Tonight none will visit
frightened off by the big blow
Its force could take me off
I am not really anchored here
Life’s tapestry in threads
Threads and dreams carried on the wind
Ignored by two wise crones
in the far windy Eastern Cape
Their joy in the needle
not affected by rattling door
Their shared joy in bright threads
not affected by loosening panes
Wind of change
An icy chill wind blows
disturbing the fresh snows to land
in dune-like drifts. Unplanned
white horizons expand to form
a landscape and transform
the countryside of warm greens to
a desert’s bleak cold hue.
Polar climate which drew the snows.
Night. No one will visit.
Lie still. When the wind is perfect
gaze to sky like this – is
wonder, is gratitude, is love.
Adrift when the wind sings
my mind oozes all squooshy things.
Wind, I say, what did you
see today? You! Have you seen my
daughter? Heavenly child,
is she alright? Night, is she one
to gaze to sky like this?
Gaze to sky like this. Humbled. Be.
And the day is ending.
The heat that sucks up all the air
sucks in again and out;
at last is gone. The wind returns
chasing the red hot day,
stampeding the dry fields to ground.
A strange mob of panting
trees, towering green blue-gums hide,
drop their gaunt sad faces
melting in long swags. They gasp grey
breaths of stinking resin;
the only sound; all day the heat.
Entangling wind has my
dark, wild hair in a tight knot.
it’s a wild, bad hair day,
we’re off to a rocky start.
funny how the plans go
by the wayside on days like this,
buffeting the fynbos
and yet, the Cape’s late summer wind
clears the air and spreads seeds;
breathless experiences flow
the sky glows, the heat hangs
the spirit-filled world all around
Once upon a farm
evening air humid with
emerald ghost green banana trees
church-fetid leaves were lush
elongated and motionless
we slept in that strange place
and woke to midnight lambs bleating
scared beating hearts beating
on the door the wind rattled and
called to our little girls
in the twist of the wind the cold
mocking monster we feared
some evil intention some force
sucked up in that twister
emerald ghost green banana tree
breeze that enters the soul
we covered windows hearts beating
thunder and lightning thrashed
we cuddled close the six of us
in the morning the lambs
lay dead; ewes were bleating bleating
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.
the lingering clouds on
my mind were an iron so hot
it shrank me to a dot
but then a gust of wind sauntered in
and my whole being bounced
I hopped like a happy baboon
I became the full moon
swirling in a silver apron
The wind flings a magpie
high and flings me too, skyward through
the green trees to the blue.
The wind flings me up to the stars
and beyond, beyond far
and unfamiliar to face
the darkness of this place,
these silent gathering shades. Unlit
by bright-faced moon they flit,
content to prowl, to sit, to lie.
A candle is not bright
enough to scare, to frighten back
the waiting, wakeful pack
of those who watch and track my breaths.
A candle’s not enough
to scare, to frighten death. A beast
unleashed, unchained, released
it calls its throng to feast on me.
And I too scared to flee, can’t fly.
Pine trees are always green –
staunchly retaining their colour
season in, season out.
There is a breeze, cooling hot cheeks,
tentative, apologetic –
quivering in silver beeches.
Gentle movement of leaves
transforms them to massive mobiles
Wide-winged swallows and swifts
are carried across the skyline
Hear it, feel it, smell it:
Torrents of flame chased by fury.
Maybe I have blown away
I believe maybe I
have blown away, trailing white wisps
belonging to myself
to the blue of the sky where clouds
whisper on my warm skin
and night is a memory that keeps
Wind blows and brings us heat
I warm, thinking, holding onto
him, drift off into the
wind drifting butterflies blue black
My gaze from God’s window
falls below the sky and I gaze
You can – if you’re lucky –
sleep in the warmth and the knowing.
The vervets and baboons
see Africa from the tree tops
Cicada legs humming
I,rootless and a wanderer
When my wings are folded
Walk in the blur of the background brown
Misgivings about worth
surface. But who needs perfection?
Awaken the soaring
Do mountain climbing! Who? says the
wind. Who? I shout louder
Say, let the energy flow strong
Through the blowing trees I
swing, strong enough to find freedom
And feel the roots
of the house move, roots
are anchored deep
within the darkness buried
underneath all that can
be seen. The house supposedly
solid hides the deep roots
even more they pretend they have
presence. They pretend they
are of the earth but
one day, maybe now or maybe
long in the future, they too will die
ever changing a bliss
POLICE REPORT (alias the inner critic)
The police have been notified.
They are out to get me.
I’m a fraud, a wannabe writer on the run. Where can I hide? In a mouse hole? Down a drain? Am I crazy? Did I really think I could pull this off? Look at me. I can hardly string a sentence together, dot an i or cross a t, let alone write a Luc Bat. Sounds like the name of a vampire species, rock star or maybe a Pakistani cricketer. But here’s the thing, it’s actually a Vietnamese structure of poetry composing 6 and 8 metre lines. Great! I become dyslexic just counting the fingers on one hand. I’m all thumbs … 6,8,6,8,6,8,8 .. I mean 6 … Oh, for heavens sake!
The real reason I’m here though is not to freak out on Asian arithmetic but to write like Sylvia Plath, Virginia Woolf or Katherine Mansfield. Of course, I’d be happy if I could just pen words along the lines of Marian Keyes, Jodi Picoult or Anita Shreve … Maybe Erica Jong, ‘Fear of Fifty’ … A little late to be thinking of that now.
The police are not interested in these minor details. They have filed their report. The evidence is there, blogged out in block letters, starting with … well, how appropriate … Blocked, stuck, messy, empty, devoid of words, no ideas, the creativity of a cauliflower.
If I could be as prolific as Danielle Steele, or any one of those glamour chic lit authors, I’d be happy. There has to be a formula out there, some secret code belonging to these highly evolved scribes for mastering time, churning out 5000 words a day, spinning yarns and raking up relationships into best sellers which are then sold off to the highest bidder to be translated into twenty different languages.
Look at J K Rowling. How can she possibly be an ordinary earthbound mortal? One moment in a queue waiting for a dole handout … the next … well, it’s history now. But someone with that kind of luck has to be hatched out of a fairy’s egg.
It’s all so daunting but just when I think I’m getting the hang of this 6/8 metre Edward de Bono mindbender I go and lose the plot completely.
Total exposure … Dumb bat!
Sentence is passed.
The beefy police woman with her red lips pursed together like Velcro gives it to me in no uncertain terms, bouncing her baton up and down on the beeswax tabletop probably wishing it was my head and reads out my punishment as if she’s announcing the weather report.
One year of writing morning pages à la Julia Cameron and ‘The Artist’s Way’. Three hundred and sixty five days with a serious, intentional commitment to filling up lined notebooks with words which I shall only peruse once I have completed my twelve month sentence.
And practise, practise, practise …!!!
Just so I get the hang of things there’s nothing like a little literary warm up with an alphabetical jog around the block (excuse the pun!) …
All brilliant chefs do enviable feats, gastronomically halving, icing, juicing, kneading, layering, marinating nine omelette pancakes, quartering raisins, spooning them under very wholesome Xmas yeasty zabaglione.
The things some chefs get up to!
A copy of my glossy coffee table book depicting the people and places I’ve visited together with the irresistible dishes I’ve collected lies open on the counter in Kalk Bay Books. It’s the official launch and throngs of chatty women, husbands in tow, mill around. My right hand aches from signing, and I pause to drink some iced water.
“Just look at those red peppers!”
“I’ve always wanted to go to Naples – Italian men are so romantic!”
“How much does the book cost? What? It must have something at that price”
“It does. . . I used to go to his classes at the Villa years ago and am still trotting out the recipes. Just look at those peppers. . . you can almost smell them roasting!”
I look up at the woman first in line .
“Do you remember me?” she asks.
“Of course!” I lie. Good to see you again! What name would you like me to put?”
“I thought you remembered me!”
”I do, but it could be a gift for someone else”.
“No ways, I’ve waited long enough for this.”
She smiles at me and my mind zigzags. Her face is vaguely familiar but I cannot recall her name. I stall for time.
“What recipe do you use most?” I ask.
“The chicken dish with orzo noodles is our family favorite, but I think the marinated peppers are divine!”
I dab my forehead and loosen my tie. Suddenly it’s uncomfortably warm and an acrid smell burns my nostrils. My pen refuses to move. Swirls of smoke blur the faces in front of me. I jump up pushing my way through the crowd and stumble into the nearest doorway. I freeze and stagger back with burning eyes as flames billow from the gas hob and turn the last of my peppers to charcoal.
Memory and presence. They say that memories comfort you, eventually. But how do memories, which are thoughts conjured up and filtered through one’s perceptions, make up for the reality of a living, breathing person? They do not capture the nowness of a gesture, the waft of air as she raises her arm, the almost imperceptible clearing of her throat and the slight nervous inbreath before talking. They do not capture the smell of her after a warm bath, after feeding the dog, the smell that lingers on her scarf. And they do not compensate for not hearing her voice, picking up the phone to it, opening the door to it, feeling the presence of it.
