A soul on fire: The poetry of Abigail George

By Abigail George


With love, a father and mother’s advice

The death of his (the ex) memory came
In the letting go. So did the worship of
Buddha, chanting mantras, writing down
Affirmations. Meditation. Things started
To happen for me then. Shelter (the silence of
My bedroom became almost lyrical). Salt
And light touched the morning, my breakfast nook and toast.
The sky cold and blue even on a summer’s
Day. The forecast was that protest has its
Own pace. So did the kitchen table bathed
In orange light. I too had a public image, a
Front and a private one. As did my father and mother.
We seemed to be ghosts tied to each other.
From ankle to ankle. Sworn to secrecy as
To what had kept us together through the centuries.
After reincarnation, our debts to each other
Were still not settled. Although we never
Returned as ghosts. Each one of us. To roam this world.
Unforgiving. Wretched as death. Our travels

Began like any season did. With harmony.
We only had a watered down love to give
That made it difficult to let go of each other.
We walked down the same corridors until
They gave us the knowledge of all things
But that didn’t matter. It never distracted us.
It gave us a colossal vision and we learned
In our own way to love our cares, and our
Burdens and each other all over again in an
Eternally country way. Every birth was like
A holiday by the sea and every death was a
Rural countryside winter. A ghetto. Small child.
Dark eyes. She has a halo. A German nose.
She looks like her mother and her father.
It was a daughter that taught my parents how to
Hold each other up in seismic times. It is that
Same daughter that is writing this now. The facts of her life. Filling in
The blank spaces of longing for a partnership that
Could carry her all her days for the rest of her life.


Gone to Jean Rhys’s purple sea

Sunlight came to my house.
It came knocking. It came
And went like winter guests usually do. Like angels
Or when you put away things.
The sphere of childish things.
Flowers came to my window. A
Woman’s reflection (or rather self-portrait).
She was standing alone in the
Rain. Fading blooms on their
Own out of focus journey. You’re
Thunder dear, I wanted to whisper
In her ear. Coming home in the
Afternoon. There’s a dream in
Her my eyes sees. I know what
She is thinking. That this is not
The morning that she expected.
Departure. The secret of joy. Poetry in the art
Of fishing. Safe footprints washed
Away like yesterday. Swamp!
The depth of futility can be found there.
The almost tranquil dance of
Sins and moonlight. Joyous and brave!
The sun anonymous. It flickers.
Black rain a memoir. A soul on fire and
So the change within me came.


Bone and other stories

In my country there was
A kind of Christian talk
Of when God called Isaiah to be a prophet. He had a
Fire at work within his heart.
Claustrophobia for the bluest
Skies thread and spool.
We’re all servants to the
Role of the mother or the role of the father
In one way or the other.
The half-life of our soul

Blue, innocent and fragile.
Digging for the heavenly
Orders glacial and fertile.
Hoping it will teach us.
In my country there was
No Job. No doubting Thomas.
Only this. That perhaps we all should
Fade away to wise-everything.
If we took the time to read everything
We could lay our hands on.


The wilderness prayer of driftwood

‘The flame in the snow’, in the field,
In the wild ‘song of songs’ wilderness of
The green sea. Its energy poured itself
Into me and names whispered secrets of men
And women, banning, detention, a political
South Africa, of apartheid, freedom,
The struggle, Biko, Bantu education,
Sharpville, and the call for democracy.
There’s a harvest there ‘born a crime’.
‘Unstoppable’. Today I wrote two poems
About Alice Munro’s short stories and
Haruki Murakami. Made a prayer list. Once
You flowed into me. Into my intellect and psyche.
Once you were loved, grateful, and thankful
And then the book grew up, spread its

Wings and became the law of the land.
I thought you would bless your children
Abundantly. Give back instead of taking.
Instead you built churches (not such a bad thing)
And there are still many who wonder what
This word ‘free’ means. It feels more suburban
(Gated community behind high walls)
Than rural countryside. It feels as if
Something bright and clever is swimming
In the water liberally. The rub of love.
No newspaper. No Moses to rescue us.
Then I remembered. I remembered all.
No cacophony underwater. No sprinting away.
This image shifts. It is always shifting.

Abigail George is a South African poet and short story writer who
briefly studied film at the Newtown Film and Television School in
Johannesburg. Her short story “Wash Away My Sins” was nominated for
the Pushcart Prize and she is the recipient of two writing grants from
the National Arts Council in Johannesburg, another from the Centre for
the Book in Cape Town, and one from ECPACC in East London. Her poetry
has been widely published in print in South Africa and online in
Australia, Nigeria, Finland, India, and Turkey.

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