songs without melody

May and her mama
February 10, 2010, 11:30 pm
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Mama was combing and brushing on  my hair, but it felt more like pulling than anything.

She say You gon and look presentable now, don’t wanna hear about you lookin wild, like don’t nobody love you.

She hit a knot in my head and jerked that comb so hard that I felt and heard it rip, and couldn’t help but to cry. She say

Ain’t nothin to cry about, child. Life too easy for you. This ain’t nothin. Now hold still.

I sat there  as she yanked and tugged, and bit the inside of my lip so hard I tasted blood. I ain’t like to disappoint mama. It ain’t happen much, but still.

She finally finish and say

Now you look nice. Right presentable.

She pushed back some hair I couldn’t see.

Ain’t nobody gonna say nothin bout my baby girl, now. You even lookin a little pretty. Mama pat my cheek then, and I smile.

I look at her. Mama call me pretty. She was pretty all the time to me, but this were a different pretty. Her hair was all done like mine, her skin shiny shiny, and she had on a dress Pa gave her, one with tiny little flowers tied up with ribbon all over em. Her back and neck stretched long and high. This was gon be her defense.

May and her mama
February 10, 2010, 11:12 pm
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Mama pulled on my hair rough, like it was a wild animal.

You gon look presentable now–don’t wanna hear bout you lookin wild, like nobody love you.

She hit a knot and she was pullin on it so hard that I could feel the skin lift off my head and hear the rip-. Couldn’t hold that pain in, so I cry.

Life too easy for you, girl. This here ain’t nothin to cry about. Ain’t nothin, little girl. Now hold still.

And I did. She yanked and I bit the inside of my lip so hard I tasted blood. Bu I ain’t never like to disappoint mama.

She finish and say Now you look nice. Right presentable. She push a loose hair I ain’t see back in its place.

Ain’t nobody gon say nothin bout MY May. You even lookin a little pretty, girl, she say, and she pat my cheek.

Mama, she look pretty all the time. This day she were a different pretty. Her hair was all done up like mine and her body shined, and she had on a dress Pa gave her with tiny little flowers tied together all over it, nosegays is what he call em. Her back grew long and her neck stretched high. This was gon be her defense.

in no particular order
July 23, 2009, 8:12 am
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There are a lot of games you play when you are alone. Mama say I’m special, but sometimes I don’t wanna be. I want to be like everyone else sometime. I ask her what it was like when she was little and she shut up like a box. She rub my head and say be glad you my special baby and she turn around and look off somewhere I can’t see. I shut up about that. I still wonder, but I shut up for Mama, her sad, far off face.


He always been selfish, and I love him for it. It were me he wanted, little ole brown me! And I am gonna do what I can to stay what he want. I rub myself down in fat so my skin shine; I braid my hair so he can see my long neck he like to kiss on. I walk so he watch my behind sway; I walk so he remember me. He look at me like he hungry, and I look back. Eat me. Eat all of me.


Got the nerve to keep that carrot headed child where I can see her. She can’t hide much; only red headed nigger here, hair red as his own. I seen her come round here not long ago, just wandering without a care in the world, and I told her “Come here” and she look at me confused. Man treat her like she white, but she isn’t–she isn’t at all. I told her to come here again and some dim memory of what is right in the world came to her and she remembered her place, came to me, but her head was still up, haughty like her father’s. Wanted to ask her if she knew who I was, if she knew that she was the evidence of all that ruined me, but the words wouldn’t, couldn’t come out. I can’t bear to know. Took a long look at that child; thought of all the things he knows and does and feels without me. Well, I can keep secrets too. What does he really know of me, if this is the evidence of the things I don’t know, can’t know about him? I think about having my own baby, but I think about him and the nigger woman and my heart can not stand giving the olive branch to the one who would fill her and my bodies just the same. I, his wife, and she…fill us up both the same. And this child, evidence of all that I wish I had never known.


This place I call home get to be so small sometime, so close to me like hot breath. This little piece of land was all I knew, and it was not enough. Have to wait on everybody to get to do something here; mama to cook so I can eat, grandma to wake up to keep me company with her stories, mama’s one friend who keeps the pickneys to tell the business, and Master Tom for sweets and toys and hugs that pick me off the floor and scratch me against his rough cheek. I swear I done counted every line on every log in that home, every piece of dirt on the floor, every breath that happened and I know ain’t no more to do than wait on everybody else to make my mind off the same ole every day. So I come up with the fool idea that  I would go out and see the world if nobody else gonna take me there.

I take me a pieve of cornbread and I open the door and I walk right on out, walk past the old knottytred and yam vines, walk right past the invisible line between what I knowed and what I ain’t know hardly a’tall.  I took the paths I go with mama tofetch water—hiding when I hear the leaves and dirt move. I don’t want to go back when I just made up my mind to get going and my body to go along with my mind. A red-headed pickney easy to see.

