My sister is striking. All the women in our family are. My Aunt Magdalene was extraordinarily beautiful too. They have spitfire personalities. Daddy, you know, you of all understand my hurried notes, the journals that I have kept from childhood continued to beyond, the journal, the rejected novel, the reckoning, the poems that I’ve scribbled, lost, that time and energy and ego forgot. Then there are the black Croxley notebooks. I am determined to keep that away from you, and from the rest of the world for good.
Muirhead wounded me. I think about all his women in the office space in Johannesburg before I came home to my childhood home in Port Elizabeth frightened to death of falling pregnant. Having a child out of wedlock. Becoming a single parent and raising a child on my own with very little money. I hardly made any money or had an income to support a child. How they protected him, laughed at his jokes, how they put him on a pedestal, how they worshiped him, how they sat opposite him in fancy Johannesburg restaurants drinking their cabernet or merlot. Thinking women, beautiful women, women with youth, naivety and sexual inexperience (although the sexual impulse, the sexual drive was there) on their side. How he winded hem up as if they’re electric dolls. I heated up the livers, mushrooms and bacon, the leftovers, scrambled the eggs and listened to the morning news on the radio. The bus coming in from Port Elizabeth to Johannesburg had flipped into the air off the highway. There were no fatalities. The plums were juicy and sweet. I would save them for lunch. I sat at the kitchen table, buttered my toast, drank my lukewarm coffee, crossed my legs, scratched my knee absentmindedly and stared out of the window. The breakfast’s grease was stuck to the pan. I could forget about it. And the more aware I became of the sky, the environment, the internal, the more aware I became of who created the invention, vision, dream, goal, and end of this line of sky, of blue, of this writer, this tortured poet, this bird mushroom bag ?
I felt his hand intimately as if it was a dream and then nothing. I felt ashamed.
The dream girl after leaving Johannesburg turned into a woman. She returned to the coast, to her father’s house, her mother’s kitchen, her mother’s wisdom and the thrones of her childhood continued, to the art of a heart undone. She returned to the coast where water could be found in wild places, where tides were subject to change, to the place where she spent magnificent blue hours staring up at the sky. She had her books. Her index finger would linger on the spine in her father’s grand study, his library, and his ‘London experience’. The house was dilapidated. It was in a bad way. The tiles were falling off the wall in the kitchen. The walls needed a lick of paint. The interiors were in need of repair. The whole house needed to be renovated. The dream girl had returned. The dream girl was also determined to change. She also wanted to be heroic, angelic and magical.
Writing about grief is one of the most difficult things I have ever had to do. Nerves I could fathom as I stood in front of them but what I really wanted to do was escape. Everybody always speaks about the miracle of life at a funeral. When death pays a visit there is no apprehension about discussing what music to play when the coffin is lowered, what hymns will be played, what verse will be read out of the bible, and who will make the potato salad.
Ocean of beads. Not meant to last long in this lifetime or the next. The people of South Africa are like that. My town is a dignified town filled with church people. In Central you will find the best girls in the world. They will detach themselves from feminism, and the tigers that come at night, their rivals in a finite time and place. They are moneyed. Drugs have destroyed the very art of their soul. Every gram of their spirits have wasted away. Muirhead. Flesh have come before you and after. The most brilliant parts of you portioned off like cubicles in an office space. Tell me everything you want me to be I would have said in my twenties. This doesn’t have to be the end of it but it is. It is. And still I say let it not be so. So comic. So tragic. I stand in this ice house. In this house from hell. Pale. The origins of smoke and mirrors, the cosmic bloodlines of my imagination, can be seen through the embodiment and timeline of my flesh.
Paper thin skating on ice is what I’ve yearned for my entire life. Not to fail, not to discriminate, but to create art in the landscape of suicidal despair and illness. All poetry and poetic justice seems to ask of us is to have a determined lust for life. I still need to familiarise myself with rituals that I found so comforting in childhood. Norma Jean where are you, where do you find yourself now, who are you and what is that golden reflection staring back at you? Is there anything more seductive than madness, than being blonde and being desired by the world at large, to be quiet about your philosophy on life, your starving ambitions to be a writer and a poet? To triumph like you have triumphed Norma Jean is to laugh in the face of men and women, of presidents, of feminists, to laugh in the face of the adversity that they have faced. No matter how brief, how solitary ecstasy is one can’t escape its urgency, its survival guide, that stain of love no matter how powerful and fresh it might be, how diminished it might make you feel in the end, you will discover that that experience was worth it. I left the madness and the heat of the city behind me in my early twenties. It will leave you beautifully grown now.