Grocery Store Jazz

My body be green and the space be black.

The body be black and my space be green.

The body be green and my space be black

My body be black and the space be green.

Or something like that.

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275-21: In Search of The White Ahaw

If you were to ask tomorrow’s farmers, they would all agree that  the White Ahaw is no myth but a very real entity.  They would say it comes in the form of a thick cloud, sagging with unwanted remorse only to burst one time on  dry black soil until the seeds dead of overdose.

Ask  the indoor field workers and they would all profess, that the White Ahaw is not a thing of legend, but a breathing and living mess.  They would say that it is like the frenzied pangs of torrential winds, forcefully licking through window panes and  door panels. Pure licks on any type of structure, on any type of history as it bawl-out  ‘Progress! Progress!’

Ask the Mystic Man Dem on Fielding Avenue and they will all attest, that to them the White Ahaw is no new-age theory but an ancient bona fide threat.  It is like bad inside-outside smoke, the kind that clings to your lungs  and muffles your voice, hiding the road to your own terms.

But see you now, looking for the White Ahaw..have you not been warned? Do you believe that you can invoke this creature and expect not to be scorned? You cannot eat its meat nor will it  work your land and it will grin as it teef  resources from your hand, what business do you have feeding this beast, child?  For the sake of tomorrow`s farmers, of the indoor fieldworkers, of the mystic  man dem who will always watch over your children, kill it and leave it there on the side of the road to rot in a pool of its own self-righteous promises.

275-20: Backsee

They didn’t tell her this like so, but everybody know that she get fired cuz her backsee stick out hard-hard in them cheap uniform pants.  Hear the joke; yuh think a fast food franchise that make nuff money off of dealing fat and sugar to people would have simple common sense to acquire staff uniforms  with a little more waist, a litte more hips for the thickly-inclined? They can’t afford it? More like they don’t want to afford it! So she now have to hold her breath tight to squeeze-up in dem two piece of ting they call leg pants. And every morning she praying to Jesus that they put her on cash and not on clean-up.

 

You know what rotund does mean? She get fired because of that type of backsee…round and rotund. Suggestive, they say.  In trut, I find it to be quite regular, but I work fries and ain’t get promoted to consultant just yet..

So…

 

Backsee big and bad. But not too-too bad cuz assistant manager keep calling her into the back office.  Dropping sweet lines left and right. Lines of a promising future in the service industry.  Telling she to stand tall and all typa mess like reach for the top as he recline nice in the manager’s leather chair.  Nasty snake. No wonder she scratch up he face like that. Good for him.

So they fire she.  One time.


That’s why me, I here in this breakroom and I keep to myself, smile when called and yam-up these white people salad we selling now so that my frame tight like they like, and wallet fat like I need.

Peanuts inna Baltimore

They are allergic to peanuts.

They  work at a small peanut oil processing plant.

They touch, smell and taste peanuts all day.

Pick it.

Press it.

Bottle it.

And Big Man dey watching from his high office.

 

Most don`t speak Big Man`s language.

All don`t get paid enough.

All are forced to work. There are no other jobs.

They need the little bit of cash to pay for their anti-histamine.

 

They are allergic to peanuts.

They work for a small peanut oil processing plant.

The few who speak with Big Man plea.

They show their  bleeding hives

They show their swollen eyes.

Those who can speak

Those who are not choking on the floor

scream

we are allergic to peanuts.

we are allergic to peanuts.

 

Big Man says to be quiet.

Don`t blame peanut oil, after all its done for you.

 

Big Man wipes the white spittle from the corner of his pasty lips.

 

Are you sure it is peanut oil that is the problem?

What if it was grapeseed oil?

What if…canola

what if…olive

what if…sesame

Don`t blame the peanut. Peanut is good for us.  Peanut is good for business.

He say:

If you have a problem, you should wear a mask.

If you

have a problem

you

should..

 

But don’t blame the peanut.  Peanut is good for us.  Peanut is good for business.

But we workers know that this here is a  big fucking peanut oil processing machine.

Not next type of oil,

Not what-if oil

Ah Peanut  Oil we ah talk bout.

We work here. We live here.

Mask on or Mask off

We can`t breathe.

 

Together, We spill the bottled oil on our bodies and ignite the fire.

Together, we barge the barricaded office of Big Man and forcefully bring his room-temperature body next to our burning flesh.

 

Together, We jump into the extraction machine.

Hear the bones crack.

Like the dry husk of the peanut.

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?”
“Ya”.
“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.”

275-17: The Scientist

Customah is convinced of his hypothesis and (mainstream scientific procedure notwithstanding), he believes that he has enough lived experience and evidence to prove his theory. And so he meticulously frequents every experimental site that he encounters on his routine excursion to work. Scents and smiles vary in intensity but his experimental protocol is fixed; he asks for one cup of coffee, nothing more. He pays for his purchase in loose coins and makes sure to always sit in plain view of the barista that took his order. And he waits. Sipping stimuli that mirrors himself as he brings the unadulterated beverage to his lips. He sips and stares and waits. He keeps the cup to his lips to veil any spontaneous mouth contortion;a buffer of sorts. Still, an occasional giggle breaks free and drowns in the Black Sea before it makes a sound.

He believes it takes about six minutes before the reaction begins. It is a spontaneous exothermic reaction set off by natural black body radiation. The closed environment changes, and he observes nervous finger tips clacking against the cash register. As the barista pivots, stealing hesitant glimpses of the thin-framed black man with brown overalls but a few shades darker than his cascading locks, the tipping point is fast approaching.
Customah closes his eyes and inhales the aroma of Ethiopian blend. The din of the coffee house is slowly muffled by the voice of Bob Marley and a heavy one-drop rhythm. The barista, Iphone in hand, grins. Customah in turns rises from the table, fills his half-empty cup with cream till it overflows and leaves the cafe. Experiment done.