We leave tomorrow,she says, by noon, in order to harvest enough bullets before dark. I flinch. I hate harvesting, taxing on both the knees and the blood. Plus, by then, baby will be starving, our few supplies depleted and frankly the bartering of bullets alone won’t fill our stomachs. Still, I follow her, like we followed stars when there were stars. Early morning, we pack what few belongings we have, steal the ones we lack and set forth at high noon. This particular sun is vengeful and the other grounders find shelter in cement cavities and abandoned catacombs. Warily we venture above,vulnerable. The heat curses our trio heading towards the Fields, meandering around metal and bone carcasses. So hot. Heat drums incessantly at my neck. Sweat and soul release, my feet forget. I drop to my knees and look at She who carries baby. They haven’t realized that I stopped, and I can’t don’t tell them. I’m fucking done. I can’t. I love you both. I love you too Sun and I am so sorry. Forgive me. I reach down into my tattered pocket; a bullet. Probably worth a dozen seeds on the line but that it is not this bullet’s purpose. Genuflect, I force it to the back of my mouth. And press. Till I hear crack, till I crack. She turns, and her face is frantic. She puts baby on the floor and her eyes stay on me, on my body as it freezes in burning ataxia. I cry no tears. She beckons no words. I give my body up to the essence…I..I..
Hello Sun. I am yours now.
“Barry Pulankoli’s boy is the one that stutters.” That’s the teachers’ go-to phrase. Many find solace in using the condition as the identifier. To some, the label provides a sense of hope that perhaps one day, Modern Science can cure the poor child and liberate his coiled tongue to exalt a system that he should be forever indebted to. Sure beats calling him the very black one. No, not that one the very black one…from Africa.
Barry Pulankoli’s boy’s first day of preschool was terrible. That is why Barry now sits in the waiting room, having to leave work early, on behalf of his son.
In front of the administration, Barry awkwardly smiles that safe new immigrant smile where lips retreat eagerly to expose black vulnerable gums pleading for mercy. He has perfected the smile, although he hates it so. But for his boy, he will smile till they feel smug and validated. Just keep cool and smile.
“Your son had a horrible episode in class, yesterday.”
“Surely, you can foresee the challenges Max will have in this fast-paced learning environment..don’t you?”
Yes. He is burning up again.
“Yes?” She retorts igniting the chain reaction.
As he jolts from his chair, his thin frame absorbs all light from the room. Darkness surrounds his now orange body.
“My boy Max, follows his Mother and is learning the Holawi. He is what you people call a time traveller. Call him that and do not call me back to this environment again for I can no longer channel the patience of his mother.”
The lights flicker back on as he exits. The fire alarm wails.
The question my father ask me is whether or not these people dem is fear the blackness they see or the blackness they cannot. `Is it the blackness..Or the lack of blackness..That cause the slackness`..(decades done pass but i just find out that my man spent his adolescent Sundays behind the church writing dub prose while the proper West Indian boys sung hymns of the Second Coming to the preacher`s daughters in the front row). Father tend to ask questions that he already know the answers to..sorta like when police ask for license and registration as em reachin pon hip for back-up… either the walkee-talkee or the ‘no-walkee-no-talkee’, whichever machine the hand reach first. Naturally, I am hesitant to answer.
So when he say `I not askin you, I askin the sky“ my nostrils relax tough and shoulder blades ease up. The sky don`t talk much nowadays, not like (so I heard) back when father was young and the air clean. But today, my first day on the job, the sky was chatty-chatty and ready feh talk. Wunna must ask the right question. She did snap at my father,` you hear Sun talk `bout brightness? Or she just do what she haffi do every morning, praise god? Nuh mind dem.` My father tightened his grip around the shovel. `Jason. Grab yuh fuckin hoe and start planting man before the hotel fire we.`
I comply, deflecting the invisible probes of tourists staring at we-the-help without staring at we-the-help. One day, I gunna reason with sun and sky and handle all this talk of slackness both up there and down here.
Wow, It’s great to be here again in front of you all.
