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The International Writers Magazine: Life Stories

Emperor Wolf
•Abigail George
In the beginning, there was Emperor Wolf, Genesis, the family Golden. A voice in the first person. I, Tracy Golden crouched with the burden of the holidays and Christmas in my hands.
Tree in flood

Think of the jangling, the stillness in daylight. The flux of a small child. The treetop that I have been dreaming about since childhood. Verdigris on the harmonica. Tap shoes in the stillness. We had waited to the last minute to put up the plastic Christmas tree complete with baubles and trimmings. Gammon, tongue and turducken in the freezer in the laundry. My angelic conjured up myth has returned. The Christmas tree lights were crooked squidlike-tentacles hanging onto the plastic tree. We were alone in my parent’s bedroom. Mother (grandmother), father (grandfather), son (father), grandson, and Tracy (the eldest daughter) and Judith (the middle daughter). The six of us. In the house’s elbow, the dry land of the house, its spleen, its patella, breathing in and out at its leisure as the room’s lungs breathed in and out for decades. We are the original organic origami people.

The sky’s drum painted arrows of blue. Blue fireworks. An illusion written on that body of climate change.

We look at your scribble Emperor Wolf. Judith is an artist, a documentary filmmaker. Tracy is a poet. Your aunt makes poems about the small child. The small child’s father plays at politics. He is a youth leader in the Democratic Party. He has stopped going to meetings. He owns a small press but his real job is as an accountant in an Indian import export company. We marvel at the small child scribbling. Those squiggles that seem to suggest circles and shapes. We pretended it was a ripple, a reptile, a wigwam, waves, wavelengths. We pretended it was introspection.  We forgot about the turning points of the year. The seeds that we harvested and had for seasonal guests and so we readied ourselves to be immersed in the holidays. I knew what it was to be alone in the room. In my bedroom without a child, with the extensions of infertility growing and growing in circles in my brain cells, in inches.

I did not feel safe there even holding my breath as I watch the hissing of the rain wondering what owls are doing.

Rain has given quite a performance today. Leaves the property of trees drowned. The phoenix found the exit. Winter’s gospel, the schoolteacher who shouted at me became an offering to a museum. Cracked my pomegranate-skull. These are the memories of my youth. Skinned knees bleeding where I was pushed face down on the playground. Knees bending to protect my face. Could have been worse. I could have fought back. Instead, I just turned around, and walked away. What is so attractive about that? I kept my face. Talking about Woolf’s dead moths, her essays is like about being haunted by Ezra Pound’s Alba. The grotesque, the horror of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde. There are other horrors that we have to protect the small child, Emperor Wolf from too. We have to protect him from electricity, open plugs, sharp objects, anything with corners, and anything that he can put inside his mouth and choke on.

We have to walk on eggshells around him. We cannot talk in loud voices around Emperor Wolf.  It was nice at the sea. Watching all those people. Drinking them in.

Atonement needs accomplices in order to be accomplished. I remember the day when a gang of girls outnumbered me. Blonde girl gang. Sometimes they come back to me. Now that I am an adult, I think of those times and feel very sad. Depressed even like when I was at the hospital. And I remember the ribbons they wore in their hair. How I was not one of them. One of the gang. You had to be popular. To be popular you had to do handstands and cartwheels. In Physical Education. You had to know the words to songs on the radio. I still do not have revenge. I am auctioning scarcity. Silence. The desolation of emptiness. The strangers in their moonlight. Their experience. Their bodies’ zeal. Their minds. They are not ashamed of their silence. The hypomanic feeling that I have is of starvation. I cannot explain it. Like going crazy for the cutest boy in your favourite class. Wondering how he would look like in jeans.

There is an illusion written on the bodies at the beach that speaks of fantasia. The books in our father’s library at home had their own kind of radiation, their own fantasia.

Hell I did not care. That year my face was frozen for eternity in photographs. I was there to learn. To be educated. Not to go fishing for Jesus mind you, make a channel for His peace, or be a sunbeam. Amen. Gethsemane was just a garden to me. Amen. So what if a whale swallowed Jonah? Amen. He had a lot of time to think, meditate, pray. Amen. Or having a fainting spell in assembly. Amen. I liked Easter. Did not mind eating fish for five days in a row. Amen. In the aftermath of adolescence, I thought there would be plenty of time for love. It never came for me. I complete tasks in high school in a Hitchcock induced frenzy. Then I remember all of those girls’ faces.  I thought to myself that all of them were probably going straight to Dante’s hell. After their proposals and white weddings. Given time, I knew they would lose their looks. They would turn into their mothers, and aunts.

Shooting down the myth of going solo home. No one on your arm to dance with at a celebration, to go skinny-dipping with at midnight or the early hours of the morning.

My only friend could just watch. A mute standing on the sidelines. I spoke proper. I have had successive Great Depressions. I found Rilke, Hemingway. Paris. A Moveable Feast. Dear I put the roast in the oven. Watch it while I go inward. Nausea. While my fingers melt across the wilted pages of these books. There is no more asylum to be found in the country of Mr Muirhead, the mysterious scent of a psychologist’s rooms, the pilgrimage of moths toward the light, the flesh of being alone. There is only measures of devastation. Only rain. Only the mysterious nature in never becoming a bride. Our precious books, Conversations with our children. The dining room table, minutia, church and the sacred. They all arouse something within us. Emperor Wolf had come to stay with us until Christmas Eve. My angelic conjured up myth would be with us, Judith until the New Year.

