Saturday, July 2, 2016

Fiction Series: Lucea: Pt. 2

Read part one here.

Present Day:

Grandaunt Delphine’s eyes are like silk. They glimmer, white, green, or blue, depending on what part of they sky she’s focused on. She unfolds history, while we stand next to grandpa’s grave. The cement block, emerging from the ground, looks like it can hold four people instead of one. I begin to say this, as the tall bamboo that looms over us starts to rustle. The clicking of the wood is loud as the wind runs through it, sounding like chatter, like someone trying to speak to us.

Delphine explains that the grave is for five people, not one. My grandfather lay in the one,  I stand on, which explains why the scrawling of letters is only on one-third of the gray, cold surface, but his mother, his father, and two of his children lay beside him.

            Someone used a stick to write, in the cement, “Do not mourn. I’ve lived my life. –Dr. Jeweler.” Delphine laughs, when she says that his most recent girlfriend did this. She snickers it as if we’re both not witnesses to Grandpa William’s lineage strewed carelessly across Jamaica, America, Canada and England. She smiles down at the middle of the grave as if her next tale will not be of two prepubescent boys who’ve died of pneumonia, during one of his drunken stupors—leaving them under the porch to get sick. We listen to the bamboo rattle once more, knowing it is an apology, understanding that it is a plea for us to the preserve the land despite.

            Love lived in the hills of Westmoreland, Jamaica.

It’s buried in chronological order, from the top to the bottom. Even though it would find it's way to Lucea and evolve into the lie, across the ocean, it started here. 

The first set of graves were next to a half-finished house, purchased room by room by a family that meant to make their way back home. The same could be said of William's great grandfather, a Jewish Cuban shoemaker who'd bought the land. Three years after uprooting his Spanish-speaking family to this new island he went out for a ride on his horse and hit a tree. He died upon impact. His wife heard the news later that evening and went to her bed to lie down. She never came back out. They found her, dead from heartache, a few days later. Their children, Enrique, Martin, and Lucea, were left to fend for themselves.

If you walked a few steps down the hill, behind the shanty home that Aunt Delphine called home, Lucea lay there alongside her husband. They were the only ones that stayed behind, harvesting and caring for the land her father loved. Lucea's husband was the only man in the area who spoke her native tongue. Although she'd picked up some English, she had difficulty communicating with the Westmoreland community. Her husband, who worked in the sugar cane trade, learned Spanish on his travels. The moment he realized he could understand the beautiful girl who grew up a few hills down from his family home, he made his way to her. They were instantly inseparable. She traveled back to her homeland, by his side, the smell of sugar cane and sweat permeating their clothes. 

He would look down at her, while they crossed the ocean, and say, "Nothing in this cargo is as sweet as you."

They'd crossed the ocean six times and had two children to show for it before they settled back in Westmoreland. Delphine and William, three years apart in age, knew the land like the lines in their palms. They picked mangoes, ackee, and breadfruit to their heart's content. They watched their parents fall for each other every day, wanting nothing more than each other's company. 

In the middle of the 1930's, Delphine and William's father fell ill with tuberculosis. The siblings were coming in from picking fruit for the house when they watched neighbors assist in lifting their father into a car headed to the hospital. Lucea ran from the home, screaming in a language the natives could not understand. While raising her husband into the back of the vehicle, they yelled, "Lucea! You cannot come. You will catch de' sickness." 

She fell to her knees, watching the car descend the hill, wondering where they were taking her love. She grabbed William, seven years old but brilliant for his age.

"Where are they taking him?"

William replied, in his mother's language, "El hospital. Papa enfermo?"
She nodded, walked into the house to grab her purse, and took William and Delphine to a neighbor's home. This was the last time they saw their mother and father. They both passed away from the illness, three weeks apart from each other.
William could only remember the last thing his mother said to him. She said it softly, in his ear, before she turned her back to the children she'd never see again, "We are cursed. Love is not for us. We are cursed."
As Grandaunt Delphine pointed to each grave and told the stories, I interrupted, "Do you think we're cursed?"
Delphine put her hands on her hips and sighed, "I'm still single. You tell me gyal. You think we, women, are cursed?"
I thought about it. This couldn't be true. I wouldn't exist if it were. My grandparents were in love, weren't they?
As soon as I asked Delphine this, she hissed her teeth and rolled eyes, "If that's what you call love, me no want it."

Louise was in trouble.
She was twenty and pregnant again. She'd fallen for someone who was unavailable, once again. He lived in the neighborhood, and their families knew one another, but he'd failed to tell her that he was promised to someone.

