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••• The International Writers Magazine: Life stories

Joseph's Wife
• Abigail George
Waiting for healing rain. Here’s wishing for that release in the sky.

Rain heals

And everything that was written between having the fear for loving too much or not at all. I remember the powerful energy I held in my hands drawing circles in the sand at the beach. Magic circles that took on a life of their own as the waves came in and washed the shoreline clean and pure repeatedly.

Even shadows have teeth. They have a life all of their own as the rains do when they gather their feast. As does the skeleton of driftwood. The machine of the sun beating down upon my head and my soul. I want Joseph’s wife, my mother to say to me that I am her Alice Munro, her Joyce Carol Oates, her Anne Carson. My life is a dream. One day I will wake up and realise that I was the sun.

I was always the sun. I am an experiment in the works. A scholar of fragments of rage and trivia. Joseph’s wife, my mother with her face of love came from a working class background. We live in a city of particles and atoms now. She is the mistress of spices. The master of soups. The lentil queen.

It is always this image or another. My brother’s face made up of invisible threads but there is a connection just there for the taking. A silent call from a remote land where ignorance is a cold shroud. Ignorance a shrivelled, helpless and cold shroud. My brother is a world of images. Gesture translated into existence, stance, perch, leap, solitude.

Joseph’s wife, my mother, her face is love or memory or memory of love, touch, quickly mad drama. She is a single word in her son’s head.

The potato and leek soup tasted like lukewarm water. I want Joseph’s wife, my mother to tell me that I was born with a philosophy. That I was a woman conceived after God’s own heart. An immaculate conception. That I wasn’t marked with any blemish when I was born and that according to God’s plan I had a purpose. I sometimes make a thinking game out of waiting for rain.

Look at the autumn leaf. It reminds me of glare in the autumn chill. The arrangement of light gathering there. The old nothing routes of death harvesting new life. A brave and new world. Walking away. Encountering the words of an artist. Words the dreams of an artist. The substance of the shine of a meteor is stuck there unparalleled. It is like the education of stars colliding in the inheritance of outer space. J.M. Coetzee is a teacher. We are two writers. He is older. I am younger than he is. The lessons that I am learning from him are not lost on me. This meeting point of two strangers. In dreams trees can grow out of sidewalks without any water. Johannesburg is not as ancient as the fields are in London. It does not matter where we find ourselves. I find myself in birthday letters now. Wishful thinking. The life and times of Emily Dickinson. To read her poetry a symphony is required. She was an alchemist. Her drug, annihilation of the spoken word, stars that speak of fire and of place. In photographs it appears as if her flesh is luminous. Perhaps she was exotic, and angry. She is gone but her voice remains powerful. Her opinion like a Rupert Brooke, Keats, or a Siegfried Sassoon. To better understand her meticulous wording like a tightrope it is to understand perhaps her reality was written in blood.

Her melancholy beautiful and innocent like winter rain pouring down. Her tongue liberated the lion and thirst. The original emergence of the borders of freedom. The flame was her fame. Nothing of the fishing for the whirlwind of the apocalypse inside her head only the absence of it derailing her philosophy in flight. And on reading "The Enchantment of Lily Dahl" by Siri Husvedt. Lily Dahl’s bloodwork is familiar. Like the stream flowing into the river. I step outside. The night air moves through me. First its silence. The silence of the trees. Then the silence of the birds. I am the moonlight while insects fold and unfold their angel wings. Their angel selves. And all I have to do is reflect. Yes, reflect! Everything is becoming misty or is it the company I am keeping. Listen to me. Politics etched into bone tasting like the dream of a pharmaceutical. Discontent for so many is a temporary assignment of life. I imagined her, Siri Husvedt as a heatwave. Making waves just like Virginia Woolf once did. Flying always below the void of the radar.

Joseph’s wife, my mother says that writing is not everything. That she only needs to look at my face to realise that I am the song of the experience of innocence. Solitude. The psychiatrist is always going to be on my case anyway. Today I want to talk about pleasure. I want him to tell me that I am beautiful but he doesn’t. I am not afraid to tell him that I am in love with him. Maturity comes with learning how to fly, letting go of the ropes and then with no expectations you find the spiritual prosperity that every soul desires. You find the knowledge of the universe within you.

A pretty little thing is what a wonder is and in that struggle lies the exquisite compass of a very manic high. Two students, Plath and Sexton. Two birds struggling with wild lows waiting to fly, have a family, babies and then wanting to die. Give me the mountain and I will go fishing for Jesus. I will learn from war and genocide and I will forget this place of weeping. It is just a picture inside my head but it means something to me. The introspective blue opens up, commands, orders the absurd, tragic, unusual. The wind is screaming inside my hair. Is it all a dream? Wake up a voice says. Where’s the attraction and I tell them it was always intelligence until boys couldn’t tolerate my madness anymore.

Let bitterness not cut through us. Does he understand what I am saying? Therapy has played a meaningful role in my life. I think that if I look back on this phase of my life I will thank you one day. I’m a child. Syrup sticky in my hands. I’m a grown up. The wedding garment in my hands.

