Thursday, June 5, 2008


I'm having a very full week in Cape Town, so nothing new from these fingers ... this may be cheating, to post an old piece like this, but its something I wrote when I was last living here (some years ago) and it still feels relevant. It was published on planet waves, one of my favourite sites. It's part of a bigger series of pieces of speculative fictions.
Here goes then:


Addictions creep in on us like ants in the night. Red ants which give the signal to bite only when they have the body covered. We used to put ash from the fire around our house at night, to seal ourselves off from the red ants. But now it is years later, and I understand that we invited them in. They came to us to show us, how we were. How our gin cravings and our next cigarette cravings choke us in the night. I don’t want to wait, for some stranger to approve the scripts I write before they are shown to the world. We don’t want to wait, for the black jacketed white men of the world to hear us, and pull us through their paradigms. We know the world is dying. We can hear it in our coffee cups in the morning. We can hear it in the crackle of our cigarettes. We know that we don’t want to be smokers. But we want the next cigarette. Like the CEO who knows, he doesn’t want his children to inherit a charcoal world. But he wants the next deal. He wants it bad, like the red ants want our blood in the night. My dreams eat me. I see my river, choked with plastic bags. I see the paper, reamed and jacketed, trees shredded and refined into black and white environmental reports that doom our forests, our rivers, our stormy skies. Or those other skies, that seem to have no storm, no fight left in them. Crops, swindled by rain that was supposed to come from somewhere further north, only it can’t come from there any more, because the trees that were there have given up the fight. I reach for another puff of a tobacco wish fulfillment, and know that all across the peninsular, and further upwards into the desert lands and beyond, cars fart their defeated sighs, factories squeeze diseased feces into the night. And conscience attacks all at once, like red ants in the dark I see the children’s dreams, their words being neatly sewn up by the voices of their elders, who have left them no hope to speak out. No hope of being heard. The image of elephants running, one of the saddest sights of the world. Elephants running with their tails shrunk against their sphincters. Knowing the suffocation of a constricted landscape. Sighing their deep infra sound sighs, hearing throttle engines and mistaking that sound for the throb of machine guns. In the south they are waiting for thunder. For the comfort of the rains their grandmothers had. When it comes, their crops shudder to the ground, gone. In the north, the rains don’t seem to stop. The weather doesn’t play along, in the capitalist game show. Wishes don’t turn to water. Water can’t be wasted. So even tears don’t come, and parents console themselves that at least the children have stopped crying. In the middle of the night, a marketing manager for Coca Cola chokes on his tie in his dream. He sees how tons of water are mixed, every day with tons of sugar, and how that sugar was made by thirsty reeds pulling water from the earth’s secret savings. He wakes in the night, thirsty from the wine of the night before. He stumbles from his bed as his wife is sleeping, he turns on the tap, and water flows from it, soothing his mouth and his smoking brain. He goes back to sleep, and in the morning his coffee tastes the same again. As he gets into his car to get to work, he notices for the first time the small shrub next to his car. How beautiful it is, with perfect independent leaves. He remembers how he felt when he saw his daughter’s small fingers for the first time. He makes a note to find out what species it is. How it got there. How it continues to exist, so miraculously, while he ploughs through traffic. At work he is consoled: his company is launching a new social responsibility programme to alleviate poverty and provide education for young people. Reaching into the community. This is what makes it worthwhile, staying where he is. Providing meaning in his day. By the time he comes home in the evening, and his wife is distant, and his son’s asthma seems to have improved, he knows, he knows that he is making a difference. He’ll give up smoking soon. He can see it is doing no good. He is ok, we are all doing ok, he tells her. We are doing ok.

1 comment:

Janelle said...

whew tam. yeah exactly...the truffula trees and dr seuss springs to you know it? love love always xxx