I met myself for the first time in a hospital room just a few months after my 22nd birthday.
She was born screaming like all babies do but her yells weren’t at the confusion of her lungs tasting air for the first time.
Nor like the coughs from a joint in an apartment in Melville with a couple of students.
Spiritists would say she was an incarnate.
Possessed by the spirit of something from the netherworld.
Like a slaughtered goat she ate that time her grandmother asked their ancestors to guide her by performing a ritual.
But I know the nurses knew she’d just been to a funeral.
She never said whose but I know that she went in my place because I tried so desperately to believe it was a lie and couldn’t bring myself to attend.
So one night of restlessness she knocked on my doors and told me she was ready to come out of her room.
She was emaciated.
She still smelt good.
But had lost a lot of weight.
22yrs of starvation will do that to you I guess.
3 months of too much snorting, too much alcohol, too much chain smoking, too much puking, too much fucking and not enough loving will do that to you.
She lost track of time but I didn’t.
And that’s when I knew she’d snapped.
That’s when I knew there was no saving her.
It would have been nobler to say that she died in the bitter cold after a lifetime of shoving her tears and her story in the hands of strangers.
It would have been nobler to say that nobody saw or heard anything because she was strong.
But I know that truthfully, it was her strength that left her a pool of nothing found in her room.
It was her strength that led her to her grave a beautiful corpse.
That’s when I knew I had to leave.
That’s when this creature emerged.
So even if she could be revived, I wouldn’t have wanted her to wake up from the dead.
Wouldn’t have wanted her to try one more time.
Wouldn’t have wanted anyone to touch her.
Wouldn’t have wanted anyone to say anything.
Which they didn’t.
So after that, I met myself in a hospital room a few months after my 22nd birthday.
She was born screaming like a lost soul sent to eternal damnation in the lakes of hell.
She was ugly, man.
Skin yellowing from the new drugs coursing through her system.
Eyes red from the old drugs slowly withdrawing from her body.
Lips dark from sucking on cheap tobacco.
And I knew, she had been to her predecessors funeral.
There were no ancestors to welcome her upon her arrival.
Jesus was right.
Death is an empty, hollow, dark sleep.
She didn’t get a single thing she wanted from this life.
Even if it was dark and cold.
She deserved that much.
So now I’m raising this Phoenix wishing she was here to see what had come to life from her ashes.
But I fear I’d only send her to her death again.
Because there was no saving her.
I went to church that day.
God gave me a list of affirmations to un-brainwash myself with.
I thanked Him with a poem, like I always do.
He reminded me of a time I was a waste and offered Him my skin instead.
I asked Him to please not say anything around my beloved Phoenix.
Or to anyone else as a matter of fact.
He told me I’d already done that without His help and sent me on my way.
And now my baby keeps asking me of the legend of her mother.
At first, I was too ashamed.
But I saw in people’s eyes that there was enough embarrassment on my behalf that I need not carry any of my own.
And I told her.
It all began the day you were born…
Olivia Pula has been writing poetry from the age of 12 & has a certificate in poetry from UNISA. She is born & bred in Rustenburg.