She sat in the neighborhood bar, trying to decide if she wanted a beer. She didn't want to harm the baby but decided that it wouldn't hurt if she weren't going to have the child. There was a rumor that the local roots woman could get rid of unwanted children. It's not that she didn't want a child. She did. She was ready for a family. However, she wasn't ready to bring another child into this world that didn't feel wanted. Her first born, Aaron, was already questioning who his father was. She couldn't go through that again.

The bar attracted all sorts of folks. It was on the corner of a local road and a major highway. If you were visiting Lucea, you probably stopped for a drink or thought about it. She'd just finished a shift at her new hospital job and couldn't help but wonder if she'd started to show in her uniform.

Just as she was thinking of ordering a beer, a gorgeous man walked in. He was the color of the sand, near her childhood home, and his eyes were the color of the sea. He sat right next to her, ordered two beers, and turned to face her.

"You're all alone or wha?"

She frowned, "I'm just relaxing before I go back to my yahd. I've been working all day."

He smiled, "Working lady. I see."

His beers arrived, and he pushed one towards her, "You drinking?"

She looked at the glass and moved her hand, hesitantly, towards it, "I'm not sure if..."

He took a swig of his drink, "If you should be drinking while you're carrying pickney..."

"How do you know that? Am I showing?"

He laughed, "No girl. You look good. You're glowing. I can tell these things. Special gift."

He pulled the drink back, "You shouldn't be drinking. But you can tell me all about how you got here."

He extended his hand to shake hers, "I'm William, from Westmoreland."

"Louise, from Lucea."

He studied her face and tried to ignore the coincidence, while listening to her story. He also sought to ignore the words running rampant through his mind, "We are cursed. Love is not for us. We are cursed."

It seemed to be coming from the bamboo rattling just outside the bar, first a whisper and then a yell. William tried to tune it out, drink by drink, song by song, woman in his palm.

Wednesday, June 22, 2016

Guest Author: Voodoo Man: Part 2

For a few months, will be taking four guest authors #fromblogtobook. Each week you'll be able to read a new installment from unique aspiring authors. This tale is from Deja L. Jones. Enjoy!    

