Scroll Top

bilingual thoughts

Porcelain sky with birds like tea leaves scattered against the inside of the cup. Stained tannin surface; fur on my tongue. Sparrow-words fly hand-over-mouth like a surprised O; fight the impulse to shout my surprise at so many dead flowers on the lawn; the soles of my running shoes congested with the sticky phlegm of rotting hibiscus. My mother tongue is the bully girl elbowing into my mind, a bully girl wanting – no, demanding – her share. She is a ruddy-faced woman of Germanic origin, and has a short neck and a jowly chin. Her eyebrows are bushy, forming bristly moustaches over her small eyes.

Leonid Brezhnev, one-time President of the Supreme Soviet.

This Afrikaans bully girl of mine is pink and healthy, despite her ample girth (sourdough stomach) and beefy buttocks. Her teeth are long and strong. 

the iceberg analogy


My mother tongue (which I rarely use) is obsessed with order and geometry, despite her lack of insight into its myriad mysteries.

Looking at top-heavy pots overflowing with rampant geraniums, long-legged and neglected. Two tyre swings swaying from yellow ropes. Two languages shying away from each other, each seeking an identity. What do I really have to say? I see a large empty silo. Its walls woven with strings of words, twisted ropes humming a black noise. Too late now to send my mother a birthday card. I need new words to weave with; need to grow them like a field of flax. Linen is sterile and strong. My words feel sterile. I need to find a colour I have never seen before. Nitrate-poor soil produces anaemic-looking trees with yellow leaves, but I don’t want to find yellow. My eyes long to discover a new shade of green, and then to name it with a sound that makes my mouth fill with saliva, as I taste it.

  Complex Photonic Systems (COPS). Department of Science and Technology and MESA+ Institute for Nanotechnology, University of Twente, PO Box 217, 7500 AE Enschede, The Netherlands. Allard P. Mosk & Ad Lagendijk. Allard P. Mosk & Ad Lagendijk

Why does this incomprehensible sentence (found on the website above) excite my soul? :”In complex media such as white paint and biological tissue, light encounters nanoscale refractive-index in homogeneities that cause multiple scattering.” Sigh. Why is white paint complex? Why is it similar to biological tissue? So much more to understand.

Researchers can now see objects more precisely and faster at the nanoscale due to utilising the full colour spectrum of synchrotron light, opening the way for faster 3D nanoimaging.

We had a lucky burglary. No lives lost. My outside gate now looped closed with a steel chain and a large lock. Extra barbed coils placed at vulnerable spots. Through this barricade the sea is visible as a broad shimmer of pale blue. I patrol this small section of my burglar-proofed perimeter while warming my back in the weak winter sunshine. The roar of traffic merges with the roiling waves far below; long rows of white foam endlessly beaching on the shore, never tiring itself out. The ocean never sleeps.

I like the word ‘acquiescent’. Its sound doesn’t convey passivity, but rather a kind of luminescence that uplifts and calms.

Blue bucket, black dog.

present tense

Today was difficult. Yesterday I harvested honey and got stung on my right hand, just below my thumb knuckle. My hand and wrist have grown to boxing glove proportions, which makes working difficult  – though not impossible – as I’m left-handed. (Wish I could post an image of my two hands typing this; quite creepy, belonging to two different people.) Which is very appropriate, now I think of it, as my thoughts have been wandering over old, old, old territory: What does it mean (to me) to be bilingual; to straddle two language identities? And why does this question continue to pop up? In other parts of my life I seem to shift effortlessly from one role to the next – mother, artist, writer, spouse, friend, daughter, sister. In my art I shift from painting to assemblage to writing, enjoying the immediate thrill of embroidering a piece of bark as much as the long labour of finishing a layered painting (although I haven’t felt up to repeating the arduous process of writing a novel for a while). On the whole, I seem to enjoy redefining my shoreline every day.

So what’s with this language identity problem?

This complex fractal shoreline is of the pan handle of Florida.

Finding this image edges me closer to the answer/solution to my perennial question about language identity: Living my life in segmented, fractal patterns (fractal = “In geometry, a fractal is a shape made up of parts that are the same shape as itself and are of smaller and smaller sizes.” (Collins) or “A fractal is a mathematical set that has a fractal dimension that usually exceeds its topological dimension[1] and may fall between the integers.[2] Fractals are typically self-similar patterns, whereself-similar means they are “the same from near as from far”[3]” (Wikipedia) .

Which is to say I am what I am what I am. My patterns are self-similar and endlessly repeating. The language I speak does not define me.

The language I seek, does.

I’m excited to see where the rivers and deltas of inspiration will take me.

Comments (1)

Your writing resonates on so many levels, making me smile, making me nod my head in agreement, making me miss home

Leave a comment