Poems from Abigail George

A Heart Can Grow Old

I think that she can be

as great a photographer

as Annie Leibovitz or

even Dianne Arbus. On

the telephone I can hear

the noncommittal drawl

in her voice. She does not

know who those famous

photographers are or what

role they play in history. She

cannot place their faces

in history the right side

up in the universe. I still

remember all of her adolescence.

I can even if I try hard

enough or rather imagine

that I can see her smile.

I can see her smile reaching

her coy brown eyes. Her

lashes and cheeks wet.

‘No, I am not depressed’,

she says. She tells me she

has made potato soup. Comfort

food. Soul food more of

a tea made out of vegetables

than a meaty broth. I remember

when you were all mute.

I remember all the details

of adolescent you but now

you’ve moved away from home.

Grown up you live by your

Own rules. You’ve traveled

the world from North America,

Thailand, India, the city of


The Jerusalem of Florence

The blood of the Cape

runs through her veins.

The blood of the Cape

runs through my veins but

it doesn’t make us kin.

It doesn’t make me her daughter.

It doesn’t make me her

flesh and blood. I don’t

talk to her anymore.

Not the way I used to.

Our relationship just feels

different. She burned

my father’s swimming shorts today.

She said the iron was dirty.

I was the one who felt

exposed. Shamed in a way.

The other day she got

into a heated argument

with my mother. I took

my mother’s side. My proud,

headstrong and difficult

to get along with mother.

That day I felt exposed

and shamed for no reason

too. Things are different

now I realise. They will

always be different because

of the class system or the

political situation or the

great divide between black

and white, coloured and

Asian. She was like a mother

to me but things like I said

are different between us now.

President Thabo Mbeki’s Foundation

I am no stranger to hospital

life. In retrospect it seems

as if I was always in need of

a doctor. A team of specialists.

A psychiatrist. The tap root

of a psychologist for cognitive

behavioural therapy as if

my life depended on it. I wanted

the good doctors to cut out

the cancer of chronic illness.

You see the thing about chronic

illness is that it always threatens

to misbehave. It doesn’t

have those neat hospital corners

that beds have that you

wish for. There was always a shift.

Paradigms. A tightness in

my throat. I could feel every breath

I took at each vertebrae but

I wanted to survive. My memory

of needles is as long as

eternity. Oh I know that they

are convenient. Their aim leaps

through the air. I find myself

every six months or so in ‘Needle Park’

at the hospital. Arm pale. Arranged

on the table. This is what the

rest of the world doesn’t know.

I sob in my room late at night.

No one can hear me. There, there,

now. You’re almost human.

I tell myself repeatedly until

I am sane again. Vanity restored.

I’m whining. I’m unhappy

I know. I drink a glass of water

next to my bed. My nightly

ritual and suddenly I’ve inherited

the house again. I’m whole

in the sanctuary of my bedroom.

About Abigail George

No biography provided.


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