Monday, November 30, 2009
Wednesday, November 25, 2009
Tuesday, November 24, 2009
Monday, November 23, 2009
17th August 2003
I was half-conscious at three 'o' clock this morning, still under the influence of a dream about a haunted showerhead ("No, stop jerking that around…don't spray that over here!"). Note to self: Increase male stalking activity upon return home.
My Father thinks we have a ghost. This suspicion is based on the downstairs toilet door opening on its own. Could it be Martin? Sharon? Are we to meet our fate here too? The holiday destination of no return? I always picture ghosts as nineteen-year-old boys with bleeding wounds all over their faces. [Coincidentally, the bedroom door has just opened of its own accord.]
In the afternoon, I experimented with acronyming my name. My best offering to date is:
Which I'm 95% pleased with.
Sunday, November 22, 2009
Wednesday, November 18, 2009
Sunday, November 15, 2009
Jimmy Stewart, named for the pioneering Jamaican scuba diver - the first to conquer the razor-blade that is the East-Antilles reef - and not the American motion picture actor, was born a dwarf. To use a scuba reference, an activity Jimmy's sardine fisherman father had the greatest admiration for but which he never had enough money to himself pursue, at the time of his death he was no taller than Titron 100, the preferred oxygen tank of junior divers the world over.
Because Jimmy's parents were poor fisher folk they could only afford to buy him a fraction of 234 bones needed for his body. Even after taking loans from every loan shark in town they could only purchase 23 bones from the hospital, the majority of which to be housed in his ears.
"It'll have to do. At least he'll be able to hear" his father said.
As a result of his almost complete lack of bones Jimmy's body was incredibly soft, far softer than the softest teddy bear in the Caribbean. Indeed, throughout Jimmy's childhood, his parents would lend him out to people in the neighbourhood with children who had difficulty sleeping at night. After a few minutes of hugging Jimmy these once restless children would be transformed into gentle sleeping lambs.
Parents would often remark: "Jimmy Stewart from Sardine Lane has got the Lord's touch. God bless his bone-less body."
Jimmy was very popular at school. Every child wanted to be friends with this unique boy and to Jimmy's credit he tried to find room in his little heart for each of them. But there was a particular girl, a Sally Marcus from Coral Road, that Jimmy reserved most of his affection for. The two become firm friends the first day of school, when Jimmy helped her find her missing glasses, and in the years since they had become inseparable. What struck Jimmy about Sally was that even after he'd found her glasses that first day and she could see him properly she didn't treat him any differently. To her he was just the helpful boy who had found her glasses and not Soft Jimmy of Sardine Lane.
Jimmy would pick Sally up from her house in Coral Road each day and together they would walk the two kilometres to school. Holidays were no different. Jimmy would show up at Sally's house at dawn, and the two would spend the day trawling Stoneville beach for shells and crabs. One day Sally vowed to Jimmy that she would search Lobster Cove at the other side of the island, where there were rumours of giant counch shells, for a shell big enough to protect his soft body. Jimmy thanked her but turned her offer down, for, in his mind, in Sally, he had already found his giant counch shell.
Then an unfortunate thing happened. Sally began to grow.
Now, of course, most girls grow taller at some point around eleven or twelve, but Sally wasn't just any girl. Her three older sisters, called the Stoneville Beach triplets - even though they were not triplets, formed the formidable defence of the Jamaican amateur basketball champions, the Rockets. So when we say Sally began to grow, we mean that Sally really grew. At the time of her twelfth birthday she was taller than all the students and teachers at her school.
Sally, who had no love for basketball, hated being so tall. And to make matters worse hanging around with Jimmy only made her seem taller to others. Eventually Sally did a very cruel thing and stopped talking to Jimmy altogether. I've paid him back already for finding my glasses, she reasoned to herself.
Jimmy, of course, was hurt and confused. He had done nothing to Sally and couldn't understand why his best friend was no longer talking to him. He would still go over to Sally's house each morning but she would refuse to come out until he left. This continued for a few months until most of Stoneville had forgotten that a dwarf named Jimmy and a long-sighted girl named Sally had ever been friends.
But Jimmy had not forgotten and one lunch break he overheard Sally say to one of her new friends: "My neck is ever so sore. I can't sleep a bit at night. I wish my parents would buy new pillows. It's like sleeping on granite at the moment"
Jimmy then knew why Sally wasn't talking to him anymore. She was just irritable from not getting enough sleep at night. He had seen the babies he'd placated throughout the years behave in exactly the same way.
Jimmy knew exactly what to do. That night he snuck out from his house and climbed up the drainpipe that lead to Sally's bedroom. Then he removed all the stuffing from her pillow, hide it under her bed, and climbed into the pillow-case. He had to wait for more than an hour before Sally came up to her room.