Read part one, here. 
Chapter Two

            After her big meeting, June power walked back to her office, sent her girls a mass emergency alert to meet her at the Southern Table and packed up for the night. As she sped down the interstate, she thought about how she would break the news to her friends. She wondered if she should still go on the trip or if she should save herself from being the lonely and bitter fifth wheel. She braced herself for the lectures that would ensue and turned on her soul music selection to relax her until she could get something strong enough at the bar to really mellow her mood.
            After forty-five minutes in traffic, she finally pulled into the restaurant’s parking lot. She took a deep breath as she turned her car off. It had been months since she had been at the Southern Table and she missed the ambiance. She missed the low key live jazz music, the amazing drinks and the soul food. She and her girls would sit at the bar for hours talking and mindlessly ordering rounds as they flirted with the cute bartender.
            “June, welcome back!” She always loved the warm welcomes she received from Che, the short general restaurant manager.
 “How you doing my friend?” He said in a thick accent as he hugged her. He made it a point to talk about his home country of Burkina Faso in Africa.
“Ugh, it’s been a day Che.” He took her coat.
            She did a quick survey of the dimly lit restaurant before she found her friend Rice seated at a corner table. June had known Rice since she landed her first job in advertisement sales straight out of college. She was one of the applicants accepted into the company’s young leaders program. Rice’s real name was Janice, but most called her that as a mock of her Asian heritage and for also being the first international employee at the ad firm. She was June’s first work friend and they bonded over their love of food. Her time at the firm didn’t last long before she decided to quit the corporate world for a career in non-profit. The Southern Table had become their spot, so had the signature grapefruit martinis.
            “June!! What’s happening?” Rice always had an intuitive way of knowing when something wasn’t right in June’s life. June could tell by the concerned look on her friend’s face.
            “What do you mean?” June knew that Rice knew that something was wrong.
            “That no good did something didn’t he?!”
            June waved the hostess away and placed her jacket on the back of her seat and sat before she decided to address her friend. She at least wanted to order a drink and throw back a few shots before she began telling the final chapter of her sad tale in the chronicles of June and Trevor. Besides, their happily married friend Deanna hadn’t arrived yet.
            June had somehow curated the perfect life for herself, friends included. They were women from different backgrounds and who worked in different fields. Rice worked as a nutrition counselor who recently opened up a non-profit health and wellness clinic, so it wasn’t often that she got to spend time with her. Deanna had just married her college sweetheart and girl’s nights became less than often. They were all at different place in their lives and June didn’t know how she would tell her friends that Trevor had dumped her and just the day before their trip. She was touching thirty and single for the first time in decades. How was she supposed to start over at her age? If only her love life was perfect. Her and her girls had a bet that she would be the first to marry and now here she was, back at the drawing board.
            “Ladies, ladies what can I get you?” A handsome young waiter approached their table. He had a really lovely scent of sandalwood and musk, the kind that you could smell before he actually got to you. It was inviting and the girls inhaled as he stood beside them. He introduced himself as William.
            “I’ll have a grapefruit martini and tequila on the rocks.” June immediately responded.
            “Wow someone’s having a bad day.” Rice chuckled. “I’ll just have a water and lemon for now.”
            “No problem. I will be back with your drinks in a few. Would you ladies like a menu?” The waiter asked.
            “Yes and an extra one for our friend.” Rice said.
            “You got it.” Rice watched as their waiter walked away.
            The ladies both sat and caught up on life and work all the while avoiding the big issue at hand that June was trying to stall on. She wanted all of them there for moral support because she knew as soon as she blurted it out she was going to lose it emotionally. She had gotten so good at covering up the problems that her and Trevor were having that they almost didn’t exist in her mind.
            “So are you gonna tell me what’s up or no?” Rice was eager to know what Trevor had done since she had already assumed it was him anyway.
            “Let’s wait for Deanna.”
            “Fine, but you know she’s never on time.”
            The drinks had arrived and June wasted no time in guzzling down her tequila. She thought if the liquor hit her system quickly she’d have the courage she needed. Liquid courage. She could then sip her martini in peace. It had been a half hour before Deanna arrived and the live jazz band was just warming up for their first set. It was now dinner time and happy hour was coming to an end.
            “Heeey!” Deanna knew how to be fashionably late. She waltzed in wearing a bright yellow dress and a leather jacket. The yellow created a bold contrast against her deep chocolate skin.
            “Finally!” Rice said. “Sit your prissy body down we’re tired of waiting for you.”
            “Yeah I’m pretty hungry now.” June said looking at her watch.
            “Sorry, my surgery went past scheduled time, so I was in the ER longer than expected.” Deanna took her jacket off showing off her huge canary yellow ring. She had just gotten married a month ago and still hadn’t come off her cloud of marital bliss. She had been the eternal scholar of the bunch which had finally led to her being a pediatric surgeon.
            “So June has some big news? What’s the 911 alert about?” Deanna took her seat and picked up the drink menu. She called over the waiter and order a Pinot Noir as June gathered her thoughts. Her mind was racing.
            “Well…there’s no easy way to say this I guess.” June ran her finger alone the rim of her class avoiding eye contact. “I won’t be going to New Orleans anymore.”
            “What?!” Rice gasped.
            “Girl do you need money? We got you!” Deanna chimed pulling out her check book.
            “No…no” June could feel her eyes brimming with tears. “Trevor broke up with me. After all these years!”
            “That bastard!” Rice shook her head.
            “I didn’t like him anyway.” Deanna was in her usual kick a girl while she’s down form. “I don’t even know why you stuck with him for as long as you did.”
            “Yeah she’s right. You are so much better than him.” Rice agreed, but it didn’t make June feel any better. She was twenty-eight and alone.
            “I don’t know what I did wrong though.” June sobbed.
            “Girl it wasn’t you!” Deanna said before taking a sip. “He just wasn’t the right guy for you.”
            “Yeah, you grew up and he didn’t.” Rice rubbed June’s back to console her.
            “But that doesn’t mean you skip out on the trip because of him.” Deanna said.
            “Guys, I really don’t want to be a fifth wheel on this trip. I mean you all have someone and then it’s just me.”
            “I’ll tell you what; we will find you someone on this trip to New Orleans.” Rice flashed a mischievous smile. “What happens in NOLA stays in NOLA.”
            “And it Mardi gras!! You can’t miss it and trust me you certainly won’t be lonely. I’m sure we’ll find a sexy bachelor in the debauchery of NOLA.” Deanna said.
            “Thanks guys.” June still didn’t feel better, but she appreciated her friends for trying.
            “Girl, forget Trevor. He was holding you back anyway. Can we eat?” Deanna said picking up her menu.
“If only there was some way I could create the perfect guy right?” June said.
            “Interesting. What would your ingredients be?” Rice asked sipping her water.
            “Well since I already have one I would go with him.” Deanna said.
            The girls talked about their perfect man and laughed at how ridiculous they sounded. June was actually wondering if it were possible to create the perfect man, what ingredients she would use.
            “Let’s see, intelligence, a man with the money honey, and some machine guns for arms. I like my hugs strong!” Deanna laughed.
            “Eh. I don’t like his arms too big. Sculpted, but not huge.” Rice chimed in.
            “I don’t know…maybe someone with a good job, nice looking and wants to get married.” June said as she gulped the last of her martini. She was pretty simple when it came to love. She just wanted to love someone and have them love her back.
            Rice waved the waiter over and they ordered just as the live band geared up for their first set. They loved their time at the Southern Table, but it wasn’t really a place for chit chat. The music was so loud they could barely hear one another. June decided she would still go to New Orleans since it was already booked, she would just need to change her itinerary to accommodate a single woman in a group full of couples. She hadn’t approached a guy since 2007 when she had met Trevor. What was she supposed to do now? She thought New Orleans was certainly much too soon to get back on the horse. She hadn’t even dealt with the emotional damage Trevor had caused. Was there any damage? She thought.

