. Beaten. Faint. Soft.
My Spirit Resuscitates.
Like Water, you cannot break Spirit.
A primitive life force grows it strong.
Ready to battle the raging waves of the world, of the self.
“Stop the lies! I am alive again!” This new voice screams out.
“I am! I am!
I am no more A Mirror of Their Inadequacies!
I am.”
I find an amniotic safe seclusion.  

Varsha Patel

My Risky Country

Terrible places in me that I don’t want.
Those Dark, Ugly, Depressing Parts
I’d sooner deny, lie to myself about.
It’s too late – I’ve stepped into My Risky Country –
My Head – My Dark and Polluted Marsh.
My Thoughts- Ogres and Monsters hiding in The Dark –
Treacherous, scheming, impossible to duck.
Too far. Too damn far into My Risky Country.
Cannot even see the Back Door of Safe Thought.
No choice left, but to go forth and
meet the Ogres and Monsters hiding in The Dark.
To walk to The Other Side of My Risky Country.
To make peace with my Ogres and Monsters hiding in The Dark.
To find some small Joy of Life.
Some Light in the Dark.

Some Light in the Dark.
To find some small Joy of Life.
To make peace with my Ogres and Monsters hiding in The Dark.
To walk to The Other Side of My Risky Country.
Meet the Ogres and Monsters hiding in The Dark.
No choice left, but to go forth and
cannot even see the Back Door of Safe Thought.
Too far. Too damn far into My Risky Country.
Treacherous, scheming, impossible to duck.
My thoughts – Ogres and Monsters hiding in The Dark-
My Head – My Dark and Polluted Marsh.
It’s too late – I’ve stepped into My Risky Country –
I’d sooner deny, lie to myself about.
Those Dark, Ugly, Depressing Parts
Terrible places in me that I don’t want.