Sally was shocked when her head hit her pillow. It was softest pillow she'd ever rested her head on. Seconds after going to bed, she could feel the pain in her neck begin to ease. She went to bed vowing to thank her mother for finally buying her a new pillow.
Jimmy kept very still while Sally slept. Her head was heavy and rested awkwardly on his bone-less chest, pressing down on his tiny lungs. Though he had difficulty breathing he didn't want to disturb her sleep. Just an hour more, he thought to himself, I give her an hour's more peaceful sleep before I go home.
The next morning Sally woke up feeling the best she had for months. The pain in her neck was completely gone. All thanks to my new pillow, she said out loud. But when Sally picked up her new pillow and hugged it she made a curious discovery. The pillow that was so soft last night was now stiff as cardboard.
Friday, November 13, 2009
I lift up my spade
and fall right to sleep.
The steel cuts though grass
and settles deep.
This ain't the first time
I thread upon this ground.
I've been here before,
my old footprints abound.
The serpents and critters
know well my sole.
They pay me no mind and
let me dig my hole.
It might take me two hours,
might take me three.
Got to dig it such that
it arrives at my knee.
I dig at night
when the sun cannot watch.
I still the dark
with a flask-full of scotch.
Sometimes I hit a root,
othertimes some bone.
The dirt loves company,
never find it alone.
When the mood takes me
I whistle a tune.
While the black earth
I continue to spoon.
I like me a ballad,
I like me a song.
Old time music
helps move it along
I ain't afraid of sweat
but I can't dig all night.
My belly's howling
with hunger and spite.
I unpack a sandwich
I picked up in town.
Found a maggot in it,
got it on markdown
I eat on a pile of dirt
and admire my work.
Done this a million times
and each time I smirk.
There's nothing as pretty
And digging a hole far
Some folks will tell you
a hole ain't but air.
Now for that kind of talk
I don't much care.
A hole is what you gets
when there's nothing else to be got.
Its what you find
when the world begins to blot.
I ain't saying nothing
a sensible man don't know.
But most can't tell
their ass from their elbow.
I pick up my spade
and fall right to sleep.
The steel cuts through dirt
and settles deep.
Thursday, November 12, 2009
Wednesday, November 11, 2009
At the moment I keep coming back to 'Cosmic Debris.' I love a book like this because like a good album one can play one song over and over again before discovering the rest of the record.
There is an effortless and deceptive simplicity to these poems and yet they are like magic spells. I love what I don't know and that's what keeps me returning to these exquisite pieces.
Erik Vatne, author of Cartographies of Silence
Tuesday, November 10, 2009
16th August 2003
The house is small, stone, with a paved garden and is called Kestrel Cottage. According to the visitor's book we are the second family to stay here, the first being a couple named Martin and Sharon. I try to imagine them: she a redhead in white stilettos, with a voice just too loud to be bearable. He a smug software developer who commutes to London each day, with bad hair and a green polyester shirt.
I hope the linen has been thoroughly washed.
My bed is pushed against the left wall of the room, which adjoins our neighbour's house. Having lived in rural isolation for most of my life, semi-detached houses are always a novelty for me. There is but a thin wall dividing me from someone else's life (I just mis-spelt that as wife). Just a layer of plaster keeping me at bay...
Monday, November 9, 2009
Sunday, November 8, 2009
Friday, November 6, 2009
Gary Cummiskey’s Romancing the Dead: A Sharp Cunt Dripping Honey
by Aryan Kaganof
Pravasan Pillay’s Tearoom Books has published the chapbook of the year.
There’s no escaping it.
The moment you see Gary Cummiskey’s face you start screaming
there is fire in the enema of art
he put it there
not yet free of the dream nor of the memory of when you came to me not wearing panties beneath your light summer dress
but the moment you got on top of me and you saw my face you started screaming
As far as South Africa is concerned a reason for Gary Cummiskey’s neglect may stem from the fact that he spent almost 20 years in Randburg, and by the time he returned to settle down in Sandton, the political situation had changed and so Cummiskey’s surrealist work seemed out of place. Thus Gary had become a marginalised figure as a result of both psychogeographical and cultural factors.
He writes in “European Writers” “Some people became poets after corresponding with European writers. I became a poet after sleeping on a razorblade.”
And this means that Gary is sharp.
He’s busy looking for a magic wand - no strings attached.
Another problem that may account for the relative obscurity of Gary’s work is the difficulty of placing it within the various ‘movement’ categorisations. While Romancing the Dead contains a number of poems dealing with the colonial city scene in Joburg, the rest of his work does not particularly reflect the social context in which it was created.
In the end it boils down to the “Painting”:
I am hungry and dirty.
My feet stink.
I want to brush my teeth.
