Saturday, November 19, 2016

Sharp right

Other people's baths: I crawl back into the womb as often as I need to; for reading and thinking, also to listen as the south-easter rips, shreds, tears its way down The Mountain and through the apartments, nooks and crannies of beach shorts- and slipslop- wearing white middleclassedness. 

Nature seems so safe to turn to, even in its rage, in the face of this last week's new world order: DJT.

The Second Coming
Turning and turning in the widening gyre
The falcon cannot hear the falconer;
Things fall apart; the centre cannot hold;
Mere anarchy is loosed upon the world,
The blood-dimmed tide is loosed, and everywhere
The ceremony of innocence is drowned;
The best lack all conviction, while the worst
Are full of passionate intensity.
Surely some revelation is at hand;
Surely the Second Coming is at hand.
The Second Coming! Hardly are those words out
When a vast image out of Spiritus Mundi
Troubles my sight: a waste of desert sand;
A shape with lion body and the head of a man,
A gaze blank and pitiless as the sun,
Is moving its slow thighs, while all about it
Wind shadows of the indignant desert birds.
The darkness drops again but now I know
That twenty centuries of stony sleep
Were vexed to nightmare by a rocking cradle,
And what rough beast, its hour come round at last,
Slouches towards Bethlehem to be born?

- William Butler Yeats (1865 -1939)

Thursday, October 27, 2016


It was 50 minutes well-spent in peak hour traffic.
To the fishing village of Kommetjie* on the other side of the peninsular.
The isolation of working at home for almost three weeks while my university campus has been out of bounds - because of the increasingly dangerous #FeesMustFall protests - has been getting to me.
I've found myself spiralling downwards.
Some alone time on the sea path from the village to the Slangkop Lighthouse and back was good for me, also time alone with my notebook and two beers at the homely LightHouse Pub, a favourite of mine, saw me centred again.
And sane.
For now.
The rest of the year remains uncertain.
Not to mention that Cape Town is embarking on level 3 water restrictions from 1 November.
And this, please note, is at the tail end of our 'rainy' season.
These are but some of the stresses that I go to sleep on, and awake to with a tight throat and chest in the early hours.

*Kommetjie (Afrikaans for `small basin,` approximately pronounced cawma-key) is a suburb of Cape Town, in the Western Cape province of South Africa. It lies about halfway down the west coast of the Cape Peninsula, at the southern end of the long wide beach that runs northwards towards Chapman`s Peak and Noordhoek. The village is situated around ......

Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Particles of heart & cayenne pepper dust

A quarter of the year and Spring have trickled through my long fingers since I last left any trace of me here.

I've crept in through the backdoor, though, a few times, to attempt to -decently and with dignity- slough my skin in the drafts folder before going public so-to-speak: what to leave in, what to leave out. But, without getting my shit together.

I have slunk out leaving behind muddy footprints and the gristle of half-chewed, semi-digested bones, chunks of my own flesh and skin, also pillars of salt. These are visible only to me as I look shamefaced over my shoulder at my lot as I admit defeat and scamper safely back into the deep of the forest: in invisibleness.

Pushing pause for reasons still unknown to me. Floundering. Not that I'm floundering any less now, except that I'm perhaps more comfortable in my crinkly crackling sloughing skin: put 'em words down or die.

Even dying's easier than returning to 'Advertising' or 'Television' in Jo'burg.

Now, as the bright, adolescent Summer sun sinks behind Kloof Neck and as Woodstock fades towards the still distant dusk, this year in retrospect seems only to have made sense to me from the start of my three deeply relaxing and restful mid-year weeks in Waterval Boven, Mpumalanga.

Then a late-July, mid-academic year's fumbling start on a doctoral path at the University of Cape Town. Insecure making as I question my intelligence, also my role as an academic type and caucasian human being living at the tumultuous tip of Africa. Do I have anything whatsoever to offer anyone, is there a role that I can play here, in the humblest sense, that is?

Wham! Bam! Out of nowhere, by the end of the winter month, within 24-hours I found myself in a new relationship: 0 to 145 km kilometers in the split of an atom. Another layer of skin now ripped and stretched from my flesh and frame: I'd given up hope, I'd slumped into meaningless sex and even less meaningful conversations, anything to numb me from cold aloneness. And from the depression that accompanied two empty years' firing empty cartridges into the pitch black above the Atlantic.

