Surviving Nineteen Years (my memoir)
applying for leave, 3
calendar all vacation days, 5
feeling underpaid, 9
justifying multiple field trips, 11
mandatory volunteer work, 13
questioning your career choice, 19
so you're an alcoholic, 20
taking sick days back-to-back, 23
when substitutes are needed, 32
It wasn't me.
I wasn't even there.
But if I was there, it definitely was not THAT day.
And if it was that day, whoever said they saw me
got the hour wrong
cause it definitely wasn't me.
I would never do you like that girl,
but if I did do you like that,
I certainly wouldn't mean it.
It wouldn't be 'cause I love her and it definitely
wouldn't mean I don't love you.
I just got caught up in the moment.
Lost myself, if truth be told.
So you have to realize that it wasn't me
cause you the ONLY one for me.
And if you weren't, you gotta know that
she was in the past and even if she wasn't in the past,
I told her earlier today that you the only one for me.
So you need to stop your yelling
cause didn't I choose you and if I didn't choose you,
you have only yourself to blame
cause you women make things bigger than they gotta be.
Besides I told you--even if you saw me
dammit girl, it wasn't me!
I'm terrified of you dying before me/so my heart skips a beat/whenever we cross a street
even though there are no cars in the distance. Definitely why I check on you at night
sometimes to ensure that (even though you're six) you're still breathing.
I'm so afraid of....that I dread a call from your school telling me of some tragedy and I think of locking us away.
AS IF I CAN CONQUER DEATH by keeping you close to my side.
I'm so afraid of losing you since I learned from my grandmother that a parent Can live
long past a child and my heart breaks cause I don't see how I can ever
survive beyond you.
I'm so afraid that I would rather not think of that possibility
and simply hug you just a little too tight,
kiss you just a little too much
and tell you each night how much I love you
while foolishly believing that somehow you will live forever.
Cause that's what a mother needs to do.
I bloomed most delicately
when he watered me with chivalry
and reveled in my independence.
A precious buttercup,
he covered me like
Easing into all my quiet spaces
and lifting me to the sweetest places
so that he might
"April is the cruelest month,"
though I am quite tempted
to choose May.
It takes but one lone act
to turn a month into
a single day.
May determined that nine years
was long enough
for me and daddy dear.
Uncaring that I lost
words then voice then face
to each and every passing year.
But April, still, hurts more than May
for then my mother
took her last breath.
And though I'll always hate
the month of May.
It's April's cruelty
I'll remember best.
To Zora Neale Hurston,
I met you over twenty years ago before I learned that Alice Walker found you down in Florida, just a two hour drive from my hometown. I read about you through Janie, a woman both free and not free, self-discovered but also world-defined; and I wondered just how much of Janie was you. Maybe your eyes had also been watching God.
I thought of you often, about how you felt to be colored, how music wasn't just music to you, and how white patrons paid space for you to write while black men tried hard to control your just (w)right voice for reasons so hu(man)ly wrong. I thought about how you loved yourself laughing, taking a little bit of Eatonville into your soul--telling front porch stories and backyard barbecues in tongues that we have learned to hear with proper shame.
I read that piece you wrote in the Orlando Sentinel, that piece so many didn't understand. When you said integration wasn't for us--integration might change how America looked, but it wouldn't change how people felt, you said. I got what you meant Zora: what we "gained" can never make up for the community we lost. You saw it back in 1955 and I wish I could tell you that you were right.
You, Miss Zora, were extra special and deserved a better ending than being buried into obscurity. You took it upon yourself to define your black womanhood--not as other, as wrong, as less--but as something independent of what it means to be American white. You took Harlem by hurricane, left your marks with a bold pen and cleared a path so women from angelou to morrison to butler might guide others through.
You were your own person, Ms. Zora and I can but hope to stand at the edge of the light you left to shine. And I must say that I am so glad that when she went in search of her mother's gardens, Alice Walker returned with you. Resurrected. Redefined. Renewing another generation.
Much love and respect,