            After surveying the menu, the women ordered their usual and talked about their plans and arrangements for their trip the next day. Deanna would be with her husband Mike, Rice had her beau Kyle and then there was June. They decided they would make lots of club time and girl time so that she wouldn’t feel alone. She was glad to have the friends she had. They were blunt, harsh and rough around the edges with her, but she never had to question where they stood with her. The girls toasted to a fun weekend in New Orleans as their food arrived and they ordered another round of drinks.


Deja is a lifestyle writer and digital content creator for some of your favorite sites such as Madame Noire and Upscale Magazine. When she's not writing loves getting lost in the world of fiction specifically crime, mysteries and thrillers. She believes that sometimes the best and cheapest vacations are in between the pages of a new book.

Saturday, May 28, 2016

Guest Author: Voodoo Man: Part 1

For a few months, will be taking four guest authors #fromblogtobook. Each week you'll be able to read a new installment from unique aspiring authors. This tale is from Deja L. Jones. Enjoy!     
9 oz sweet red wine
Patience, understanding, honesty
9 cloves
Love, respect, intelligence
Rose petals
Funny, thoughtful, ambitious
Few drops of my blood
Magic of the Mardi gras
        “Repeat after me.”
“Let the one who drinks this wine, shower me with love divine, love potion number nine let his love be forever mine, as long as he loves me before midnight chimes and the new moon shines, his love will forever keep the magic alive.”
Terrified, with hands covered in blood June had wandered into the dark and hazy swamps of the Bon Temp bayous. She was a long ways from the magic of New Orleans; she was an even further from her studio apartment in East Harlem. She hid behind a moss covered tree in fear for her life. Her hands pressed into the moistness of the old tree. Black magic always came with a price and she had but a drop left of the potion given to her months ago by Madame St. John, the witch doctor who told her she could create the perfect man or so she thought.
Short of breath, she remained quiet as she whispered the love spell over and over again. The sound of feet splashing in the swampy water drew closer and closer and then there was complete silence. She could hear the crickets; she could hear the frogs and feel the mosquitoes chewing away at her sprained ankle. She ducked lower praying the smoky sheet of fog would make her invisible from what was lurking.
Suddenly, a strong hand clamped down hard on her shoulder as she let out a blood curdling scream…there was nothing perfect about him.
Nine Months Earlier
        Hurled over her desktop, with tear blurred eyes, June tried to make sense of the email she had just received. This was the day she had feared. After six long years of putting up with Trevor’s complacency and waiting for him to step up and be a man, he had finally cut the thin piece of string that was holding them together. Funny thing is, June saw it coming; she just didn’t think it would happen the day before their vacation with friends. She couldn’t bear to face her them and their permanent expressions of judgement and disappointment. It seemed like all of her friends were getting married, engaged or happily committed and June wanted that. She just chose the wrong guy for it. Maybe he was just the right guy at a different time in her life. She and Trevor have been college sweethearts. They met on move-in day in Tinsley Hall at Rutgers University in New Brunswick, New Jersey. It was her freshman year and after hours of lugging suitcases, boxes and dorm decor up several flights of steps with her family, she had finally met her RA, Trevor.
        He was a junior and finance major with ride-the-bull-wall-street dreams. As June got to know him, she loved how smart he was. She loved how excited he got when he told about numbers and money, she didn’t understand it, but she knew passion when she saw it. He had dreams of becoming a stock advisor and whenever it was his turn to plan their dorm events, it was always a powerhouse film like Wall Street with Michael Douglas or some Martin Scorsese “hot shot” film. No one ever showed up, but June and it always turned into a night of deep intellectual conversation over a classic film. It became obvious that she had a thing for him to the dismay of her roommate and first college friend Deanna. Deanna didn’t like anybody at their college. She was always paranoid about the quality of men at Rutgers and felt that most were too full of themselves while others seemed to keep a revolving door of women in and out of their rooms. Trevor wasn’t like the boys she was used to from her dilapidated city. He wasn’t like the boys who loitered in the front of the neighborhood bodegas, rapping the latest trap song ridiculously loud and hustling drugs; he wasn’t like the boys who cat called from the tinted windows of their Oldsmobile as they rolled down the streets in cruise control with tires too large for their cars. Trevor was a man who had a plan. He was educated, came from a great family and was extremely sexy. After a semester of late night study sessions, dinner dates in the cafe and dorm sleepovers, he’d finally asked June to be his girlfriend. He wasn’t her first boyfriend, but he was her first real relationship. They had a genuine connection.
