I read an article about drowning. It was a powerful reminder that disaster can happen without a sound. The article explained that a drowning person is physiologically unable to cry for help. Instinct dictates that your mouth and your energy is used to try and breathe, not shout out.
Perhaps this article resonates with me since it is at the darkest moments that I find it the most difficult to write, or to speak. Words get caught in my throat and my lungs are filled with a suffocating sadness.
I will write as a reminder that I can still breathe – and I am not yet drowning. My little life rafts. I cling onto the serifs of a letter type, moor myself with a comma, and steer myself over the waves with an ellipse at the end of my sentence …
Perhaps that is why I have always loved Ingrid Jonker’s poem Ontvlugting (1956) – a premonition of drowning when words fail to form. In this case, words become just an irritating, desperate and pointless barking in the wind – ending in a suicidal silence; the ultimate escape from pain.
Uit hierdie Valkenburg het ek ontvlug
en dink my nou in Gordonsbaai terug:
Ek speel met paddavisse in ’n stroom
en kerf swastikas in ’n rooikransboom
Ek is die hond wat op die strande draf
en dom-allenig teen die aandwind blaf
Ek is die seevoël wat verhongerd dwaal
en dooie nagte opdig as ’n maal
Die god wat jou geskep het uit die wind
sodat my smart in jou volmaaktheid vind:
My lyk lê uitgespoel in wier en gras
op al die plekke waar ons eenmaal was.
So, I will keep writing and keep fighting. Life is painfully beautiful, life is painfully noisy. I will write it out and celebrate it. I will silence my darkness with words.
Read the drowning article here:
Listen to this beautiful version of the poem: