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.     

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Exiting The North

English: Photograph of a Vajrayogini painting ...

English: Photograph of a Vajrayogini painting from Thangka. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The last few months have been strange.  A submersion in single-minded commitment. Trying hard to get the thesis finished, and when I haven’t succeeded in hitting the targets, putting everything else off till I do.

This approach, weirdly, sapped the energy right out of my work.  I see how much that is a part of my agreements.  To be alone.  To isolate myself.
I held on.
Doing the practices of the North, and dawn meditations, where I struggled to stay awake, I was aware of this deep anxiety.  The pain of how I separate myself from all things.  The way the work of the thesis, unreleased, hung around and fed the anxiety.  How as soon as I did the work, that anxiety would lift.  The sense of connection returned.
It has been a test to stay with it, and leave it, all at once.  Let this part of the project go.  And accept its incompleteness.  Because beyond assembling, some light editing and binding the thing, there isn’t a great deal more I can do content wise.  Got to trust what’s there.
I finally handed the thesis in a month and a half ago, but it is still not quite done.  There are the examiner’s comments, due after Easter.  Further revisions likely.  Meanwhile, life goes on.  In the North you face the biggest tests to your staying power…  I get it.  Finishing this work is my hot spot. Staying with the wisdom of the process as I begin to face East in the Wheel.
We went back to South Africa over the festive season.  To see family, and for my partner to do some work.  We have taken the risk that he leave his job to work the hail season over there, so that with the cash he makes, he can buy a vehicle over here in London and we can have more control over his working hours in order to share child care responsibilities more equitably.  While in South Africa, I kept writing on the thesis daily, energised by proximity to the place that my work is all about.  The tension between separation and unity.  This is all tied in with what I do next.  How I manifest my intention in the real world. On the last day there a friend came over to tell me about a project she is working on, to set up a school that emphasises the natural world and play as central to children’s education, and also bridges the gap between the advantaged and disadvantaged in South Africa by offering subsidised places to low income families.  It’s about building an amazing, innovative space to educate children that is accessible to those who are normally excluded.  It is pretty risky and untested.  My friend wants me to get involved, and work on the project.  There is funding.  It’s a paid role.  This would be in about 6 months time.
I sit with the possibility of what can come next.  The risks and the rewards.  What do I do with what I’ve learnt?  How do I manifest right action?
Before we went to South Africa, and while we were discussing whether my partner should leave his job or not, I had the following dream.  It speaks to the heart of ‘what next’.  The step by step.  The letting go. The trust and faith.  The marriage of the miraculous with the pragmatic.  The dream mobilised many symbols of the past few years to powerfully engage me.  I’m still sitting with this one.
I go to a party, with young French people next door to our old home (This is the house we used to live in, our dream home, which we were evicted from very suddenly a year and a half ago.  Though traumatic, the energy released by leaving was what propelled me into opening up to new possibilites.)  I am not with my family.  I must make a decision about whether or not I stay and take halucinogens with these young, sweet, naive,open and exploring French students.  It is hard to make the decision, but still I stay, not deciding either way.  I know it is only for one night, taking the drugs and exploring my own mind.  I will go back to my family.  I look at our old garden next door.  I speak to Charlotte Joy (a colleague in the anthropology department who also has young children, but is more successful than me), and show her the garden, explaining how we lost it when we were evicted.  “It looks dull but at least it is here” I say, because the wild forest like garden planted by my friend is gone, and has been replaced by healthy looking – if dull- vegetable patches.  Well tended.  I am describing the garden to Charlotte in terms of loss, but I realise as I speak that there is no loss.  It was never really my garden.  
 
I must still make my decision about imbibing the halucinogens.  
 
There is aggressive knocking at the door.  Noise Officers from the council, female, like the two women who evicted us from our home in the real world.  i don’t invite them in, but they barge past to serve noise eviction notices.  Suddenly I realise I have nothing to fear from them!  This house is not mine, and the music that had been playing loudly has been turned off.  What a laugh!  An anti-climax for them.  
 
I must still decide.  
Sarah from the ReUnion (the amazing artist project that I got to know over the summer that took over and transformed urban waste ground near our flat into a magical summer space) talks it through with me.  She is somehow running all of this.  But she is neither naive nor young.  She is youthful, knowing and wise.  She is the one who knows.  She will not make a decision for me, but she shows me the den that has been made to cocoon me when I need to retreat from the massive explorations of my conciousness I will undertake by eating the halucinogens.  I know that I will take this leap, it is just scary and I worry about leaving my children.  
 
But it is only one night!  
 
I will be back with my family!
 
This decision is connected to the business idea my partner and I have been discussing in the real world. I see that our plans have a spiritual source and involve travel to South Africa.  
 
I take the drug.
 
My daughter is suddenly there, and afraid.  
 
Twin goddesses rise up out of the wooden floor boards to help me.  
 
They are made out of fire.  Wildly powerful.  But also controlled, exotic, and deeply knowing.  They are coloured red and orange.  
    
They have a lot to show me.  
 
A sweet Bengali girl from my daughter’s school comes and comforts her as I absorb the knowing the Goddesses are imparting.  They do this by asking a series of questions about the business idea.  As I answer it gets clearer.  At its heart, the plan must be altruistic and self-helping, connected to our mission in South Africa.  
At this point I woke up.
I went to the bathroom, and when I came back to bed and fell asleep, I felt the Goddess again, her twin aspect now singular.
My body was vibrating.
I knew she was made of fire.