On Rhodes Statues and A Cactus Garden

I watched my father growing a garden made out of cactus and succulents in the backyard of our house.  The sky was always very big and very blue when he worked on his creation.  He carved it out of the brick steps that led up to the pool.  Plain and predictable white suburban stairs, the ordinary life of the racial elite in 1980’s South Africa, glistening with water and the smell of braaivleis.  My father was those things, and also nut brown in his cut-off denim shorts, inserting objects and magic into the garden he grew over those stairs under the sun.  He made one for each of his three daughters.  Was mine on the end or in the middle?  I don’t remember that detail, just that in the end all three gardens merged into one.  I watched the tossing of the soil, the setting of the rocks and stones, shards of statues, icons, glass pieces and the spikes of cacti gathered on walks in the veld and koppies that still surrounded Alberton back then.  Those walks where me and my sister would trot behind him, learning how to use our feet like noses to sniff out potential traps and trips on the ground.  My father would stop and pull up plants, take cuttings.   Sometimes producing a frying pan and a fire to make bacon and eggs.  I can’t say that we were part of it so much as spectators, watching.  I did learn some things.  How to pull a piece of a cactus plant off and stick it into a new pot where it would magically keep growing, without roots.  You don’t need roots to grow. What a lesson I think now, looking back.  The garden became ever more outlandish and charged with sorcery and indifference.  I loved to watch it.  At night I would explore its perimeters, finding glow worms clinging to aloes. I have stopped collecting cacti now.  I last had them ten years ago, a small collection on the windowsill in my house in Brixton.  After that, they fell away.  Like my memories of my father’s garden, the one he made for us as an expression of his Self.  My fingers are humming with the energy of it.  Our relationship has been so problematic for so long that the garden was forgotten.  And it was something that I can say with certainty was an aspect of him that I can love and grow from.  For a very long time I have not mourned the loss of that home.  I know that this is in part because of the problematic politics that surrounded its situation within a place marked by white priviledge.  Better to let it die unmourned or acknowledged.  It leaves me with a question: can beauty ever come out of evil?  Can the essence of a pure and real love grow out of a place that could not continue to exist?  I find the answer in the cactus.  You don’t need roots to grow.  And with patience, a flower as beautiful as the dawn will blossom.  I think of the comments written by white South Africans on Facebook, barbed and mean spirited, that cling with misunderstanding  to that statue of Rhodes, as if roots of any kind are better than none.  I am the cactus that flowered.  If only they knew how easy it can be to let go.

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.

Lady Killerz

i was a video girl

though too shy to

step into the light

i hung back

watching dancing initials stiched on the back of their jeans

she was beautiful

i know it

just awkward in her skin

uncertain of stepping out; disjointed

occasionally feeling the power of the flow

when she shone inside it

stars on her belt glinting fierce

wild lights and Oh My Goodness!

her hips would wind and God smiled

were they wasted years?

those perfect bitches that were my inner critics

colonised my brain

spoke a language i only partly understood

well dressed and operating with

Brutal Intent

their violence targeted the potential for creative collaboration at my heart

i kidnapped the weakest one,

stuffed her in a cupboard

slipping out through the kitchen door

ready to fight a mighty battle on the dance floor

these are my creations after all

this poem my offering

for a New Year

image

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

Till Johannesburg

Credit limit increased
Africa shines inside a twelve week module
Constructed from
Fragment memories
Shards of remembering made-up
Snatches of conversation
The songs we feel
Inside our cars
Ancestral cults and curls
Yearning for belonging
A bigger picture
A cultural context
You know when
It feels right
And the music fills up every broken part
In-head
I offer my children apologies
For the mess we are
Though, shoulders shrugging
When occupying
A point of stillness
In the midst of the Chaos of Us
It’s the realness I get stuck on
That makes sorry unnecessary
After all this
We can only be
Where
We are
Riding the dual carriage way from the Celtic Fringe
London bound till Johannesburg

The Fountain

Yellow skin girl
Enveloped in a dancing fountain
Art made life made art made play
The sweetest days drift briefly, sway
I watched the river turn
Deep and black with memory
Bridges crossed and wishes made
Time spent unwisely, paid up
Till the 9th day
When she will return
Shrieking in the foam and spray
Joy spilt on the edges
Summer’s fair way

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