July 19, 2018 Poetry , POETRY / FICTION

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Abigail George




All my life Rilke in my hands


(for the Kenyan philosopher Nyambura Kiarie)



Leaves become branches, tracks, reaching

towards the sky. I surrender but still tell the city to

remain close. To the aroma of grief. I follow

her down the mountain, and through the dry

grass of the valley. Her flesh is a prize. Look

at the poor, those who live in poverty. On the

day we fell in love with words we didn’t see them. Look

at those who suffer hardship after hardship.

Love leaves me with the dead greats, so does

loss. I think of philosophy and literature in

the same breath. You’re as relevant as climate

change, and global warming. She’s truly an

amazing thing. Desolate, and charming. Vivacious

too! One day she’ll be taken away from me.

She’ll become like a Jupiter’s moon then. She’ll finally

live in eternity. All my life I’ve lived in the

world of the flesh like a bird with a broken

wing. Her stories are like rubies to me when

I’m lost and scared, and the hours are strange when

I’m not writing. When all I have are tears crawling

on the flesh of my skin. This, this writing that

is in my blood like the wild birds of Kenya.

Her blood brings me warmth, originality, an

authenticity. She has stopped writing, but there’s

still salt in the ocean. The summer rain still

falls. It is still hard to say sorry I broke your

heart. I made a mistake loving you. Don’t be

afraid, I want to tell her, but I’m afraid too. Afraid

of dying young. Dying too young, or living

until I am too frail too love this world, this earth

anymore. I still want to be left alone. I wrote

this for you gifted daughter of Kenya. On her

farm she is hunter and gatherer. I think of the

passing of Sam Nzima, the worship of the ancestors,

her suffering, my loss, Africa’s loss, everything

within me, the word uhuru, the shape of winter

in the ground. I think of the soil that she ploughs.

I think of water, her aura, her soul, my soul.

The protest that both loneliness and silence in all

of these hours witnesses. I sit and wait. I sit


and wait for the light. I want to look at the ocean

in this light. I think of how she doesn’t have

the time to write anymore. She’s the land of glory

but doesn’t know it. I think of refugees. I think

of Cuba. Cities are selfish. They take and take

and take. Leave us with a difficult exhale, circles

in difficult arguments, falling, devastation and

collapse when we cannot write. When we cannot

put those words down on the page. When the pen

is not mightier than the sword. I think of how vast

her throat is. The sadness is gone now. The regret.

All I see is a metamorphosis. Her face a flower, and I see

how her philosophy finds shelter here inside of me.






If you want to write, then write


(for the Kenyan philosopher Nyambura Kiarie)



You can see it if you look closely enough. Even

the comets step out in faith. The meteors. People.

Volcanoes. Even the patterns on your flesh have

a complex. Prayer to me is like air. My reading

hands are greedy for the sunlight. The palace of

the sun. The sun, well, she’s moving. Revelatory.

Even the holy is visible here. I can see it. I can see

  1. I’m full of laughter and tears. My heart is open.

Willing to share the inheritance of futility and loss

found there in the silence and the empty rooms

of my childhood house. I think of how I know the

tastes of childhood trauma, like I know the smell

of spaghetti. It’s an ancient landscape. Seldom

glorious unless it is overcome. I think of the

therapists I’ve been to, how many of them have

been Indian women, and beautiful. I think of class

and speaking English proper all my life. I think

of my sadness, and then I think of you. Now let

me talk about broken families. Your wit is warm-

hearted but your heart is condescending and cold.

You call me up when you’re lonely. You’re digging,

digging, digging into me, and I’m branching out

into particles. We have to tell our stories. The

leaves here are holy. Sister has a voice of longing.

Brother’s clothes are on the bedroom floor. I

live in mother’s house. She wants me gone like

yesterday. I think that the gifts of humanity are


like the ocean. That same ocean also belongs to

my mother. The sadness that was there before is

gone now. I am caught up in a dream. I have yet


to find a being to be with, live a lifetime with,

settle down, marry, and have those children with

the angelic shine on their faces. Thank you for


not calling. Thank you for not texting me. Thank

you for this long silence. For this pain. I think of

the fact that I am no longer afraid to close my eyes.