However, it can also not be ignored that Cummiskey’s illness sometimes made him an extremely difficult person, and most publishers and editors were reluctant to deal with him. For this reason alone Pravasan Pillay must be commended. Despite there being no physical attraction Pillay liked Cummiskey as a friend.
Gary was aware of his outsider status, and openly declared that he did not wish to fit in with any particular group or category. But there is a difference between being an outsider and being marginalised to the point of neglect - and Cummiskey’s work is neglected. (Although Stephen Gray would probably not agree).
Romancing the Dead is a funeral ceremony and all Gary’s sleeping relatives sit on the floor of the bathroom around the bath where his corpse is laid. Once the sleepers have been given the pills to swallow when you left you took them out from your handbag and slipped them back on.
Some people become poets after sleeping with European writers. Gary Cummiskey is a razorblade. Very sharp.
First published on Kagablog
Thursday, November 5, 2009
Tuesday, November 3, 2009
Sunday, November 1, 2009
1. Vickie, how would you describe yourself in a personal ad?
Deceptive blonde waitress seeks timid men. Yes, plural. You will need to know how to use a steam iron.
Or if that doesn’t answer the brief:
Waitress, dyed blonde. Interested in and simultaneously repelled by torchbearers, church musicians, moral compasses… I have inherited the family secret, and my womb is a dark and looming octopus, full of explosive nervous conditions. I like cheesecake and am pretty much drunk after half a glass of wine.
2. You used to run the cult website Vicksie's - now offline - in your late teens and early twenties, and many of the pieces found on Tearoom Books have their origin there. Why did you stop maintaining the site? Would you ever consider starting it up again?
It started out as Vicksie (2001) – not Vicksie’s – then progressed to Vicksie-Again (2005), or to give it its full title, RT Web-Site No.7386: Vicksie-Again. I think the last post came in 2006. I stopped maintaining it because, to cut a long story short, there was a horrible breakdown of a relationship that of itself had a pretty horrible underbelly, and by the end we had both read a little Freud and were like two bad-tempered psychoanalysts shining mirrors in each other’s eyes. ‘Projection!’ was the war-cry. Anyway, I was quite miserable for about two years, and my inclination to write sort of petered out. I wouldn’t start it up again purely because I think I write at a different pace and in a different way now; I haven’t quite made sense of the last four years yet, and I’m not prolific enough for the internet anymore.
3. What are currently working on, writing wise? And what are you reading?
Last week I was reading My Childhood by Gorky, before that I was reading some Dostoevsky, before that Turgenev. All the Russian wasn’t intentional; I picked the titles at random from a mug. This week following the same method, I am reading A Woman’s Experience of Sex. Writing wise I have an elaborate plan for some very short stories concerning the same group of characters: a jeweller and a doctor who together steal and sell the jewellery of the dead, a typist with a missing finger, and the jeweller’s tenants who live upstairs where the ceiling leaks. I have to be careful though because elaborate plans usually kill the story before I’ve even begun it.
4. Name five geniuses.
I'd rather not do that.
5. Paul Wessels, the South African writer, poet and publisher, in an email to me, commented on your remarkable ability to balance wit, calmness, and intelligence in your writing. Is this something you think consciously about? How close is your writing voice to your everyday voice?
Ok here is the least pretentious explanation: I wouldn’t call it an ability; I don’t quite have direct control over it. It’s more like a certain note I’m straining to hear and I know when I hit it. It usually requires that I rearrange the words in a sentence a few times before it hangs together in the way I want. That’s about all the insight I have into the mystery at the moment. My everyday voice is quite high and annoying and tries too hard to be nice. I make a sharp distinction between speech and writing. The reason I started writing was my complete dissatisfaction with communicating via speech and body language. I actually prefer post-it notes, though obviously in some situations there is a risk of paper cuts.
6. Could you recommend an album and film for Tearoom Books “readers”?
Probably not, in all honesty. The last movie I saw was Up and I was crying into my Ben and Jerry’s within 20 minutes. I know, I know.
7. Coke or Pepsi/Tea or Coffee? Elaborate.
I used to drink Coke, but switched to Pepsi when Coke was declared illegal. And if anything can make a cup of hot water taste worse than it already does, it’s tea. I stick to coffee. Besides which, not drinking tea is a form of social self-sabotage here, which I find myself powerless to resist.
There is no question 8! Is this some kind of mind trick…?
9. Give us a good pickup line.
Sometimes I feel sorry for people who aren’t your friend.
10. What are you doing tomorrow?
A nine hour shift.
11. Why does everyone suck?
There was a meeting; we all agreed it was more effective than blowing. At the moment everyone sucks but you.
12. Draw a self portrait.
13. What question would you like to ask yourself?
Where did you leave the keys??