In a Reminiscing Mood

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The World yawns, stretches and braces for a New Day

Birds chirp their morning Anthem.

Leaves unfurl

Grass shakes off its dew

And I lie here sleepless, thinking of you.

Missing the voice that cradles my heart.

Soothes and calms my fears.

Whispers gently, trust me

I will Not let you go

I get you.

Missing the Smile that twinkles

those gray/brown eyes

Deepening the dimples

bringing out the impish boy hiding inside.

Missing the Hands that heal the wounded

Pray to the Creator

And catch hold of mine

Carefully guiding me beside not behind.

Missing the Mind, lightning quick

complex, collecting, processing, storing

Zoom zoom on multiple tracks

Yet carving out some

cerebral space for me.

Missing the pet names

A language shared only by us.

Missing the passion

The volcano erupting, bubbling over

Spreading its fiery furnace over My land.

Missing my smile, my lightness, my glow

That touches all who knowingly Know.

Missing the love songs dedicated By you

Shuffling through my collection

Finding the perfect response to send to you.

Missing the kitchen. The back forty. The Farmers’ Market.

The half watched DVDs. The Lake. The Woods.

Damn, I am Missing You.

 

 

 

 

 

 

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SPOKEN WORD

1406038038668  I like the way that sounds…the feeling that it arouses in me when I hear that phrase–Spoken Word. It’s different from poetry with its meters and rhymes, iambic pentameter, structure, form. Roses are red/violets are blue.  It reminds me of blues/jazz/ playing late at night in some darkened room, shades drawn, voices hushed. Spoken Word.

The biggest problem I see with you/me is Time

Or should I say the lack thereof

I know it’s only been 2 months

And there are things you must do

But understand

I am not

Content to be alone

To face minuteless days/clock-watching nights

Of solitude/boredom/loneliness

In fact, I have had about

All the loneliness With a man

These past 5 years

That I can stand.

I deserve more

Need more

Want more.

You said it yourself

The last time

We entered Paradise.

When I was 20 I used to

Play this game

With my friend Pam

Called Isyoutheone?

Hanging out in bars, malls, jazz spots, bowling alleys

Searching each strange new face

For some sign

Of compatibility.

20 years later

The game ceases to

amuse me

I am a love song

Searching for lyrics.

Needing someone who

Unselfishly understands my needs

Whose first thought

Upon awakening

And giving thanks to the Creator

Is of ME.

And when life

Requires separation

I understand.

We are given

So little time

Why waste it.

When there are so

Many things/Places/Feelings/Thoughts

To Share…Together.

I really don’t relish

Doing this alone

In my

40th year

It is really no fun

And sooooo unnatural

And if having you

Wanting you

Means that I will

Still be alone

Then

Perhaps I am better off

Without You.

 

THEIR EYES WERE WATCHING GOD: A Search for Self

Ships at a distance have every man’s wish on board.  Some come in with the tide.  Others sail forever on the horizon…That is the life of man.

Now women forget all those things they don’t want to remember and remember everything they don’t want to forget.  The dream is the truth.

And so the novel opens.  The storyteller begins to weave the tale starting at the end and bringing us back circuitously to the beginning

Janie, dressed in muddy overalls and weary from her journey relates her story to friend Pheoby.  This sharing of her tale is not only an affirmation, but evokes the age old practice of sharing or confessional which has now evolved into the Talk Show. (think Oprah, Ellen, Steve Harvey)

Janie saw her life “like a great tree in leaf with the things suffered, things enjoyed, things done and undone. Dawn and doom was in the branches”.

We learn that Janie’s journey of self has taken her through three marriages and many struggles.  Walker notes that Eyes is generally thought of as a love story, but its theme, she believes, is Janie’s search for identity which finally takes shape when she throws off the images thrust upon her because she is both black and a woman in a society where neither is allowed to exist naturally and freely.

Literature is replete with stories of this search for identity. The Bildungsroman is a novel that traces the development of character from childhood to adulthood, through a quest for identity that leads the protagonist to maturity.

The story of Siddhartha often comes to mind when I think of the protagonist of Eyes. Like Siddhartha, Janie’s world is full of natural images that symbolize the role of nature in the character’s quest for a better understanding of self.

In trying to decide whether marriage to Logan Killicks and his oft mentioned thirty acres was the answer, Jane was back and forth to the pear tree…continuously wondering and thinking.

She looked to the horizon for answers.  And she soon realized that marriage to the lackluster Mr. Killicks, despite his financial security was not her idea of love. Nanny, however, thinks that marrying Mr. Killicks will be the answer. She tells, Janie.. The ni**er woman is de mule uh de world so far as Ah can see.  Ah been prayin fuh it tuh be different wid you.

But Janie realizes marriage to Mr. Killicks is not the answer. Ah wants things sweet wid mah marriage lak when you sit under a pear tree and think. She ends the marriage when she hurries out the front gate and turned South.  Zora writes, Janie’s first dream was dead, so she became a woman.