        She loved him, even though he didn’t follow his dreams of being a Wall Street maverick. However, the more they grew as a couple, the more Trevor became complacent in their relationship. He was fine with his low income job working customer service at the city bank. He was fine with his frat boy roommates since he spent most nights with her. He had lost his spark, his drive, the very thing that attracted June to him, but still, she couldn’t imagine life without him and no matter how bad things got she knew she had to make it work.  
        She sat up as she wiped her eyes with the back of her hand smearing her eye shadow. She read his email once more and couldn’t stop herself from dialing his number. He didn’t have the decency to tell her to her face after six years, she thought the least he could do was answer the phone.
        “Hello?” Trevor sounded as if he were just waking up. June wasn’t surprised.
        “Is it really over?” June’s voice was shaky as she tried to keep herself from bursting into tears.
        “June, you know I love you. I just can’t deal with the nagging anymore.” Trevor let out a sigh. She remembered the argument they had that morning about him missing the deadline for the management application at the city bank.
        “Trevor…baby, I just wanted the best for you!” June couldn’t see the fault in her wanting a better life for someone she cared about.
        “Why can’t you just accept that I’m happy where I am?” Trevor blurted. “I’m sorry I didn’t become some rich, old soul, money man, but I’m fine.”
        “But…” June tried to interrupt.
        “It’s just not me June. I think we’ve given it our best shot.”
        “But Trevor what about our trip?! What am I supposed to tell everyone?” June couldn’t hold back her tears any longer. Her mother told her to never let a man break you, but all June could think about was everything she had invested in Trevor and all she had sacrificed to make their lives comfortable. It was her that bent and broke her back to provide for the two of them and all she asked for was simple appreciation.
        “Is that all you care about? A trip?”
        “Maybe we can….work this out?” June was near begging at this point.
        “June take someone else. I’m sorry.” Those were the last words he said before he hung up. June listened to the dial tone for a bit trying to process what just happened.
        Take someone else? June thought. She didn’t have anyone else. She had made Trevor her whole life. Dating another guy had never even crossed her mind. She did the only thing she thought would help in this situation, she wailed. She wailed painfully and cried loudly and didn’t care if anyone on her work floor heard her. She knew deep down inside that Trevor wasn’t the one for her. She had worked so hard and they had built so much together that even though she knew it wasn’t going anywhere and they had grown apart, she wasn’t ready to let go yet. She hadn’t emotionally prepared for this. She hadn’t gotten her heart ready. So she cried. She hoped that if she cried hard enough he would feel the pain he’d caused her. She thought that if she cried long enough she would shed enough tears to fully cleanse herself of him, but it was too soon.
        “Ms. Adams?” said a timid voice over even softer knocks on her frosted glass window. It was her assistant.
        “Yes?” She struggled to make herself sound alright. She wiped her face and fixed her clothes and wondered how long she had been standing there watching the train wreck of a mess she had become in less than a few minutes.
        “Your 4 o’clock meeting is here.”
        “Shoot! Give me five minutes to gather my things and have them meet me in the boardroom.” June was a top advertising executive for a small boutique firm. It wasn’t a fortune 500 company or anything, but it did afford her an office and a couple of vacations a year. She had been planning a couple’s vacation with her friends since last year and hoped that afterwards it would’ve prompted Trevor to think about marrying her. She didn’t realize that her hinting and nagging was putting pressure on him.
        “Are you alright?” Her assistant whispered.
        “Yes. Meet me in the boardroom with bottled waters.” She stood up, checked her face in her closet mirror, fixed her make-up, gathered her notes and portfolio and made her way to the conference room like nothing had even happened. She had a deal to close with a luxury cosmetic brand and it seemed that work was the only thing she could get right in her life and besides, somewhere in the Lower East Side there was a grapefruit martini waiting for her.


Deja is a lifestyle writer and digital content creator for some of your favorite sites such as Madame Noire and Upscale Magazine. When she's not writing loves getting lost in the world of fiction specifically crime, mysteries and thrillers. She believes that sometimes the best and cheapest vacations are in between the pages of a new book.

Wednesday, April 27, 2016

Guest Fiction Series: Vinnie, Part 9

For a few months, will be taking four guest authors #fromblogtobook. Each week you'll be able to read a new installment from unique aspiring authors. This tale is from R. Preston Clark. Enjoy! Read all parts, here.      

It must pain him to sit back here without the distraction of driving. Without the immediate excuse of needing to watch the road that prevents him from making eye contact with his single fatherhood. Our limo driver took that away from him. Rid him of his ever-so-useful excuse. Now he must make eye contact with the one thing he has never attempted to understand.
I stare at his face. The muscular ridges of his jawline. His cautiously furrowed brow. His flared nostrils. His stern chin. All attributes he held back from me. He could not imagine giving me something that was so integral to what made him, him. What gave him the ability to walk into any room and garner the respect of all those that entered, all those that stayed. His expressions were that of a man who beat pain into submission, hurdled obstacles with grace and dignity, who did not put his failures in the laps of others, rather he just refused to fail at all. Made it easier that way.

He is fighting an unnatural feeling now. That feeling of failure. He failed as a husband. A protector. A lover. He is failing as a father, though the latter is not a psychological locale he will rest in just yet. It is still up to me to invite him to his inevitability. Do not worry. I am working on it.

“Are we almost there?”

Nothing. I knew this would happen but I still felt the need to question him in some way, even if it was of the small talk ilk. At least he could never say I did not try. I try. I have tried.

“Do you know why they call it a repast? Seems like a word with a lot of meaning behind it. Traditional. Historical, even.”

He looks left. He looks right. He looks down. He looks around. He never looks at his son.

“I’m hungry."

That inhale-exhale was earth-shattering...

“Shut up. Just – shut your mouth. I do not want to hear you. I do not want to see you. I do not want to breathe you. I want to rid you of the half of you that is me so I can stop blaming myself for who you have become. For you are my fault – at least in part.”

He looks at me now, with a sacred disdain only used for a certain kind of hatred. Derived from a place of love. One cannot hate something as strongly as something they once loved. That thin line is through and through. I do not return his eye contact. I wanted it only a moment’s prior but it is now unnecessary. He said what he said. I heard every word, every enunciation, every syllable.

The limo slows to a stop.

“Your answer.”

He opens the door. Sunlight floods the interior, burns where he once sat. I sit there for a second, wait for the heat to evaporate my father’s scorn. The seconds become minutes as the palpability of such an emotion proves itself steady. It will not dissipate by simply being patient. It will not fold simply by my own sheer will. It will need to be destroyed, brought to its knees before ever considering an attempt at its rebirth.

But first, I must exit.

Sunlight bounces off my pearly white garb, blinds onlookers as their black skin and attire absorbs every ounce of heat it can. They starve for what already nourishes me.

I enter the facility that holds all the remaining funeral goers as they await to partake in the repast. In normal surroundings, I would question the necessity to eat food following the burial of a loved one, but funerals are selfish occasions anyway. They are for the living. The loved one is dead and gone. Sometimes for over a week of time. The grieving has begun well before we take the time to bury someone. Yet, we still gather together to celebrate a life. It is done only to be seen. We want others to know just how much we cared. How much devastation we are enduring. It is odd, in the least. It is scary, at the most. It is tradition, in the end.

Eyes find me. I have not forgotten what just transpired at the burial. I am aware of what I have done. Glares pierce my every step. I will not be alone again as long as we continue the celebration of my mother’s life. I will be a target. This I accept.

I take my place in line. A few elders motion me to the front of the line. Tradition states that the family of the deceased eat first. I listen to tradition. My plate reflects all that is black about this occasion. Chicken. Mashed potatoes and gravy. Ham. Green beans. Collard greens. Buttered roll. A plate of celebration. It was supposed to replace the sadness of the day with the small talk of the hour. Here, at the repast, I was supposed to engage my fellow mourners in conversation that either further mourned my mother, or completely forgot she died in the first place. Either way, I was supposed to slowly start putting a smile on my face. My mourning ends with this meal. That is the only reason I could come up with for me to be eating right now.

Oh, and tradition.

I take a seat one spot down from my father. This was an odd selection on my part but necessary. I stare at my plate. Everything looks delicious. If only I were hungry. Only thing I starve for is understanding. Why was I still here and mother was gone? Why was I left here to deal with my father on my own? Why was this food in my face like it was going to satisfy any level of my grief?

Anger builds in me at a steady pace. Confusion chokes my sanity. I cannot eat this. I move my food back and forth. It mixes together into a farm boy’s slop. Its aesthetic ruined.

“Anger builds in me at a steady pace. Confusion chokes my sanity. I cannot eat this. I move my food back and forth. It mixes together into a farm boy’s slop. Its aesthetic ruined."

Eyes never left me. More eyes join in. My father moves his food around as if he did not hear me. He heard me. He listened. Intently. And what he heard was worrisome. But I doubt he is worried about the proper thing.

I must not partake in this conclusion of my grief. I must not. My grief is not over. Your grief might be over. Their grief might be over. But my grief is not over. You cannot tell me to eat this.

“I must not partake in this conclusion of my grief. I must not. My grief is not over. Your grief might be over. Their grief might be over. But my grief is not over. You cannot tell me to eat this!”

I realize I am standing. I have been standing for some time now. My mind and mouth no longer singular entities.

My plate. In my hand. Launched at the wall. Its remnants splatter amongst the shock of my action. I was not shocked at my actions. Nor was I surprised at the rising stench of my father’s fury piercing my nostrils, his loathing soaked in his inability to pass me off to another person.

My mother is dead…

I am his problem now. This much is true.


R. Preston Clark is an educator, screenwriter, poet and open mic host with too much to say in too many ways. Find him on Instagram & Twitter

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

Teeth Like Confetti: An Ode To Lemonade

What's black, white, and red all over? 


It's 2 am. The accents of our living room are black and white. He'd told me that I could take liberty with how I adorned the place. In fact, I was told to take liberty with most decisions about "our" life. This was a clear indicator that he did not intend to be a factor, he wasn't here to stay. 

But I was blind. 

I was in love...lust, like...something. 
I was too excited to be in a relationship.
Too ecstatic at the prospect of a prospect. 
Too infatuated with an idea, instead of a person. 

I was red all over. 

Black and white pillows propped by back, while I wrote my latest freelance article for an outlet that sent checks with the speed of a tortoise. We needed the money, however late it might've arrived. I was making up for two incomes, a lack of stamina, the dependency his mother wove deep into his spine. 

He lay on the sectional, next to me, fast asleep. He'd spent the day perusing the internet for potential positions in his field. Full stop.

I'd spent the day running curriculum, from building to building in Harlem, conversed about National Common Core Standards over martinis at the end of the day, wrote a brainstorm in my iPhone notes on the train ride home, and wrote our way into groceries and rent, until the wee hours of the morning. 

I'd come home at 11 pm, and he was still asleep. The garbage was still in the bin, the dishes weren't washed, the painting I asked to be hung sat on the floor. I had finished the tasks before I headed to my computer to write. 


I was finally writing. 

I was writing a dating series about past lovers and wrongdoers.
I was pushing a pen cap through the parts of my box braids, trying to conjure a story. 
I needed to make magic in this Wordpress template.

This was a difficult task because I was in a relationship. I wasn't single and roaming as the column implied. The stories were true, but they were happening in the past. I was building a time machine with my words. 

I wasn't lying. 

I wasn't a liar.
Someone was a liar, but it wasn't me. 

1 am. 

His phone rings. 

I ignore it. 

I keep writing. 

I was writing about this military boy named Carlo I'd met during my tenure at my HBCU. He paraded the campus with a bookbag and a smile like he attended with us and not the Naval base nearby. He had Jamaica tatted down the side of his abdomen and a slight patois accent. He reminded me of home but was the furthest thing from it. 

My boyfriend insisted that I take the writing job to tie up loose ends. I asked him if it bothered him that I was writing about other men, like Carlo. He said no, "You went on dates with them. That's it, for most. I think it's dope that you're getting paid to delve into your nostalgia."

I took the job.

I wrote until my fingers were numb and our fridge was full, and our love wasn't in danger because of financial instability. 

I keep writing.