What this poem is. This is not a poem about a river or becoming the sea. The reflection in the mirror is as unstable as electricity. I wonder to myself just who does she think she is anyway.

I am wary of her. Joseph’s wife. Of what she is capable of doing. I tell the therapist. You’re living. I’m dead inside my head. You’re warm. I’m cold through. I don’t know how to keep the regime of little green men dancing, skating on the thin ice of the red lake of my heart under control. You’re unfinished. Tiger (or rather the team of tigers that Joseph’s wife has taken me to), you speak to me in tongues. These are dangerous times that we’re living in, you say. You are joy, joy in my lungs. Yes, you are. You come in that stellar version. While I’m a London field covered with the fabric of stars.

Perhaps if Joseph’s wife had said. Excuse me child, it’s my fault. I don’t know how to love you. The nights aren’t warm anymore. There’s an autumn chill outside of my bedroom. It’s planting season. So my brother does what any man does in planting season. Dirt under his fingernails. His sweater smells like rain. The sweat, and tears of a hard day's work. He makes me smile. Laugh. I watch him through the kitchen window. I make him endless cups of coffee. I want to make him happy because damn if I know how to love him, or you, or anyone else for that matter.

What this is. We watch a flight of birds. I smile. This sitting in a park holding onto your hand
only letting go of it when the sun goes down. I tell myself that you’re my only love. In one movement I am longing for you. Once we were city people made of stern blue stuff. I am left wanting you. The smell of your leather jacket. Wanting all of you. Not masking that kind of affection. My adoration. I am a poet so I write poems about you. Love poems to you. The rain is wet, cold while you’re sweet, cool. In this dark night you’re a ceremony made of stars. You glow in my thoughts. What else are you but a windy eternity? Your slippery thick hair. Magic little black fishes. Your face, a sonnet. Filling my head with music. The accumulation of emptiness.

The gathering of loneliness. Even the clouds were bittersweet that day. Joseph’s wife, the absent mum. Jean, the cancer that took one out. Weavings of Anne Sexton. You see, I don’t have a short memory for painful things.

I wrote this. I wrote this for you. For a boy called Julian. A boy and his guitar. His expression does not change. I am going to miss this room. And let the hills hold back the wind a little (for the poet Elizabeth Jennings). You have a snapshot heart. Veins made out of postcards. We’re walking down your street in the middle of the night. We don’t have much to say to each other. We’re still in that honeymoon period of the relationship. You’re mysterious to me. I want you to protect me. I sit on your bed. You sit opposite me with your guitar. You let me read the notebook that you don’t let anyone else read. You let me read your poetry. You’ve shown me your scars now I’ll show you mine.

There’s a trick to opening Pandora’s Box in your thirties. There’s a loss to the windswept day. The waves beautiful. But I do not want to go into the water. Feel it against my skin. I’m afraid I might drown in all of that memory. I feel I might get tangled up in the seaweed. Never come up for air again. Perhaps I will hit my head against driftwood and lose consciousness. I remember you touching my face. It was only a moment. Now it’s a memory. There’s a loss to the day.

It’s you. It’s you. The light as if from birthday candles is punishing. You’re a man. Thunder. Wolf like and unhappy. I’m a woman. Lightning. In other words, a bird. But I am also unhappy. How to solve this elegantly. I wanted to hide from the world. (In other words) from you. You are poetry. Poetry. I say this as if I have never experienced tigers, pleasure, the suffering of pain. I loved you even though you were cold to me afterwards. Like the end of an evening of fireworks. I like to remember that. You’re with another now. She’s more woman.

Less of a girl whose hands are made of clay. In that place something happened. In that room. In that space. In that moment of time and place. Please read this! I wish that he would read my poems and fall in love with them. That his hand would touch the page as if to make his own despair and sadness vanish into thin air like bees, smoke and mist. He has made me feel that way. No escaping or getting around it. How lofty it is to fall in love. You’re the wall. You’re the wire. I’m afraid I am the complicated one. Like a dream.

The dream of you. The sun exposed you. You confessed on a bright day. I’m good at waiting. For marriage. For fabrication. For the boyfriend Julian to make his return. For infertility to turn itself into fertility. Your warmth is complex. Where is it coming from? It is coming from your shirt. Taste. Smell. Sight. Your open hands. You can be dramatic but I want your future anyway.

You remind me of a Bollywood movie star. I long for diary entries. To find you there as if you never went missing in action after all these years. You’re in the lost and found box or am I in the wrong. I’m in danger of losing you once again and I have a grotesque appetite for this winter light. This feeling that I have inside of me is fear. Fear that I am in danger of calling you up again on the telephone, fear of being alone for the rest of my life. Listening to silence on the other end of the line. You’re just being you, an actor in a film.

I wish I could sink my teeth into you again like I once did and taste flesh, blood, hair, light, salt. I can’t be happy just with me, on my own anymore. All I do is wish that there is beauty and peace in my bones.

© Short fiction by Abigail George
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