275-27: Untitled

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.

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275-24: Slackness

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.

275-23: Keynote Speaker

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!

 

(applause)

 

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!

 

(applause)

 

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!

275-22: Mango nwa

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.

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