I go by the stable to look at the horses, them big, proud beasts with hair that shine so, and each one a boy to brush it! I wonder if Master got a boy to brush his hair too, and I wonder too long and the boy come up to me all “Who you? What you doin here?” and I tell him I is May and I is my mama and daddy child and I ain’t lettin no pickney boy tell me what to do. He ask me how old I is and I say I is older’n you! He ask if I member Tom pa funeral. Well, I ain’t thought of him having a ma or pa ’til then. He a white man who my daddy and bring us nice things. He come and he go. When he come, he never talk about family. Never talk about friends. Never tell stories like grandma or how to keep a house and garden like mama. He nice to us, sure, but my father have a father? I think about this too long and the boy say “So I is older, then! Now you little ninny best tell me what you doin here. Ain’t you got work to do?” Naw I say.  He think too long now, his bead eyes taking me in, mine looking straight back. “You too old not to be working” he say. He see my hair again, see me again. “You shole is funny lookin” he say with a grin and I ball my fist up, mad, say Don’t nobody talk to me like that I say I don’t look funny, I look like me and I put my handon my hip likemy mama do. “Well, you is funny lookin” he say “but that’s all right, I got big ears, see?” He wiggle his ears for me. “They say I can fly away on these things” and I laugh and we was funny lookin together. And I think to myself, now this is life, here, not stuck up in that old dusty house.

I hear a horse clop on in and he look at me and his body get stiff and he lose his eye wrinkle and dimple. I stick around, and he tell me “Girl, old as you is and you don’t know—you got to go!” I look hurt and he say “You can’t just stay when I got work to do, s’all I’m sayin” and I watch his skinny back and his pole legs in too short pants, feet crusted with dirt and horse shit as he turn round and feed them bright shiny beasts. I runout, but I got to see him again. He as new to me as I am to him.

July 22, 2009, 2:33 am
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When you live in a place long enough, you get to know it better than you know yourself. If the good Lord struck me blind today, I know every wall, every floorboard, every piece of furniture, and every nigger in this house. So if God wills to strike me blind, well, I’ll be just fine then. But if God took Celia away? Wouldn’t know what to do with myself. Celia, the color of walnuts, and the only ways to know she’s old are her wrinkly hands and her slow gait. She’s been on this earth a good time; Lord knows what I’d do without her. It was she my mama gave me for my wedding; this woman my mother loved, who laughed and said “I learned you how to be a woman, and I learned your mama how to be a wife, so I reckon I can do the same for you.” It was she who taught me about my delicate parts, why they would stain with blood and it was she who told me what to do when Tom and I would be together, chiding my blushing because it was “just natural and how you gonna keep him when you embarrassed like that?”   It was she who ran me bath after bath after Tom betrayed me, who brushed my hair and told me I’d be all right, that women go through a lot in life; she who held me like she did 20 years ago that day when I lost all illusion. All her lessons couldn’t stop him from wandering, hard as she tried, we tried. He, the color of old paper and pale urine, that mud colored nigger woman, and that little one something in between. Little red headed mulatto girl the last thing we need around here anyway.  Niggers already want too much; lazy ones come up to the overseer with the gall to ask him for a pass to see their “wives” on the next farm when the harvest has been going much too slow for all that. And that’s just ordinary niggers–Tom gives that child too much for her to ever make a good house servant or field hand. I reckon all that child’ll be good for is laying down like her mama did. I’d sell her away, sell the little wretch and her mother away, but Tom doesn’t listen to me like that, wouldn’t even if I laid with him, I know. Everyone knows redheads are a strong minded; Lord knows I do.

Soon and very soon
July 19, 2009, 12:25 pm
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I will be posting some stuff from an ongoing project about three women, 2 children, and one man. Details:

setting: 1800’s and plantation

main characters,and not in order of importance: Tom (plantation owner), Tom’s wife, Tom’s lover (a slavewoman), her daughter, and Tom’s new lover (a whiter looking slavewoman)

conflict: Tom, the limits of your humanity when you’re limiting someone else’s humanity, the limits of humanity when your humanity is limited

It’s told in separate voices; I just separate them with asterisks. I *think* the voices are distinct enough for you to pick up on…but I’m the one writing, so let me know if it’s not working out.

I’m excited. Hope you are too!

i’ve got greens to remember: post-llover,llorar
May 2, 2009, 9:18 pm
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And though these greens be polluted, they be hyper real, electric. Like I could plug a lamp right into them, see, and have it glow. Green, of course…a soft lime with a little more lemon so as not to look sickly. There are those stoic, upright  evergreens; pines and their forever needles; that is what they are, that is what they will be, until someone or something snaps them from their shallow roots. It is not their fault; there is nothing wrong with them; they just easily become the casualties of time, nature, and man. There are those other trees, those ones I cannot name because I never bothered to learn them, didn’t find it important, still don’t but for an afterthought of “What is that?” That is the orange slice tree, with its leaves tiny curling half moons on branches thin like children’s arms, leaning over from the weight of the world. Another tree weeps, softly now, so as to hide its heaving from the world, but not too well, for I see it. She will be alright; she bends, but she don’t break.

songs without melody
March 27, 2009, 3:35 pm
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