I wrote this poem in response to Jane Alexander’s sculpture ‘The Butcher Boys’, currently part of the permanent collection at the South African National Gallery. It depicts the brutal and dehumanising forces of apartheid. It is unsettling and haunting. It is also the subject of the tourist’s gaze. A work to be photographed with by visitors to the gallery pulling amusing poses. This is the way of things. Alexander made the work in the 1980’s, a time when the violence of the state, and the response of the people was exploding in South Africa. I remember this time as my childhood years in Johannesburg. Sun-lit and ordinary. Lying on hot bricks, wet from the pool. The tanks rolling down the quiet suburban streets to quell uprisings in the neighbouring township. The barbed wire going up around our primary school. Bombing my bike as fast at it could go around the twisted pedestrian bridge that spanned the highway. Horror on the outskirts of an insulated suburbia that was participating either through active collusion or a studied refusal to notice. Being in South Africa over the last few weeks, the visceral sense of a great evil that made the present is something that I feel everywhere. Life goes on, as it should, but this poem bubbled up in response to the insidious ways in which evil sits with us. In my practice I think about what it means to live with the after-effects of evil. What the balance is between knowing the evil of the past, seeing how it operates in the present, and also being sufficiently free of it to be able to respond to what is right now. It is the tension between knowing what made us, and releasing its stranglehold without the denial and amnesia that can characterise a too-hasty release of the pain story. Working through identifying and releasing pain stories in the West of the Wheel, I am aware that these stories are woven into the fabric of national narratives, kaleidoscopically. Poems bubble up in dawn meditation. The cacophony of the dawn chorus. My tired eyes snap open.
Got caught up in the game Riding trains around a sunset city a perpetual indigo twilight a heatwave headphones on an outmoded technology Still, reliably able to get lost in …. All of that sweet dream You are something else … Continue reading →
It was never really Fair We never really had A Choice United, divided All movement made For real I stood on the backs Of seven Four faceless women Island sojourners Whose eggs, passed down into me Whispered truth Sitting still, … Continue reading →
Two nights ago I had a dream, half waking half sleeping. The green light on the fire alarm, glowing in the dark, began morphing into the features of a powerful , benevolent green goddess. More ancient and wild and loving than anything imagined or written. I was there, still separate, holding back from full surrender to the growing vision. I could not connect, and yet I was glad to see her, to know that this possibility is inside me, is growing, if slowly and replete with the fearfulness of coming into the fullness of life’s possibility. I was sleeping on the couch. My room seems cold at the moment, a holding space for laundry and the cupboards that I need to go through with Mary Kondo’s eye, weeding out all the unsuitable items that don’t really serve my life, that clutter up the space. But this is labour I can only do in stages, I am inside the limits of what my reality currently is. Responsibilities of work, children to play with, bathe, put to bed. Clothes to launder and beds to change. Lectures to write. So the couch, lit up in the glow of a low warm light at the end of the day, when the house is quiet apart from me and the cat, becomes sweet and cosy. Free of obligations. Covered with the zebra print mink blanket I bought in Kilburn with the birthday money my granny gave me back in the day. This is the flowering beneath the ground, the gestating point, the cracking open of the seed as it becomes aware of a light not yet seen.