Janie’s second husband, the domineering, boastful Joe Starks from in and around Georgy represented newness and change. Janie knew that Joe did not represent sun up and pollen and blooming trees, but he spoke for far horizon.  To Janie, this represented another rung on the ladder of self fulfillment.

Marriage to Mayor Starks, however, proved to be demoralizing as Janie realized that he wanted her to play the role of the submissive wife keeping her thoughts and opinions to herself…Mah wife don’t know nothing ’bout no speech-making, he tells a crowd.  Ah never married her for nothing lak dat.  She’s uh woman and her place is in de home.

After twenty years, the marriage ends with Joe dying from a longterm  illness, during which he refused to see Janie.  Finally, Janie confronts Joe on his death bed..All dis bowin’ down, all dis obedience under yo’ voice-dat ain’t why Ah rushed off down de road tuh fund out about you.

At Joe’s funeral, Janie ...starched and ironed her face and came set in.  She sent her face to Joe’s funeral but herself went rollicking with the springtime across the world.  Janie’s journey for self discovery continues.

It is here that Zora’s fictional life and real life seem to intersect (this often happens in a novel).  Zora meets and falls in love with the real love of her life.  He was tall, dark brown, magnificiently built with a beautifully modeled back head…And he was an Alpha man. However, Zora notes, she did not fall in love with him because of looks..he had a fine mind and that intrigued me.

He was a man who wanted to do for her...But nothing, she writes..must be in my life but himself.  Zora’s career and fierce independence began to interfere with their relationship. Finally, Zora found escape from the struggle to maintain her ‘self’ in the relationship in the form of a Guggenheim Fellowship.  For two years she was to study/research out of the country.  Eyes was published in 1937 while she was in the Caribbean . She wrote it in only seven weeks.  This was my chance to release him and fight myself free from my obsession.  So I pitched in to work hard on my research to smother my feeling.  

Similarly, Janie’s love affair with Vergible Tea Cakes Woods, an easy going laborer, ten years her junior, represents her fulfillment in a union.  Tea Cakes teaches Janie ...de maiden language all over.  He is man enough to treat her as an equal and they spend their days traveling from job to job working the land, in unison with nature. The novel ends on a bittersweet note as Janie’s dream fades into reality and she realizes the journey one must travel to distinguish role from self.

Many literary critics say that Eyes is the quintessential love story. However, like Zora’s own real life, Eyes is also a story of survival and realization of self. In her autobiography, Zora writes…Be that as it may, I have the satisfaction of knowing that I have loved and been loved by the perfect man.  If I never hear of love again, I have known the real thing.

And in true tongue-in-cheek Zora fashion, quips: But pay no attention to what I say about love..it may not mean a thing…Just because my mouth opens up like a prayer book, it does not just have to flap like a Bible.

Love. Life. Identity. Illusion. Reality. Dream. Truth. Roles. Self. Nature. Struggle.  Their Eyes Were Watching God is all this and so much more…just turn the pages.

FOR ZORA

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(Reader, If this appears as one long paragraph, my apologies…working with a new computer and it apparently doesn’t respond to my commands)

This month marks the 125th birthday celebration of literary artist Zora Neale Hurston. Those of you who followed my original blog in 2013-14, know that I am a bonafide Zora Neale Hurston lover.
My first encounter with Zora was in the 90s during my grad school days at ODU where I was one of a few black students enrolled in an AA Lit course. The syllabus of which included the controversial Harlem Renaissance writer. After reading her autobio, Dust Tracks on the Road and then her novel Their Eyes were Watching God, I was hooked. My book budget was soon devoted to purchasing all of her works and a gaggle of literary criticism about her

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I even applied for a goverment grant when the semester ended so I could study more of her writings during my summer off from teaching . My father fondly referred to this practice as “teacher welfare”. And I was a master grant writer back in those days. For six glorious weeks, I read books by and about Zora , communicated in person and online with other Zora devotees and immersed myself in all things Zora.
As we near the end of January, I often find myself re-reading her famous novel, Their Eyes were Watching God (made even ‘famouser’ by Queen Oprah who turned it into a movie). and reflecting on the paradoxical, complex life that was Zora Neale Hurston.
This post will provide some background on Zora and Part 2 will follow next week.

January marks the 125th year of Zora Neale Hurston remembrance.
Appropriately, Zora’s annual celebration in her hometown of Eatonville, Florida is about to ‘jump off’ (last week of January). And perhaps some of you will be inspired to take the trip down 95 to Eatonville, the oldest incorporated Black town in the U.S, OR at least buy/download a copy of Eyes and settle in for a good read.
According to writer, Mary Helen Washington, Zora lived her life ‘half in shadow’. And in referring to herself after viewing a series of her photos, Zora noted:  I love Myself when I am laughing and then again when I am looking Mean and Impressive (this quote later became the title of a Reader edited by Alice Walker).

