Evil is a Facebrick Church in a Modernist Style.

I am no one

A thin spirit

Wandering the Land at its source

Shape-shifting to become 

The peaks and valleys 

Of the everyday

The banality of Evil

All around me

Sits, hideous

Contemplating the world from a park bench 

Evil is a face brick church built 

In a modernist style

Signalling its permanence

As a landmark on the highway, heading home

I struggle to keep pace

Wraith-child match girl

Lighting flames in the wind

The terrible book of the past

Written around, and on, and through me

Jaws of bone and stone

Open to offer a route 

Elsewhere

Standing at the gate

Pink light of dawn

Cold hands of morning

Slipping into the folds 

Of a warmer place, 

A language learnt

A past unravelled 

Commentary

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.

 Briefly, I am awake.     

Image

Flowering

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.

Hungry Ghosts

Hungry ghosts are all around.

in the hunger for perfection,

a greedy one,

makes me go back and

correct endlessly,

the one that stops the flow and thinks thinks thinks till my ears explode.

this one wants the right spelling and gramar

now,

it won’t permit key stroke errors.

that hungry ghost eats me everyday.

It wants to eat my whole entire life,

seasoned with inanity and the details, purposeless without the sweetly flawed flow of a genuine canvas to express its artful corrections on.

Yes, hungry ghosts are everywhere.

they are pushing delicately thoughts of past times over and over into now

remembering when she did this?  And i did that?

enveloped in those soft grey places, quicksand pulling us life-less through years and years and years

My grandfather was swallowed by the hungry mud in Lancashire, early last century

pulled out by a passing man and his walking stick.

without whom

there would be no I to ponder being alive

in this body; this time

Pulled out, he was given the chance to live.

So too I, and We

sinking, connected, calling out

For the stick that saves us is

Within

and

Without.

Acephalous

This one goes out

To all those

Who never got it together

To make it

Though still made

Love songs

Echoing out into space

For you I wish

An acephalous society

Where lineage and kinship

Are organising principles

Yet flexible enough

To let us cross the tracks

Imagine no leaders

A stateless place

That maintains

Institutions of caring and education

Minus the discipline and punish

There will be the love that binds

Without clinging

Songs at sunset

To see us through the night

This goes out to all the lovers

Who never made it

But still got it together

To laugh at the heart of things

This goes out

To all of us