Friends, colleagues, leaders and trailblazers of the Green Conquest, I am so thrilled at the turn-out tonight for the 29th annual Sustain to Gain Gala event. I was asked by the organizers to say a few words about the Gala, and how profitable our crusade to green the globe has been. Next to blocking out the sun, and we’re working on that, there is pretty much nothing we can’t and won’t do to make this world a better place for us!
Before you get to your meals, I’d like to give a..what do the bl..inner-city kids call it again…sorry, I’m not quite “down”..ah yes…I’d like to give a shoot-out to the First Nations and the rest of those rag-tag group of indians. That’s why I’m wearing this feathery thingamajigger on my head, because, fellow venture capitalists, we need to remember that they’re humans too..kinda like us. And a special shoot-out goes to my main beeyatch, Mama Africa! Right, amirite? C’mon, give it up!
Providing us with superfoods and super villains, we couldn’t have made it to where we are without ya, tuts. Shell, you gotch yourself a keeper, buddy. Lucky bastard..
But enough with all these pleasantries, it’s not like any of these people are actually here, right! So go ahead and dig-in to your heart’s content. We have enough polar bear roast to feed an entire army of child soldiers and a endless flow of red wine dark like the blood-stained streets of Bahia. You earned it! Together, let’s leverage the world for a brighter future!
In Ayiti’s Cité Klere-Klere is where you and your sisters will find les Mango Nwa. Literally black-flesh mangoes growing downwards past the crumbling slabs of cement, past the shards of blood-stained glass, past what your father`s ancestors used to call soil (soul?) and blossoming by some dark miracle in the buried skulls of the Dessous-Nu. You will know them by their roots. At the surface, these same finger-like roots claw at the sediment heavy fog and rigidly gesture profanities to the sun-killers of past days.
When you reach Cité Klere-Klere or whatever is left of it, take a moment. Stand there in the debris and touch the cold skeleton army of lamp posts that once made the city the heart of the Caribbean. Taste the steel, press your tongue against its frame till your saliva is saturated by its grime. What does it taste like? Foreign aid? Innovation? Salvation? Old shit, perhaps.
Make sure, great-grandmother, that you cry deep astro black tears…and when the moment of mourning is fleeting and the surface still damp , you grab your sisters and start digging. Dig like you truly are the first and last line of defense for Rne La.
That night, I promise, you will understand why I sent you forward to the Cité. Why I asked that you bring your sisters. Why I asked that together you harvest every last mango nwa in Cité Klere-klere and throw them deep into the acrid cesspool that is zone C3 of the Sans-Poisson Sea. That would put the odds in our favour.
And, please, bring your rifle. After all these centuries, the piecekeepers still lurk amidst the rubble.
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
E-Jesus? E-Jesus lives over there on Old Oven Hill and sees everything we do so you better not steal any parts and sell them to the Lebanese, okay? Don’t be like Doubting Thomas. If you want your blessing you better not do anything stupid. That’s the rule. Now, don’t worry about the old TV screens or the broken computer screens..you’re too weak and you don’t know how to use a screw-driver. You are still a kid, so you got to do kid stuff. That’s the rule. You should be looking for tiny-tiny things like batteries and the old i-phones with shattered mirrors, use your tiny-tiny fingers! Jesus likes car batteries. So batteries is your mission. I christen you Black-Battery-Betty, our newest missionary. Praise to e-Jesus. Praise to e-Jesus, Siemens and Sony. You must repeat.
That’s the rule.
Understand that all around you, technology is the future. The future is here and it is dead. If the carcass of the future, the corpse of technology is here, then where are we, B-Three? Yes, New- Ghana, but where are we really? Heaven. This is Abogbloshie, the future of the future, and it is Heaven. If it was no so, could e-Jesus survive the gray fires of Old Oven Hill? No, e-Jesus would burn blacker than black! But here everything and everyone is dead, no current through their metal veins and we, the chosen missionaries will resufficate and bring new life.
Tonight, e-Jesus will visit you in your sleep. He will open the door of your refrigerator-bed and pray in tongues and shower your face with silver dust. ‘Toshiba-panasonic-sony-apple-samsung’, he will chant. You must repeat. That’s the rule.
photo credit: pieter hugo