You were something beautiful. An altar. I think of

the retreat of solitude and futility. Their exposure.

Lava. The anointed. Wherever the soul comes from.






Yes, you heal the ground I walk on


(for the Dutch poet Joop Bersee)



You heal the ground I walk on. All the quiet

things that my heart desires. This is a face

that tells the truth. I tell myself whenever I

look to you. There are tiny beads of light in

your eyes. You taught me that we express

ourselves in writing about our thoughts. It’s

extraordinary to think just how far we’ve come

in such a short space of time. You’re lovely.

Kind. Your knowledge is sublime. Abundance

in nature where I live is festive this time of

year. You’re the most vulnerable. Strong

stems from strong. Stories stem from pain’s

metaphors, dirt and grace, the worship of the

earth, and the praise of nightfall. I want to

tell you that I’ve known pain, but I can’t. That

sometimes there’s an animal inside of me.

Up close it keeps its confidence, and a long

silence. I want to stop this weeping, but I can’t.


You’re farthest from my mind now, sister.

The root of fear, call it a shroud. The cloak

and dagger game. Let this monkish branch

unearth this truth about life, the angels, and

the humanity that comes with maturity, and

confidence. Gone are the days of mother, and

father acting passionately towards each other.

Now they sleep in separate beds. And so, I

watch you blossom, and slowly fade away. I


find Neville Alexander, Dulcie September,

Jakes Gerwel in this angelic vineyard. Dusk. Moonlight

on your face, a prize. I find you all there.






Wherever the soul comes from


(for the Dutch poet Joop Bersee)



I have to stop living in this torment if only

for you. I have to begin to live in gratitude

more. This eternity that I think lifts only

when I write. Can you translate this for me,

or tell me what it is about. I only write in

English, and understand English, but I don’t

mean to sound arrogant. Sorry if I sound

arrogant. I don’t mean to be selfish. Sorry

if I sound selfish. There are people in this

world who play holy. Sorry if I come across

like that. All I know is that all poets are

anointed, holy, and sacred no matter what

language they write in, and like you I am

also grand by the way. You wrote a very

fine poem. Thank you for your honesty, and

please stay in touch, sir. Send me another poem.

I’m writing a series of poems on sobriety.


Sister says this house is a palace. Brother

was calm today, and I, I wait. I wait for

the white fields of snow that come in winter.

I lock the backdoor at night. Check all the

doors. I drink sister’s tea. Brother made a

cross when he came out of rehab. He fashioned

it out of fallen branches. A rusty nail holds

it together. And very soon all our lives became

like that cross. Brother became determined

to live, and not give up. He was the eye of the tiger,

and we all lived to become theologians.


We became like chameleons, and all of our winters

soon turned into summers in his hands.






Abigail George

Pushcart Prize nominee Abigail George is a South African-based blogger, essayist, poet and short story writer. She briefly studied film at the Newtown Film and Television School followed by a stint at a production company in Johannesburg. She has received two writing grants from the National Arts Council in Johannesburg, one from the Centre for the Book in Cape Town, and another from ECPACC in East London. Her work has appeared or is forthcoming in Aerodrome, Africanwriter.com, Bluepepper, Dying Dahlia Review, ELJ, Entropy, Fourth and Sycamore, Gnarled Oak, Hackwriters.com, Itch, LitNet, Mortar Magazine, Off the Coast, Ovi Magazine: Finland’s English Online Magazine, Peeking Cat Poetry Magazine, Piker Press, Praxis Magazine Online, Sentinel Literary Quarterly, Spontaneity, The New York Review, and Vigil Pub Mag. She has been published in various anthologies, numerous times in print in South Africa, and online in zines based in Australia, Canada, Finland, India, Ireland, the UK, the United States, across Africa from Ghana, Kenya, Nigeria, Turkey and Zimbabwe.

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