In a faraway country

The last time I said goodbye to you I knew I would never see you again. You didn’t even notice. You were so concerned with that phone call from her and, once again, said (without saying it) that she, who you’d known for five minutes was more important than me who had known you all my life.

It was that weekend you stopped walking. You thought you had till Christmas. You were going downhill so fast it was a matter of weeks.

It was that weekend when I had it all sorted and made my peace with you. That peace that I made unilaterally was made from sand and straw. It was delusional. Fake. Not authentic. As I walked out the gate and headed home to a distant city, I said out loud that you had made it so easy for me to say goodbye. (I cried writing this the first time because it has been exposed as simply not true).

I lied and I am not lying any more. You made it so fucking hard, Dad, and the pain that I tried to smother in bravado is still raw like it happened only yesterday not in 1996. And, what is more, the peace with you that I yearn for is still in a faraway country not contactable by phone.

Written in 2013, I no longer feel this pain that I felt so strongly, Dad. I am at peace as I hope you are.

© Rick Frame

The sky did not fall in


The exact centre point of meaning of an experience lives in a memory written out as a way of saying something that needs to be said. Ever since we met, the experience has accompanied me. It is the starting point of my life: The evening we supped together the sky remained firmly in place and did not fall in. The cosmos didn’t even blink momentarily and suggest that this dining together was strange. It was only we who thought it a big deal and I suppose it was. It should never have been: you are black and I am white and some idiotic social engineer had suggested that we could never be equals, that we were too different, that you were inferior to me. That we could not break bread together. You hold your fork as I do. You are far more urbane and sophisticated than I will ever be. You feel things as I do, probably even more so because you are are passionate and feel an intensity of a longing for freedom that I can’t hope ever to understand. (Unless, of course, you take it away from me.) The centre point of what I need to say is in my breathing, my thinking, my seeing and in my blood and bones – the fascists were right – I am not your equal: you are the giant and I sit at your feet under a wide open African sky that has simply refused to fall in.

© Rick Frame

We were all gone

One morning we were all gone, roots torn out by a giant wind.

Buried in the place, deep in the earth, memories remain untouched: the treasure of childhood. They exist in fragments of a couple of scribblings. The occasional reunion draws them out and they live in that exquisite moment of laughter and, the not so, where they ride out vociferous with pain.

The music on the turntable surprises me and tunes me into the ghosts that dream in the sky and earth of Africa. They were happy times. I am ambushed by another thought – when I look back, they were times bent out of hue by the context of privilege. I am snagged, torn in two, by a place where discrimination and injustice scorched the skin and burned the landscape. Straddling both now becomes impossible to hold in my head.

Excavated memories in the archaeology of a childhood are returned to the earth waiting for another time. The giant wind roars in the distance. Our roots are simply memories.

© Rick Frame

Devonshire Avenue

I am searching for the outline of the road in my memory. The street was an avenue. To call it that was a bit of show off really – rather stuck up for a dirt, rutted road, cut out in the veld. Dust raised by wheels caked the winter sun.

The name oozed an English place: Devonshire Avenue. (Nothing indigenous here.) Look at me. No handle bars. Bike ride freedom. Sun-dried childhood, drenched in endless play: we roamed in packs, up and down the avenue to the outer limits of our galaxy. Boundaries, yet we were boundless. I remember the puddles and potholes, the empty spaces: the eye could see into the blue-wide-forevers. The veld not yet entirely tamed.

On a recent visit, I had the surprise of an intimacy lost. This street had grown up as an avenue, tree-lined, neatly curbed (and the ubiquitous barbed wire, electric fences). I couldn’t see the house, lost in the forest my father had – in part – planted a lifetime ago. Only the shape of the building and driveway glanced back on a past where ghost Ford Zephyrs and Morris Oxfords were the kings of the road. They shimmered in the dream-haze of the Jo’burg Autumn.

The avenue of our childhood had simply disappeared: the yellowing veld of memory lost in the big houses and manicured lawns. The sky had fallen to the earth. The distance of the faraway veld cultivated into something quite different. Re-drawn. I simply had to tell you.

The Highveld

© Rick Frame

In the early morning

I need to tell you what it was like. The only existence of it now lies in my memory. It is about a time lost – in this act of telling it will live and breathe by itself.

I am in its bloodstream, in its heart and lungs, in its brain and thoughts and senses – under its skin. I travel through this landscape of memory like a frequent visitor, discovering a terrain that I thought was gone forever: when I left you, without a second glance, I quickly missed you more than you can imagine. At the time, I only half denied this feeling. (The shock of the separation has come back to me.) I remember I had become embarrassed that I had known you in my childhood and youth and, when others talked about you, I didn’t even admit I knew you. I simply did not wish to be associated with you and so I existed as if I had never known you. I loved you but I hated the attitude you had. I loathed your racism and rejected you: you who had been in my blood and bones. It comes at me that there were other you’s and the one that I had known was simply an aberration and I could have found the other parts of you and made my peace with that. Your landscape haunts me nightly. I go to your loveliness in my dreams. Your heat and dust, your hills and valleys. Your trees on the blue skyline glide in a song of astonishment. Your balancing rocks that I played on. Your rain on my window. Your light in the morning and your glow worms at night. I existed on you, in you, by you and and grew up with you. You come at me in senses and thoughts. When I die there will only be some scribblings and jottings, the odd bit of poetry to tell what you were like. In this morning of an early sunrise, it’s not been entirely possible even now to capture it. I hope you understand.

© Rick Frame