She would drive all of us in a hired car to a beach house. The small child would not stop crying. My mother said he was too young to be separated from his mother. Too little to understand.

In the final analysis the wuthering heights between the bride and groom will be reached in the conversations they will have after their children have left their childhood home for university. Will she stay for him? Will he stay for her? Not forgetting they took those all-important vows. It seems as if they lived together with their communication having been uninterrupted for years. I am their daughter. Is it not it my place to say something? To do something once they begin to sleep in separate beds. This woman goes her way. Behaving badly. The man goes his. In the opposite direction. They have changed my childhood world forever. And in this damaged inner silence. What am I to do? Look the other way? I would rather have hysteria thank you. And this I did not ask for. Illness. Take it away. Depression. Out spot, out. Out with you human stain. I want no part of it that has not yet found the exit out.

There is planting, planning, fingers, fists clenching and unclenching a poem. And yes, I want that badly enough.

Hands tightening, there are no more poems for mummy. No more birthday presents for her. She is gone on a pilgrimage. I can see it in that faraway look in her eyes. She no longer acknowledges him. He no longer acknowledges her. Yes, something like Noah’s ark. They are autumn, going off to wars. In Africa, I have my own fears. Ugly ducklings turning into swans. The human voices that I hear bring me tulips. I have all-knowing eyes marching like the king of tigers. I can hear footsteps in the dark. What am I still doing here in their house? All I see is flowers. They need water.  The oranges are not the only fruit. They are waiting for me in the waiting room. Lucky me. I feel like childhood lasagne. Waiting for the roast. An unquiet crazy is coming on. I am left arguing with Darwin’s Past and thinking that the small child would never grow up alone like I did. When complicated arrived on the scene in childhood.

We are all eating ice cream in the cold. Creatures of observation at the beach, a white palace of waves, with a sand witch, and grief at the shoreline. We shiver in the near dark.  

Look here my shoulder blades is in need of pleasure. I want the waves to lay their fingers on me. I want to go surfing in an ice storm in winter. I want to feel winter, and the cold humming in my bones. Call my madness ordinary and my physical body a thing of beauty. I dare you. I have no need for sleep or for reality for that matter. Look outside. Reality is in darkness. Pavements happy-go-lucky. If we open Pandora’s Box what will we find. Nazi sympathisers. Where did I put that roast perfect dear? Never mind. It will come too like the villagers. Mother I am home. Where is your face of love? You can search my suitcases if you want to. What do you hope to find there? Companionship, horror, ancestral rituals? A love story, the Johannesburg people? Or an optic illusion that I am an exotic force of nature to behold. Look at me. My sharp, bold recovery. I want your love like Plato’s wisdom. I am fading away.

It is called lack of mother-love. Give a little. Won’t you please just give a little? Instead of taking everything, give in. Give in. This guilt-trip is like a visit to the beach.

Long overdue do you not think? You have never loved me. Say it. Say it to my face. Once upon a time estranged. Stranger, stranger, strange how I am saying these words. They have absolutely no meaning for me. Doctors said you could not have children. Instead, you proved them wrong. Went and had three. This means its warfare and anything goes. Love me just a little. Fulfil your obligations or do as you please. Listen. I am fed up. I am wiser now. Do not scream at me, and tell I am not your daughter. If you want to fight, we will fight as men do.
To the death. You are not so young anymore. It is exposed in your flesh, legs, shoulders, arms, breasts. I know I will win. I am still a girl.

We will fight until our loved ones will only identify us. By our teeth or fingerprints. We will box. We will put on our boxing gloves. This is no laughing matter. I am damn serious. Say you love me. I will not ask again. Promise. Is it really so difficult? So hard. Saying those three words will mean surely the life or death of me. All this time I have watched you from afar. Believe me I have watched all your wrongdoing. I have programmed your intimacy. Men always glorified you. You were a wife. You were an extraordinary female sex machine. Everything came effortlessly to you. But not to me your daughter. The dark-haired, flaming insomniac. I cannot make you love me. I cannot make the wheels, and machinery. Of love for that world to turn effortlessly, effortlessly, effortlessly. Your movements have become my own. Still I am a child. I am your child. And it is a huge, impossible task for you to say those three words, ‘I love you.’ Why not say, ‘I love you not.’ Why, why give me flowers instead? While doing historical research I feasted on mistresses. Creativity, I am your bride. Now there is a planting. They also said there was not enough Concrete proof of stigmata, Blood as fluid like water, the shroud of Turin or Lazarus. Religion is my Manhattan. You are my Sarajevo, my Iraq mother dear. My Israel and my Palestine too. My Bosnia-Herzegovina. My apartheid South Africa. You are my post-apartheid South Africa. You are my Rwanda. You are my Northern Uganda. You are an SS soldier stealing important art works. Confiscating them and hiding them away until the war is over. Pain was never a complete mystery to me. Pain came with infertility. Mental illness. Like the desire to have a child has never left me.

© Abigail George January 2015
Email address: abigailgeorge79 at

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