Reaching across the table i anxiously lay hold of the salt. my fingers wrap themselves protectively around the saltshaker. i consider the pepper, but cannot find it and in a moment of spontaneous denial i realize,
“i’ve been here before.” my hangover is breaking, as i recognize the place, and remember why i was here last.
With the realization I shake the salt vigorously as though it were these scrambled eggs that had broken my heart. and as quickly as i regret thinking of my ex-fiancee, i regret how much salt i’ve drowned my eggs in. i see that they are ruined, and i push them aside. i resign to the memory of the first time I was here, with Luna.
Kacey’s diner on 5th street. July 12th 2008. very little has changed. the curtains in the store front remain a musty blue, and the bright cafeteria green tables still don’t match the rest of the Louisiana decor. there are trinkets from Kacey’s first store in New Orleans but no sign of anything she’s acquired since she moved her 24 hour diner to Atlanta, Georgia. There are glass ornaments that hang about the tables, and mardi gras style decorations draped every where. a jester hanging about the corridor to the bathroom, and a row of figurines by the cash register. a row of queens, kings, jesters, witches, wizards and revelers. with a street sign over the bar, can’t you tell we’re at the intersection of rue toulouse and rue bourbon?
Like i mentioned, i had only been here once before. Luna had brought me here so long ago that i had almost forgotten. I remember her bright blue eyes, and her infectious laughter and for a moment my body is aroused and repulsed simultaneously. for every time we’d made love in a public restroom i could recall an argument we’d had behind closed doors. for every time i had discussed us getting pregnant, i could recall her putting it off for tomorrow. we’d still had some youth left then.
Once upon a time i could have done all the things i’d planned. I could have seen myself with her forever. she made me happy. isn’t that all that mattered? I assume not. she was no longer here, and I was no longer fertile.
“early menopause” the doctor said.
“let’s drink to that,” i replied.
And did i drink. Called up a few friends. They didn’t show. I was too tired to care. $50 worth of $5 margaritas settled somewhere between my stomach and my lower intestines. there was no more room for anyone or anything. no room for dreams, no more room for quickies, no more room for babies, no more room for women that didn’t love me.
I look around to see if anyone can see the tears welling in my eyes. and then i let go. i let them stream down my face, and nothing else matters. all is not lost, but i don’t have the strength to fix it all just yet.
the sun begins to rise, casting a slight shadow agains the waitress by the window. i look over at the clock. it’s 6am on a Saturday and I have a headache the size of Utah. i wipe my face with a napkin.
she walks over to my table. smiles at me.
“Ma’am can i get you some fresh eggs?”
“Yes please,” I reply.
I sigh a long and heavy sigh. As I think of the hormone therapy my doctor has recently prescribed. I imagine that I shouldn’t have gone drinking last night.
Another waste of perfectly good eggs.
When we Run, We Fly
belly tucked into the earth, the moon is full above me. i wait anxiously for the clouds to block it’s silver light before i dare to move an inch. the earth has a moist smell from the afternoon rain. as the grass rocks wildly in the wind, the scent of a storm coming sways me awake. my eyes darting through the cotton and wheat shafts. my heart racing to the sound of shallow breathing. I imagine that if i don’t move now i’ll be caught in the rain, with nothing but my white cotton dress and a dream.
hearing Massa John’s hound dog howl high pitch and all. the hairs on the back of my neck stand straight like pins on Miss Jane’s needle patch. the year is 1-8-6-5. I know that it’s those numbers in that order. But I hardly know what that really means. Miss Jane had just began teaching me to read and write 6 months ago. I took to numbers, but I was hardly any good with letters. they were quite a pain. i just couldn’t understand them.
But boy did she try with me. I remember the first word she taught me.
That’s my name. And miss jane her name is ja-ne.
Miss Jane began teaching me and my sister how to read just before the Kentucky snow arrived.
sitting in the outhouse just beyond the plantation owner’s white house my sister Raleigh and had made a habit of meeting in the shadows. She worked in the house while I worked in the field. She was a odd shade of brown, like the color of the fields before the harvest. Me, i was darker than her. Darker than the shadows.
I hadn’t seen her in two weeks because Massa John had been on the plantation setting things straight for the last part of the harvest. But now that he was out of town working on getting new hands for the plantation we could meet at our usual spot.
“Lucy, Miss Jane showed me how to write my name. I don’t know what made her do it. And she showed me her bible. Although the words were strange, when she read it, it made some of sense.
A pause of disbelief.
“Raleigh!” Miss Jane called before I could protest, and with much haste my sister pulled her hair back and buttoned our collars. Grabbing my hand she took me with her without thinking it through much.
“Coming Ms. Jane.”
We ran towards the house. Then we reached the porch steps.
I stared at Raleigh, her eyes wild with anticipation.
Up the steps, onto the porch she went. Her green dress long over her boots, the left boot with a hole next to her big toe. Her youth still fresh and untouched. She glowed with happiness and I could tell that a fire was blazing inside her.
