Scottburgh, South Africa

We are here, and the Indian Ocean is cleaner, fiercer, windier, lonelier, and more glorious than I could remember, even in my deepest reveries. It’s off-season, and we have the whole sea to ourselves. Two stray fishermen (hours apart), a couple holding hands in the afternoon, intermittent rain, slashing beams of sun, distant ships through a shimmering haze.

M’e Mpho sits by the wall of windows in the living room of our flat, too weak to make it down two flights to the ground and over a small dune to the beach, but she mused as she watched the waves rolling in and the spray flying across the water,

“This is God. God has created many things, but this is the first. Even I have one hour here, looking at this water, I can be happy until I die.”

Thursday morning, sitting in the beautiful home Kesavan and Bryan have created, after meeting both their mothers and assorted other relatives the night before, I called Palesa on Libuseng’s cell phone, for which I am buying time.

Palesa answered, and when she heard my voice, she could only sob for a long time. No words. We sobbed together for a while, and I told her when I found voice that I’m going to be in Johannesburg airport for five hours October 28, and I’d like her to come see me there, if she would like to see me.

“You want to see me?” she hiccuped. “Really?”

She will be there. She lives nearby. It’s not difficult for her to get there. She had been thinking of applying for a job at the airport.

“The 28th. I will be there. I will. I won’t forget or get mixed up. I promise.”

I am too wrung out to tell the back-story of Palesa, my daughter with FAS and bipolar disorder (or a demon, in her culture) and me. Only these words:

Flung spray blows horizontal, thin

white manes, an infinity

of furious demons hurl toward

warm shoulders of sand.

Invisible hands rip banana leaves

to tatters and shake no sense

into manic dune bushes.

Bottle-green water curls and thunder-cracks,

rises aqua in slant late-day sun.

I sit alone on a log in the sand,

bend over my aging belly and these

soft sacks that were my breasts,

mouth agape, howling in the wind.

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About Kendall

Aging drama queen (former professor of theatre) writes, takes pictures, and messes about.
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17 Responses to Scottburgh, South Africa

  1. Ann says:

    This is deeply moving, shaking me to tears. Bless you for making it so far, for taking M’e Mpho to the Ocean where she can connect with God and be happy.
    I am overwhelmed with the news about Palesa. I pray you will meet your beloved daughter. I pray the Angels will keep working overtime for you and watch over all of you.
    “Howling in the wind”, you bring back my beloved departed Aunt Mimi, she used to tell me to howl in the wind, by the sea, my Mediterranean, whenever my heart would be too heavy to hold its sadness.
    Love and blessings. Always.

  2. Kendall says:

    I am so happy you are there. Aunt Mimi would love this place. Thank you for howling beside me. You will love the Antjie Krog poem also. Love and blessings back to you.

  3. Patricia says:

    I can’t believe you found her! I hope she can get there to meet you.

    Love,
    Patricia

  4. Christine Johnson says:

    My heart aches for you. I hope Palesa remembers and I hope you find her as safe as she can be. My heart stays with you. My love is with you always.

  5. Anne Eberle says:

    So, K – You and M’me Mpho have made it to the sea, and you will (inshallah) see your daughter soon. So the hot dry days you have endured have given way to tears of feelings that are way beyond names. You will carry them in your heart all your days, and even the bittersweet moments will sustain you. Well done! love, ~Æ

  6. Leif says:

    Dearest K… How absolutely transporting your words are. I can forget where I am, hear M’me Mpho calling the ocean God, hear Palesa’s joy, pain, confusion, gratitude at hearing her mother’s voice – your voice. And your poem… no… your actuality: “Howling at the wind”. Thank you…

  7. Oh, these poets and their useless public anguish …. However loony, you did what you wanted to do, and no sentiments or explanations are necessary. “…. these soft sacks that were my breasts” howling in the wind and so on and so forth. Well alright, your days of flashing a handsome thigh à la Deitrich are probably gone and I hope you made the best of them, but there wasn’t all that much to complain of when I saw you only a year ago. Get on with it, conduct this damned machine and its passengers from this lonely place on the Indian Ocean to wherever they and you have to go next, which I suppose is back to beastly Lesotho, eternally groaning and now presumably under flood waters. The rest will work itself out to your satisfaction, more or less and with a few hitches, as it has so far……

    • Kendall says:

      Public anguish is not useless to me if it helps me to know my own feelings better and to understand my own thoughts. Why are you so impatient? Let me be here. I am here, we are here, there is no need to get on with it any more than I am doing. While I am here, I think. It’s what I do.

      • Very well. I’d be impatient to know more of these exotic and mysterious places where you are and I never will be, that’s all. We never agree about poetry, that’s understood. But a dash of lemon juice can sharpen up even a cream trifle, you know ….

  8. John Guarino says:

    Got nothing pithy to say. Just that I’m thinking of you. I appreciate what you’ve been writing. I appreciate what you must be feeling.

  9. Elli says:

    I’m enjoying both the cream and the squeeze of lemon juice – it’s wonderful to keep up with your journey like this. And I’m so glad that you all got to the ocean.

  10. Keith says:

    This part of the story is so moving; I can’t believe that I am so engaged with people I will never know (except through your writing). The sadness implicit in your M’e Mpho’s joy at being able to see the sea and feeling now she has done everything she wants to do and can die happy, is almost overwhelming; and then you followed it up with the equally poignant conversation with your daughter that hit me like a combination punch. Beautifully crafted.

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