275-19: The Congress

Interviewer: What do you recall the most about the Congress?

Interviewee: The space.

Interviewer: The room?

Interviewee: Yes, child. The room. The room to think and answer. The room where for once, we could walk around freely. I haven’t had room like that since my Queens College years back home.

Interviewer: Was it packed?

Interviewee: Child, how much memory you got pon dat? Pack to the brim. Pack like Lionel-Groulx on Friday at 5:15pm and everybody siting down pretending that the newspaper they readin and the game they playing on phone make ’em blind to old ladies standing in front of them. Place was pack. Pack with “That’s right’s” and “You telling me’s”. Even in the ladies washroom when I gone to pee cuz your uncle’s big head pressing against my insides.. pack-up! Foundation saying “its about damn time”, Eye liner cussing “too much man talking” Lipstick vowing “Burn it all down”.

Interviewer: But you said you can finally walk freely..in a space so packed?

Interviewee: Never feel so free yet! I remember space and time like just just now . Felt like flying when Walter talked about the groundings. And when Stokely stopped..and repeat the same thing again…lord we moving now! Get up or get out! I swear, I was good and ready to buy a leather jacket..but the belly was swollen tough! And what you gonna do with all my talkin recorded on that..whatchu u call it?

Interviewer: It’s a seedLinq BM. And I’m going to eat it so that I’ll never forget what you’re saying.

Interviewee: Cheez on..we living in different times in trut.




***Dedicated to the organizers of the Congress of Black Writers – Montreal, 1968


275-18: Reception

I’ve known her since. Before the funerals and the receptions, back when her tight coils were hidden under rows of futuristic weave. It looked good on her; cosmic purple silk covering her eye as she scanned cans of tuna behind the pharmacy’s cash register. Evening shifts mostly. My cousin was convinced that she didn’t wear a bra so my pubescent self would squint over her counter, trying to make out the form of a nipple veiled by her lint-riddled uniform. She caught me once and I played it off. “Ed-vi-er-ge” I would slowly whisper, pretending to struggle with the french pronunciation, avoiding her stabbing stare as I focused on her name tag at chest level.

Ten years into the now and I see her at almost every funeral. Jason’s stabbing two years back, when Omar’s sister got hit by the ambulance, when what’s-his-face’s uncle died from ting-a-ting. And now at my cousin’s funeral. Edvierge has changed. No more weave. Hair cut low; line-up, Dax waves and all. She is big all over now; chest stretches into belly seamlessly. The rest of my family sobs for our loss and here I am in front of my cousin’s coffin looking back at the transformation of one of my closest strangers.

At the reception, she sits next to me, her paper plate heavy with macaroni pie and curry goat. “You good?”
“Remember me?”
“Ya. Cumberland’s”
Licks gravy fingers and extends hand.
“I’m Ed..don’t know you like that..but you and Garry were, I mean, are….”
I jump up and hug Ed hard through my tears.
“Thanks fam.”