The International Writers Magazine: In fiction we live and die
At the end of every pilgrimage in my childhood, there was a line that was always a painful experience for me in my consciousness growing up and with time its intensity and disillusionment increases. It has taught me that only knowingness and completeness can begin with the path of self-awareness. And now that partnership, reconciliation and compassion in this still divided society on this continent that we live in forces us to grow together and see each other in a more real and accurate light. It is a way of seeing people in communities who live in poverty, the clarity of struggle, the monotony of routine and who are starved of art, poetry, and literature. It is a way of finding themselves poised in an exhilaratingly tender world, but they only hear the lonely sounds of weeping and it has become like a machine. Its mystique strengthens our soul.
The Journals of Nabokov’s Lolita if she had become a Writer
Losing pieces of your identity already in childhood.
All children are pretty.
We can choose to see the landscape we live in as a desert or a paradise but what do the most vulnerable citizens of this planet see it as? We cannot solve the escalating problems of today without imagining and visualising the end results of solutions. Even writing comes with its own mythological totem pole and so we must create new images of our life and background through our stories, the wealth of our collective life experiences. There are still feelings of fear and vulnerability that continually tests us, the philosophy of man, the anatomy of melancholia, our multiple identities, contemporary man and it is a powerful dynamic for any writer and poet to live in today. Life mirrors art and art imitates life in comic, dramatic and alluring ways. What is humanity? It is the frail human bones of the human condition, it is you and I and it is all our stories. The page is only a dead landscape until you fill it up with words and language creating a center of interest. At heart are we still war children?
I lift the immaculate transfer of the mental ropes and the chains (it’s an improvement). It is a only a song of despair from my childhood experience that took me to dark places and saw me cross the lines of society, the borders of rivers of light that traversed the palimpsest of the red columns of my heart. This transfer felt like a magical thing. I went from standing at the edge, to freedom (with all the parts of the machine, a mantle, and all the futile parts of fairytales, making imprints of circles in the sky above a storm, raging insomnia). Something changes when we grow older. People feel alone in different ways as they lay down in darkness, slide into a pose repeatedly; listen to me, pay attention.
Will I leave you guessing at the intensity behind my words? Will you embrace me when I fall, my art, this potent vessel and a poet in her gilded cage, journeying onwards into oblivion? I gesture to the moon and stars and back again, like a memory pinned down in a stream. A mother’s poised flesh, a neck, words that are flying like bats remind me of how quickly love turns to hate. Pale in alluring portraits of smoke and mirrors and the heart grows bitter and cold like a lake, which is when depression and madness collapses in on itself and all hell tends to break loose. The house is falling, falling down around me, like the melody that comes from fingers on a guitar or a flame that has a negative quality to it, more disconnected and fragile. Dazzling is the shock of trauma when you’re in the middle of it.
Don’t put it together for my sake. I melted where my skin touched the skin of water. Under I was more human, bolder yet still lost and cheated. My heart felt like snow, I could sense arteries turning white. What was once a red catalyst bleeding in hushed tones is now Braille, wet and bittersweet, reminding me that there were still guns at every rising of the sun. Don’t put it together for my sake. Whether I wanted them to be there or not, whether I wanted to wake up or not. It is only my reflection that is dead in the water.
Don’t put it together for my sake.
Writers are mostly voyagers with clean perceptions, clarity of vision when faced with the parallel world, elements of the darkest parts of humanity. Good morning, midnight. We hold each other up with the rites of public scrutiny; tell ourselves criticism will be the death of us (what does that mean to the most inexperienced). I want to drown. I want that experience. The experience of being compelled to sacrifice that loveliness of the haunting game of connecting truths to the politician who is at the core of you. No half-life lived for me. Give me a manual for being fragile, so I can disable and correct all the information effortlessly on these cold lines. Let me journal them. Read everything Africa and you will triumph because since childhood you have been an apt pupil pouring your knowledge into a distillate, standing at the edge. If it was bleak, left you with the gift of elation at and memory of the ghost of potatoes and meat on your plate. If you feel darkness in moments of being, if you feel the loss of your ego, it diminishing and that the only possession you will leave this world with is your physical body, then this is a journey you must remain loyal to its cumulative progress. When I don't eat, when I don't sleep there's an intelligence that is frozen solid, given substance in the madness. There's a reason for everything under the sun. Emancipation always leads to conversation even if it is on the other side of the world.
The question I ask myself most often these days is, what are other writers thinking, examining here, what do their soul's look like, what is the most poetic/emotive thing to come from their background and what is the most sacred thing to them and about the information they are giving me through their literary world? We're sitting on millions of years of creation here; art, earth, sky, diamonds, rage, literature, vision, feminism, summer, writers, writers, writers writing. There's a writer born every second. Most of all we need each other. Good morning, midnight, hour of blue.I find in that still life quiet the writer’s soul longs for, the silence that is like a terrible scar before it marks itself as refuge, it manages itself as an intense feeling of joy, a hunting ritual, a spiritual rite, an extraordinary state of calm in that identity of all identities that is created without borders, joints where there is always a motivating space for beautiful learning.
