by Basab Ghosh in Mythological Stories (Told by Rev. Michaël Merle to the children at the Ascension and Whitsun Festivals)
There is a bird that lays no eggs and has no young. It was here when the world began and is still living today, in a hidden, far away desert spot. It is the phoenix, the bird of fire. One day, when the world was still very young, the sun looked down and saw a magnificent bird. This bird was beautiful and had shimmering feathers. They were bright, red and gold in colour and shone like the sun itself! The beautiful bird dazzled the sun. “Glorious Phoenix bird, you shall be my bird and live forever! Live forever!” the sun called out.
After hearing the sun, the Phoenix was overjoyed. It danced around in the sky among the clouds. “Glorious sun, from this day onwards, my songs shall be for you alone!” the beautiful Phoenix said. But the poor bird was not happy for long. It was so magnificent that everyone wanted to have a feather from it. All kinds of men, women, and children chased the Phoenix, attempting to trap it.
The bird was incredibly upset so the Phoenix thought, “I shall fly away and go east. I shall fly to the land of the rising sun.” The Phoenix flew and flew. It flew for a very long time. At last, the Phoenix came to the desert. The desert was free from all humans. It flew freely in the desert, singing the praises of the sun above. The Phoenix was happy and peaceful in the desert. It spent its days flying and singing.
Years passed and the Phoenix did not die. Almost five hundred years later, the Phoenix grew old and feeble. It could now soar high among the clouds nor could it sing as it used to. “I don’t want to live like this,” thought the old Phoenix, “I want to be young again. I want to fly and sing again.”
So, the Phoenix sang, “Oh glorious sun, make me young and strong again.” The sun did not listen. The Phoenix sang and sang. Day after day the old phoenix sang to the sun. When the sun did not answer, the Phoenix decided to go back to the land it came from. There it would call out to the sun one more time.
It flew across the desert, over hills, green valleys, and high mountains. The journey seemed to be tiring and long to the old Phoenix. Whenever the Phoenix stopped it would pick up some cinnamon barks and some fragrant herbs. It carried some in its claws and hid the rest in its feathers.
Finally, the Phoenix reached its destination. There the Phoenix found a tall tree and set to building a nest there. It built the nest with the cinnamon barks and lined it with the herbs. Then the Phoenix flew to a nearby tree and collected some gum called myrrh. It made an egg out of the gum and carried it to.
Now, everything was ready. So the Phoenix lifted its head and sang one last time, “Oh glorious sun, make me young and strong again.” This time, the sun heard the Phoenix sing. The sun swiftly chased the clouds and put the winds at rest and shone down the hillside with all its power. A blinding sight it was!
All the animals ran back to their caves and hid away from the sun’s fierce rays. Only the Phoenix sat on its nest. It bathed in the sun’s light. Suddenly, there was flash and the Phoenix was surrounded by fire. The flames died out after a while but the Phoenix was nowhere to be seen. The tree and the nest were not burnt. All there was left was a silver-gray ash.
Then the ash began to tremble and it started rising upwards. Slowly a young bird’s head popped out. It was very small and stretchy. But the bird grew as every minute passed by. Finally, the bird was itself again. The Phoenix had risen from the ashes. It lifted its neck and spread out its beautiful wings and soared high into the sky.
The Phoenix picked up the ash and put in the egg. Then it closed the egg and flew away with it in its claws. It sang, “Sun, glorious sun, I shall sing my songs for you alone! Forever and ever!” When the song ended the wind began to blow again. All the birds came out of hiding. Birds of all kinds and sizes flew behind the Phoenix. “You are the greatest bird of all! You are our king!” they sang together.
The Phoenix and the birds flew towards the city of sun, to the temple of the sun, the Egyptians had made. There the Phoenix placed the egg at the altar. “And now I must fly alone,” said the Phoenix and flew to a faraway desert.
The Phoenix lives there still. But in every five hundred years, when it grows weak it returns and builds a nest with fragrant herbs. It sings to the sun again and is surrounded by flames. And each time it rises from its own ashes young and strong.
by Jacqui White
The immense and far
as of a tree more ancient than its granite
The knowledge of blanketed tribesmen, silent in deserts.
Locked in a mute oath
you gaze at me
Comprehending the all
Knowing the nothing
but understanding not
how to pass the sugar
or hold a cup.
Is this the look of an idiot?
Or the desperate, ragged glance
of a traveller in the kingdoms of the sky.
I ask as I look,
your impenetrable cloud of pain
cloaking your rigid shoulders.