Walker summed it up:  we love Zora for her work first, and then again (as she and all of Eatonville would say), we love her for herself.
Biographer Robert Hemenway spent seven years and 30,000 miles touring the country trying to gain enough insight to put pen to paper about this paradoxical woman.
So, who, you ask was Zora Neale Hurston?
For 30 years, Zora was the most prolific black woman writer in America. Always curious as a child, Zora wrangled a scholarship from a white benefactor to attend Barnard in 1925. She was the only black student at Barnard at the time.  I became Barnard’s sacrificial animal, she once remarked. After Barnard, Zora evolved into her Self -Becoming a folklorist, anthropologist, novelist, feminist, and cultural revolutionary.
Zora was a complex person, adventure seeking, loved to laugh, throw parties, dance wildly, passionately sexual – a woman before her time. She did not believe in sexist roles. And according to Hemenway, traveled through the South alone with a handgun, a $2 dress, and a suitcase full of courage.
Zora was considered the darling of the Harlem Renaissance. But, conversely, Zora was the first writer to call the Harlem Renaissance literati, the ni**erati.  Alternately heralded and criticized by her contemporaries, Richard Wright accused Zora of… an apolitical approach to art that ignored the toll of racial prejudice. In typical Zora fashion, she responded, “No, I do not weep at the world– I am too busy sharpening my oyster knife”.
Much like a modern day griot (she even wore a headwrap), Zora studied her culture, celebrated the people/traditions and translated all of it for an audience that did not speak her language.  Refusing to separate herself from the common, ordinary porch people of Eatonville, her writing style was rich, full of the oral tradition transformed into written narrative. Zora celebrated the wit and expressive cadences of black cultures throughout the South and the Caribbean (Shapiro).
Alice Walker writes that the language of her characters…that comical ni**er dialect that has been laughed at, denied, ignored or improved so that white folks and educated black folks can understand it..is simply, beautiful.
So, how then did this prolific AA writer who published 4 novels, 2 folkores, an autbio and 50 short stories end up ill and penniless in a Florida welfare home in the late 50s… Dead by age 60, and buried in an unmarked grave in a weed filled segregated cemetery???
Unfortunately, Zora’s struggle for survival as a writer represented the norm for a generation of AA writers prior to the 60s. The sad truth is that she lived in a country that fails to honor its black artists.
Imagine this, one of her stories appeared in the Saturday Evening Post while Zora was working as a maid in New York! Alice Walker surmised that without money of one’s own in a capitalistic society, there is no such thing as independence. Amen to that!

Zora’s life is truly a cautionary tale.
In a final tribute to honor her spiritual mentor, Alice Walker, in 1973, traveled to the cemetary in Fort Pierce, Florida and put a tombstone in the area of Zora’s grave.
The tombstone read “A Genius of the South”, a line from poet Jean Toomer.

(Part 2, a literary essay of Their Eyes were Watching God that I authored several years ago..will follow next week).
Hmph…there she go tooting her own horn again..
Thank you for reading/commenting/sharing!

Clothed in My Right Mind

(Reader, This post is from my original Blog started in 2013. It was a poem looking back at that year and ironically not much has changed. I share it with you as a  way to end this year since Father Time once again approaches.  Feel free to comment/share. Thanks for Reading..115 See you in 2016!)

Mourned with the nation

once again

As halls of learning

Became graveyard for

Innocents.

A reminder of my own

Brush with violence

In the classroom.

Endured silently as close friends

Battled the big C

Praying for their strength

And God’s mercy.

Where is the cure for

This unspeakable disease.

Battled my own

Insidious malady

That like some thief

In the night

Robs me of sleep

And my Memory.

Marveled as my Readership

Climbed to new Heights

Propelled by the Musings

of a Canine with an attitude.

Witnessed two couples

Become Betrothed

Renewing my blistered faith

In Happily Ever After.

Watched painfully as another

Sizzled and burned

The vows of Matrimony

Sacrificed on the

Altar of Deceit.

Relished the fervor

Of an Unexpected Romance.

That awakened a spark

And just as quickly

Flitted and Died.

Marveled as hordes of folks

Worshipped at the throne

Of Scandal.

While the real scandal

A President without support

Played out up the road.

Bid adieu to a Pillar

Of the community

And of the family.

Her battle courageously fought

At peace now finally at Home.

Labored in my Jardin

Harvesting food for my Soul

Feeding family and neighbors

And daily stopping to smell

The Rose.

Celebrated parents, brother

Sister, and two girls.

Not always in harmony

But always in Love.

Confided in good girl friends.

Sharing both highs and lows.

Thankful for the voice

At the end of the phone.

Celebrated life in the faces of

I, J, K and D

Becoming Men of the Family.

Hoping that the New Year

Already frigid and cold

Offers a Chance

To once again

Pursue the Dream.