I often wonder at the family and background, the self-assessment of African writers and think to myself that the voices, male and female will fuse in a sacred contract and their storytelling that will emerge, will emerge (with a word that has become second-nature to me) as a collective. We will prosper, cross that universal threshold together, changing, seizing the spinning web of history, becoming penning confessors of the intimate, commune with the virgin birth of interpretation with the anonymous, the creative myth, gift and the creative impulse falling into whole infinity. Should we be calling ourselves just plain and simple writers? Which is the most authentic? Why should we label ourselves? A home of writers is a profound community, like mind will often meet like mind. A community of writers is a home wherever you find yourself in the world.
Our self-possessed generation writing for the most part out of defiance is making the cause the statement, the platform ‘the waves’. If our muse is wrapped in stone, then so has been deception, identity theory, social and political commentary for, if our soul is the ghost of our spirit then what we have learnt must either be shielded or go underground. That’s the undisclosed beauty of and the brutal violence in mortal thinking that we are always in supply of. This journey is an ancient one, savage and lonely. The pattern of the pensive mechanism attached to the clarity of light is bold in the vision of literary creation and pen-and-watercolour imagination as it is to the dark side. The underpinning alchemy the experimental constructs in the absence of margins and destruction is giving us the clue to the exit, an entreaty to immortality.
Youth has taught me the key to sacrifice. Of where writers of colour will build empires of gold where no one can touch us. I write because I am instructed to and because it is the sum parts of my pilgrimage. It is a song of despair from childhood experience, a hiding place, where I feel alone in different ways, where I speak with my hands, a distillate in a wasteland of rumours of darkness and hard laughter. If I am not writing, then I am not living, my mind is not free, a clown not realising his goal beautifully. It is merely a view of life through a lens where I sometimes feel at the mercy of the inhabitants, a stranger in their strange world, ill from living the image of urban burnout. The road of recovery is hard, toughs you out from inside-out.
Beneath us, the surface is us writers’ always making examinations, hunting the unicorn, the flight, the thread, the accident of the kaleidoscope drowning in us and the life of kismet, dream of velocity, sweetness in the belly. So we become the sun, the stars that shine perfectly and limitless, the footprint, the intact channel, the feathered plumes of love. We become more humane with the aid of the sight of our two eyes, the nervous, sometimes lunatic vision in our mind’s eye. What is the situation? We are the situation. What is the conflict? We are the conflict and both are internal, both have terrifying explanations, both burn and as we follow that light as it bounces off phenomena, we store it or abandon it. We’re Masai-dreaming-philosophical-mode, signs of vertigo showing through, turning people into objects but this is what writers do – we anticipate, we prepare for it, the missing link, the alibi, and the last of the human freedoms, to choose your attitude between history and reliving it.
The life of a female writer is not liberating until she forgoes contact with identity and ego, until it comes down to battle lines drawn between boundary and voice. Until she gives the whole of herself to further study, education, research and her life, her being and soul is governed by that. Until that is a picture of what home means to her. I do not speak for this generation, the scholar, the wife and the mother who is also a writer. People have their own truth and language is still a strange tongue for me. Truth is as if we plant ourselves in a river and so we become enmeshed by it to the point where we cannot tell where we meet it and where we, our live, warm human body ends.
To me, I fear voyeurs, walking around with my life history inside their heads and then there’s me, ever so willing to give it up at a moment’s notice without any hesitation at all. What is wrong with me? What finally defeated me, all of that anger bottled up, fizzing inside of me? Was it the holocaust in childhood that exploded in my face like the freezing cold in winter, while I played in the dirt, played at ‘being mother’ or was it the war veteran inside of me’s damage, rage and brutality, the poet’s inside-out abnormal sensitivity, the black dog of depression, that coveted prize of recovery, pushing by like a pulse, that followed spells of mental illness that came in youth.
On the wings of a poet writing about a prayer for hope: 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 meeting a child caught in the drift of time. A storm is raging inside my head, deep inside I am a still life, a figure’s reflection glittering. The dead does not speak of trivia. They no longer can bask in the orange disc of the sun with their infinitely perfect bodies, perfect smiles. They have left us to invest in a shroud. Couriered shrouds are as foreign to the inhabitant as the splitting of the atom, population dynamics and the restoration of a refugee’s spirit on childhood dirt.
The female writer speaks in code. Women speak in colour, in structured wavelengths of them, crossing over from thought to speech with poetry written on their walls of their silence, of their honeyed wonderings, their glimpses into the expanding illuminations of flame. If only we did not realise too late that we’re stained from childhood.
© Abigail George September 2012
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