With my phone off and the sun sinking and me wishing that I could turn my coffee into wine, it's as good a day as any to splash bloody, tattered words across this blog. Which ain't that long after I'd decided to delete and then burn it's carcass, to wipe my albeit meager and listless presence from the 'Net, like vomit from the floor.

As our universities burn, as the fees don't seem to fall, I sit working from home because it's not safe on the locked down campuses. There's too much time to pick at my sloughed skin, to scratch at scabs, to clumsily finger veins and arteries, as if they're not mine.

One of my orphan orchid's is flowering; I'd picked the scraggly, dying plant off a tattered turf next to a dustbin in Seapoint. A year ago. Amongst the piss, blood, shit and cum on the streets that I walk daily.

There's also a buttery pale green avocado spread thickly across my toast, crackling with black pepper, salt, cayenne pepper.

The index finger on  my right hand's still tender from the steel jab of yesterday afternoon's HIV test.

This evening the rusted and corrugated multi-coloured iron roofs of Woodstock are bleak and lifeless. Tomorrow, in full and wholesome morning sunshine, they'll take my breath away and my heart will sing and soar again.

The wind's died down and as outside fades to ink I faintly see my reflection in the glass behind my desk.

Photo credit (at the top): Darrin Higgs

Sunday, July 03, 2016

A note on 'escapement', from The Edge

Waterval Boven, Mpumalanga. The day's been very quiet and peaceful. Have mostly been reading & writing. It has warmed up and the sun's come out. I've been watering parts of the garden. Most likely illegally. And pottering around in it. 

Now I'm back in the kitchen: A brandy & Coca-Cola (the wine's finished) and going to braai a little later, with the large steak, lamb chop and boerewors I chose at the butcher late on Thursday afternoon. That I'll have to do from my rickety garden couch, outside, before the temperature drops to the forecast -1 degrees. 

Deeply peaceful and quiet; I'm thoroughly content as my first week of recess winds down.

My house and garden are at the very edge of the village. The village, in turn, is on the edge of the escarpment. The predictive text tool first auto typed out 'escapement', which probably best describes this space. And, also, this trip 'home.

Tuesday, May 24, 2016

Five yellow flowers floating on a pond

A veil of sadness has trawled behind me this entire day. Just enough of it to steal my joy. Unexplainable. Now, I'm home, hollow, and the promised rain has arrived: there's been a 100% chance of rain promised since 2pm. Juicy wetness and puffs of pigeon-grey fog finger my window-on-the-world as I try to work; the lamp on my desk on is a warm and welcoming glow. From six stories up I can clearly hear the splatter of overly ripe fig raindrops on the inky tarmac below.

I walked a long but favourite route to my bus after my last lecture. Via the Company Gardens at Cape Town's heart. Where I go to saturate my soul. It's a few extra but welcome kilometres of solitary wandering in a busy world.  I wonder where the many homeless folks that were sleeping on the well-clipped lawns are resting, waiting now as a soaking wet and cold winter's night's being served up.

Egyptian geese - which I grew up surrounded by in the far north of the country, which I too got to know via my solitary wandersings - confidently strutted about while protectively showing off the feathered clumps of newly-born chicks. Tiny. The old garden was vibrant with their unique calls.

I've spent much time in many gardens in this country, this one is the first, the oldest, the most filled with lingering ghosts. The first ground here was was readied for sowing seed on 29 April 1652. It's 364 years old. The oldest cultivated tree, a Pyrus communis (Saffraan pear) planted around this time still exists, protected and supported like a very old woman who's not all there, in the garden.

Someone had thrown five yellow hibiscus flowers on to the surface of the large pond.

Walking slowly, peacefully to console me of the unexplainable, I soaked up both the greyness and the homelessness around me. Only the pigeons bathing, showering in my favourite fountain seemed unperturbed as I picked myself through the garden and it's less travelled paths and walkways.

This was so starkly different to my last visit just short of a week ago. Then the city was bathed in bright winter sunshine beneath a champagne sky. Those days I adore: it's when the very oxygen molecules seem to individually vibrate and shine with exuberant life. It lends days like that an awesomeness, a surrealness that leads you to believe you're living in a miracle.

It's 17h29 as I type these words and dusk is upon me as I cocoon myself in this post, and in my mind, and in my apartment. Although I've a night of work ahead me, I'm grateful to be both home and for this home. Even so, I can't but help thinking about what life would be like tonight on the cold, wet streets as another Antarctic cold front ghosts, not unlike the reaper, across this province and deep into the interior.