THE DREAM IN THE NEXT BODY BY GABEBA BADEROON
Forty years ago, the oak had started to lean, gentle as a hill, and now, its own weight threatened to pull apart its trunk. Mr Moriarty, the tree surgeon, touches the base of its long trunk and says, here. This is where it started. Nothing tells us what pulls apart our centre. Something draws us forward and in that direction the years accumulate a weight. COLLECTIVE AMNESIA BY KOLEKA PUTUMA
You will leave your parents’ nest Cultivate familiar traditions borrowed from your childhood You will realise none of it is new or yours You will work and send money home You will work and not send money home Earning money will earn you a seat at the grown-ups’ table Contributing financially will allow you to open your mouth at the grown-ups’ table But you will still watch your mouth at the grown-ups’ table When you return home You will slip into roles you have outgrown Because it’s easier than explaining… Eventually When your mother asks Where you left the things she gave you You will want to say, I am unlearning them… And Then You will realise That Coming home And Going home Do not mean the same thing
The first time I felt deep emotion on this trip, I cried. The first time I remember being petrified to do something on the trip, I still jumped. The thousandth time I found myself doing something for the first time, I stood up. Each time, I was uncomfortable with my own self and my own emotions. I was uncomfortable because I was terrified about what those around me would think of my emotions; I was terrified of being alone in feeling those emotions, of having the thoughts about my experiences that I was having.
I was sitting, stagnant, in my own inability to step further past the growth I had already reached. I thought I had experienced enough revelations about growth in the past year to last a lifetime—I was wrong. I hope I continue to be wrong. Funny, that’s not something people seem to say a lot, but I do wonder if they think it. If you may think it even as you continue reading.
For the poets of these two collections, I sensed similar themes of, not quite terror, but perhaps something like trepidation; something stronger than apprehension, though not quite as strong as terror. However, I also sensed resilience. I sensed strength, and the beauty of standing up and claiming one’s own dignity, when no one else will acknowledge it. I sensed an understanding that the thoughts one grows up having may change, may evolve, may transform into new ways of understanding and relating to the world.
In essence, I sensed a theme of growth. But a growth that is difficult, that isn’t always wished for but nonetheless comes. It’s like a season of doubt about faith and the reality of faith, or experiencing your child’s terrible twos, both of which lead to curiosity and the beauty of watching your own flesh and blood discover this new world. Whether that flesh and blood is you discovering a new way to understand your faith or it is your child discovering they live where grass is green and a big, brown animal moos.
The thoughts I have on these two collections of poetry are not revolutionary; they are not new. Ultimately, the words I want to share are in connection with a topic that some who read this may have heard discussed far more than they care to admit. While others are hearing these words used in the way I plan to use them for the first time. The topic is growth: spiritual, mental, physical, social, and especially emotional.
Now, I think growth has more to do with our perceptions and biases towards the world around us and the way in which we allow those biases and perceptions to affect the way we live and interact with others. When Putuma notes that ‘going’ and ‘coming home’ are two different things, I at least felt prompted to consider why those two might change with the passing of time. What brings about such a significant effect? I believe we can partially blame the passing of time which brings about physical growth, but what mentally, emotionally, and spiritually changes going and coming home for each of us?
Perhaps it is the weight of the things we learn, of the new perspectives we gain that, at some point after we have left what we used to call home, begin to shape us towards new directions. Perhaps they begin to open our mind to new ways of learning and understanding which we had not previously entertained. Perhaps growth is not only something gained with the passing of time, but it is of what we encounter during that passing time that growth is experienced.
To put all these musings into more concrete terms, perhaps the growth that changes what it means to come home and go home is something which happens before we are even aware it. When we become aware of the change, I think a sort of sadness sets in. A longing for what was easier, what made more sense to everyone in the room. Why? Because change is hard; change is unsettling and uncomfortable. Change shows us who we were and who we are becoming. Most importantly, at least in my experience, I have found change—particularly uncomfortable change—to better reveal the rawest and the most real, aspects of myself.
For each of us, when what we had always called ‘coming home’ changes to ‘going home,’ whether it’s a physical space, people, beliefs, likes and dislikes, I wonder if the recognition of that moment becomes the space we give to grief. The time to look on who we have been and who we are becoming, and to lament the changes and situations we endured in order to be the person we are in the moment we read this.
I don’t like to boil a book or work of art down to one word, but if I had too, for these two collections, the word would be grief. That is, it would be the grief that grips us when we recognize that what we have lost is no longer something we even need. Home has changed. It’s hard to acknowledge, and sometimes we may even feel guilty that it has changed for us—that our traditions or beliefs or ideas we had most held onto, instilled in us from birth, have changed.
But I think that’s the part of growing up no one seems to tell you: Change is inevitable. Change is not always bad. Grief is part of change. Give yourself time to mourn and to step into the changed person you have become, and are becoming, and will become. In the time it takes to grow older, grow wiser.
Questions for reflection:
1. What aspect of your past self do you find yourself grieving?
2. Is there something that has changed in your life which you are struggling to acknowledge, because you are afraid acknowledgement makes it more real than you want it to be?
About the Author: My name is Alayna Wort and I am currently in South Africa studying abroad. One of the courses I am taking is South African literature, where I read books all written by south African authors. Over the course of this semester, I am writing and submitting articles to be published by The Crossings. Some of you, the readers, may have already read the books I am writing the articles on, some of you may not have. Either way, I encourage you to reflect on the concepts within the articles, to engage in dialogue with peers and mentors about the content, to assert whether you agree or disagree with what I say, to ask questions, to seek understanding of those perspectives that do not make sense to you. I am titling this project: “One Woman’s Road to Holistic Reconciliation.”
Read the Rest of the Collection:
Right or Easy
Reorientation and Transformation
A Long Walk to Understanding