Carlo's name was changed before he was introduced to the world. He saw me as a "friend," someone he'd prompt, like a shuck-and-jive in front of onlookers, "Yo, read a poem for my boys. She's like a famous poet and sh-t, listen y'all."

This made for good context. 
I wrote that, too. 

Full fledged.

I reread the document and made my edits. 

I ended it with something powerful, something that made it seem like the wound was closed.

His phone rung again. My ex slumbered.

1:45 am.

1:50 am.
1:55 am.
2:00 am.

He did not rise. He was a heavy sleeper. I shook him. Still, no answer. 

So I answered it, "Hello? Hello? Who is this?"

"Hello, is Terrence there? This is his girlfriend."

I had no desire to wear her skin, but I understood warsan shire's metaphor dripping from Beyonce's tongue. It was sour and sweetly familiar. I'd been there.

What did she have, that I didn't? 

"If it's what you truly want ... I can wear her skin over mine. Her hair over mine. Her hands as gloves. Her teeth as confetti."

"Time" was his reason. 
He wore it proud, like a crown of f-ckery pressing thorns into his common sense.

"You never have time. You're never home." 

& I tried to pinpoint when I'd started to go missing. 

I did this same thing when a drunken, mansplaining co-worker approached me , after learning I was no longer going to get married. 

"It takes two to cheat," he said, vodka and arrogance on his breath. 

I'd heard this before, and in some cases there was validity to it. There was sometimes a partner in the union who'd been screaming all along, one that tried to express that the relationship wasn't headed in the direction they thought it would be. 

When I tried to explain that lumps, covered in velour blankets, and Netflix could not speak, he asked me to think deeper. He told me that there was something I wasn't giving, causing my partner to cheat. 

& it was time. Straight from the horses mouth. 

He was right. 
I spent my time trying to be loyal. 
I carried our deficit on my back while pulling him to his feet and telling him continuously that he was love and light. 
I told him that it was feasible for him to illuminate his way back home. 
I pushed. 
I pulled. 
I loved him, without regret, without blame.
I made his hunt for his revolution easier. 
I told him I'd find the money, while he found his way. 

I was mistake. 
I was not letting him be a man. 
I was making lemonade.
I was making stone soup. 
I was trying to amalgamate all the good we had left, hoping it would find us together. 
I was black woman. 
I was one day hoping that he would love me, with more of a force than a pat on the back. 

& when he was dust to dust. 
A blur on the Long Island Railroad tracks, back home to his momma...
I wrote, again. 
I wrote, in the present. 
I wrote to heal. 
I wrote to feel full & whole. 

I made lemonade. 
I still make lemonade. 

Sometimes, with no lemons.
Sometimes, with my palm.
Sometimes, with rain water, tears, and the sweat under my bosom.
Sometimes, with my momma and lemon substitute. 

My mother always scurries, when my father announces his impending arrival. She throws magic on to the stove, she makes leftovers into new dishes, she turns cocktail shrimp into gourmet. Sugar and lemon concentrate, with not enough time to go to the store. I watch her, silently, from a stool in the kitchen. It's the same stool, that I paint from. She stands behind me and with each stroke she nods. It's my mother who purchased my first briefcase of pastels, hands covered in color and grime.

"It's a mess in here, but I love your new work."

She raised me to cater and create, all at once. She taught me that I was womb and warrior. 

"Grandmother, the alchemist, you spun gold out of this hard life, conjured beauty from the things left behind. Found healing where it did not live. Discovered the antidote in your own kit. Broke the curse with your own two hands. You passed these instructions down to your daughter who then passed it down to her daughter."

I have been immersed in think pieces: Some folks think that Beyonce's work is inspired by her marriage to Jay-Z, some think that she's speaking to all of us who've been hurt, others find her to be a vessel for indie and incredible artists to get to the mainstream, and some aren't here for her revolution at all. 

I'm here for the healing. 
I'm here for the acknowledgment.
I'm here for the anthem of my skin. 
I'm here because healing sometimes takes the form of narrative. 

I am living proof of this. I have friends that are also the poster-women of tribulation, lacing their articles with their hurt and hoping someone can rectify via their errors.

I'm here for any song, strum, speech, dance, heartbeat, scribe, that lifts us, that tells us it's okay to be wounded; that tells us it's okay to get angry about it.

Sometimes resonation is enough.
Sometimes it is a starting point.
Sometimes it sparks a movement.

I'm here for Lemonade because I've been there.
Magic making, without recipe.
Sour across my tongue.
Blood on the chopping board.
Citrus in the wound.
Scars and all.