Hospital bed, crisp and clean. Bedside table with glasses and long white cord with bell ring at the end. Your breathing. Oh, your breathing. And so cold. But I was reassured because you spoke to me when I spoke. Woke up and opened your eyes. But I was wrong. I got it wrong. I should have stayed. I should have stayed to hold your hand. I wanted to be there for you, but I was so scared. Scared to look you in the eye, knowing what was wrong, and not tell you.
It is impossible for us to understand death because it is the cessation of the mind. All we know from the moment we are born is the mind. How can we think of not having a being to think with? So we conjure afterlives. We hope for a way of understanding death, not as the end, but as a different state. This state cannot be annihilation, so it has to be a different state of life, we tell ourselves. A Heaven. A Hell. A parallel existence.
You are here with me in my dream, but I cannot touch you. I can see you, but with a different kind of sight. Stay with me in this fever dream. We walk through the flowers together. You are wearing your blue dress. I realize how much we both wear blue. And black. You say that you are more adventurous than me though. I would never wear orange and bright green, though I sometimes wear red. Oh, the times we have had! Remember Miami in the hot, drenching tropical rain and Bristol in the snow, and eating ice-cream beside fountains in France. Remember the tears in your eyes when you saw me in a wedding dress and the joy of simple Sunday lunches and opera and piano playing. We can have that again in this dream. You can hold me again.
‘How do you know it’s going to happen?’ she says.
John looks away, into the computer screen on his mahogany desk.
‘I know it’s going to happen because,’ and here he clicks on Save, ‘you keep talking about it. You think about it. You’ve bought the outfit, Janet. Don’t you think it childish, this whole I’ll go where I want to go thing?’
John scrolls to the top of the document. It reads:
We, The People For Purity, are understood to hold the body of all that is good, chaste, honourable, and uplifting.
We hereby declare that…
‘Childish? Now it’s childish to use your process to get what I want? You thought about this place, John, and look where we are, where we live? It’s your paradise.’
all thoughts are to be censored for unsavoury content.
The People For Purity therefore find it necessary to introduce a system of thought-editing to ensure life on this planet remains…
John looks at Janet and enunciates each word. ‘This is for both of us. I thought of something that would benefit both of us, Janet. It wasn’t just for me.’
‘Oh.’ Janet rolls her eyes. ‘Oh, now I see. You can think about living on an island in solitary artistry and it’s for both of us? My God, do you really believe I’d be thinking of a space holiday if I wanted to be here? That was for you, pal, not me.’
amicable, forward thinking, and upbuilding.
‘So you’re going, are you? Thought about it enough, have you?’ John crosses his arms and swivels his chair from side to side, as if, by moving, he gains a wider view of the situation.
We wish to inform all citizens who do not understand the principles of thought-editing to familiarize themselves with our policies and procedures immediately. We declare that any and all manner of uprising…
Janet crosses her arms and looks at John, lifting her prominent chin.
‘As you so rightly pointed out, I’ve bought the outfit. Why buy it if I’m not going to use it?’
‘Oh yeeees,’ Janet gives the words a sexy slant, ‘I’m going. Think you can stop me, darling?’
will be dealt with within The People For Purity’s disciplinary framework.
‘The question is: Do I want to, Janet? Do I want to stop you? Do I care to stop you?’ John turns back to the computer and clicks on Close.
He taps his chin with an immaculate forefinger, pondering his own questions.
‘Mmmm.’ Now he’s putting both hands behind his head, swivelling the chair again.
That would depend very much on what I think is required of me. You are my wife, after all.’
Janet dislikes the way he looks at the computer, not at her. It gives her the uneasy feeling he’s seeing something new unfold, something momentous.
‘Yes. You are my wife and, as such, have certain obligations. We must be careful, now, mustn’t we?’
John uses the armrests to push himself up off the chair. He walks past Janet and, turning before opening the door, says ‘We must set a precedent. Yes, that’s what we must do. Make this work for us.’
The door opens and John leaves the room, leaving Janet staring at the computer and forming a question of her own. Who is John’s ‘we’?
Janet walks round John’s desk, sits in his chair, moves his mouse, clicks on File, and then Open.
In documents she meets The People for Purity.
That night, Janet does not join her husband in their bed. She climbs into her white space suit in a dark kitchen and, closing the backdoor without a sound, leaves many light-years between them.