The answer silences the chit-chat
by Jacqui White
What I am after, oh what I am
Is the flight, the flight
of the Michaelmas hills
with their wings
of shadows and lights
and the long, slow
gliding of hawks and of eagles
and the long long
wing, the blue melting wing of the
hill, and the consecration
The magenta of dawn.
And the blesbuck’s small
as she slightly so slightly, flowering face,
dips a delicate dip
of the delicate neck
I heard the grass
I heard the bending stems
of the long grass slide as she plucked
with the sensitive, quick dip
of the neck and the hawk
swung on the wing in the air
close to my hair.
Oh what I am after
the Michaelmas hills the
and the cupped blue stars with their daisy silence long
ages long, that slight petalled stillness,
and the Michaelmas-white
flowers, flaring at my feet
The Michael flowers radiant.
by Jane Fox (May 2020)
Johannesburg Autumnal 2020
twang of racquets
yellow shuttlecock flying
Sirius leaping piggyinthemiddle
leaping and shouting
from the tattered pink couch
on my back stoep I watch them
trying to make him sit
trees secretly shake themselves
a small slow rain
amber russet tawny gold
falls through the still air
car races past driver
revving like a maniac
peace shot to pieces
every day same time
sets the hadedas going sets them
flapping and screaming for safety for
a moment all is riot and anarchy
I lift tea to mouth
tea to mouth
the frayed sleeve of my old anorak
passers-by on the road
a Mum a Dad a pushchair and
two small dogs on leads
in hackled fury Sirius and Harry bolt for the fence
the walkers go serenely on
know how to behave
small breeze founders the shuttlecock
sun sinks lower behind the western ridge
I gather up mug and cushion
prepare to go inside
woodsmoke drifts up from the valley
they are lighting fires
down by the river
they have been queueing for food parcels
it will be a cold night
Venus shines out silver in a pink sky
must go inside now
by Jan Lampen
Between Dragon and man Divine
Between life and death
A blue feather in my hand
Resilience in my breath
My head a crown
My heart a rose
Beneath my feet the ashes
Of our Fathers
As we track through space
On the old turtle’s back
as an Eastertide greeting by Shirley Marais (Higgins)
the leaves pinnate
odd or even
alternate and pinnately compound
and serrated toothed
feather-formed some say
around the petiole
the stalk that joins the leaflets
to the stem
and the in-breath
where the leaves end
before the sepals begin
and the sepals themselves
those five brothers
who hold the consummate red
roses are shrubs
climbing or trailing
the stems of which are usually armed
copiously with prickles
commonly known as thorns
oh never mind
and never mind the thorns
it’s the fragrance
saturation of light
and form and colour
that aches the heart
give me the aching colour
the star-shaped scent
that speaks in the deep heart
give me the starry fragrance
that aches on the in-breath
and awakens my heart’s deep sun
so for a moment I can feel
I am a brother
of the heavens
and of the earth
All that we have
Is capable of higher transformation
To Spirit Self
The hatred we had and found as others hardened
To us can be as cider - 'suck it up'
So shows the outer world by inner pain a path of kindness
The softness of she, or he, who loved us so tenderly
Will be with me forever as a gift
A faculty, but can be more than that
Allowed to leave us in its flight
Aflame forever in its own true freedom
Our inner lover toddles to its feet
Unsteady, fumbling yet, but ready for the next step
'I am I In InI we meet'.
Note: A legacy of slave days, colloquial Jamaican speech used 'me' where standard English uses 'I'; slaves had been taught to see themselves as objects rather than subjects even in their own speech. The Rastafarian movement, realising this, began using 'I' in every possible context. In particular Rastas use 'InI' (i.e. I and I) where English uses 'we', a coining that shows exactly the relationship of the humans we are seeking to grow into, in the age of the consciousness soul.
Published in Perspectives December 2018 - February 2019.
Presented to Yvonne Bester by her brother Charlie at Ballito on the 16th July 2009
This is the true joy of life, to be used for a purpose;
Recognized by yourself to be a mighty one.
To be a force of nature, instead of a feverish,
Little clod; Forever complaining, that the world
Won’t devote itself to making you happy.
It is my belief that my life belongs to the community
And that I must do whatever I can to make it happy.
When I die I want to be used up, because
The more I work the more I live.
I love life for its own sake.
To me life is not a flickering candle, but a bright shining
Light, to be held up high and made to shine as brightly
As possible, until I hand it on to the next generation.
Mission statement of George Bernard Shaw