Standing in the screen door, Miss Jane. Plain, tall and bright green eyes. She was nothing like her mother. Soft-spoken, never threatened us, never hit us. Raleigh whispered to Miss Jane then motioned for me to come closer.
I dared not move. I had never set foot in that house. Not even on the porch.
I shook my head as hard as I could without snapping it left or right.
Raleigh whispered again, then walked down the porch steps to meet me.
the next day at dusk, we began our lessons, in the storehouse. Someplace where no would miss us, but could easily find us. It had a few lamps perched atop crates of apples, honey, tomatoes. Things that we didn’t grow, or didn’t grow good in Kentucky. Raleigh and I perched on two small empty barrels, on edge, and ready to move if anyone came looking for us.
With letters written out on the inside of the belt she always wore around her dress, Miss Jane taught us the alphabet. Taking time to teach us the sound of the letters so that we could know which letter was for which sound.
Miss Jane smiled at me, took my slate and wrote letters on it in chalk, then said,
“Lu-cy.” My name. Only four letters. Not like Raleigh. It was easy. It looked real pretty too. My name looked just like it sounded. But my sister caught on quick. She just kept writing it, until she got it.
“Now practice Lucy,” Miss Jane said in a gentle kind of way.
I wrote it three, four more times. Then handed my slate back to her.
“Well done Lucy. Well done.”
Then she got to going. Eager to teach us lots in the few hours we had before we would be missed.
“Ok girls. Mon-day. Tues-day. Wends-day.”
Wednesday didn’t look anything like it sounded. So we kept writing it over and over.
“The goal is to learn as much as you can. It doesn’t have to be perfect.”
“Alright,” I grumbled, frustrated.
We knew the words already, but we hardly ever saw the letters so it was hard.
But we kept at it. Learning words, and then numbers.
Miss Jane sat down beside me, and sounded the word, and I wrote it. For two hours we went on with it.
“You can do it Lucy. Try again,” she would say. Then she’d alternate between Raleigh and me. It was quite a thing to see this white woman bobbing between two black girls. I didn’t know at the time that what Miss Jane was doing might get her in trouble. Cause it just felt right, even though we had to keep it a secret and whatnot. When we was a working on our writing first, and then on our reading it felt like a whole new thing. Something our very own. We kept it to ourselves, but it was our secret. A good secret that began when Massa John left the plantation to get new hands.
I hear the hound dog bark, and the storm is getting closer. My dress damp from the soil. I am brought back to the fields. cold, alone and determined to get out of Kentucky.
It was only the beginning, of the end for us.
For My Mother Part II
six years today
but you never stopped breathing
life, light into my life.
i miss you terribly, and know that who I am today
is not what you would have envisioned of me
i no longer know who i am
or what i am
you led me to the truth
gave me reason. gave me meaning.
then i lost you.
time escaped us
we were torn apart
and i think of what it felt like
to have you ripped, from the womb of my heart.
you were gone before i even understood what took you
gnawed at your joints
stole bends in your joints
and they pumped you with prendizone
a steroid stronger than death
the steroid that damaged your kidneys
they put u on dialysis
but couldn’t save your heart
it stopped two weeks after they admitted you to ward 3
we watched your father die here
and then saw your life slip away
this same ward
the sky is falling
time is fading
the nurses faces are gone
but the smell of death remains
white flashes of empathy
never doing enough to save the weak
they wrench what’s left of me away
you are incoherent
i scream at the sound of your pain
anguish fills my heart
i want to remember the good times
but i can’t on the anniversary of the day you died.
Postcard from Hellshire Beach, St. Catherine (Jamaica)
the waves lap at my feet
salty air burning my eyes
stinging at my skin
raw from the sand.
in the distance
mansions on the hillside
off the shore
drifts into the bluest of seas.
miles of beach catch me
lay me naked before the ocean
the storm forming out beyond the horizon
clouds block out the sun.
yet I shade my eyes to see your face
your words, spoken
but swallowed up by the sound of the waves
my skin itches in the sticky air
I am so small
the ocean engulfs my legs,
my feet disappear.
The luxury of writing for a living
One can only imagine.
My expectations run high
Moving, changing, ever demanding
For every word a meaning
Capturing time and place
With freedom to speak
Responsibility to make it all count.
They call it Black Cat
They call it Black Cat. Filled with the superstition, and folklore of class pride, chants of WE LOVE OUR SISTERS fill the air. There is nothing else quite like it from August to May, and each year, the week long tradition lavishes Agnes Scott in blue, yellow, red and green. The festivities begin at midnight of the last sunday of each September, when the fall semester meets the cold harsh end of summer. Midnight Quad Rush, Party Days,Trivia Night, Bonfire, Field Day, Junior Production, Black Cat Formal being the main events of the whirlwind. There is an enchanted entrapment that overcomes the students, and they become mindlessly unaware of classes for seven whole days of revelry and madness.
In its 96th year, Black Cat stands proudly as one of the college’s oldest traditions, and according to college lore began in 1915 as a prank night between first year students and the more seasoned sophomores. It has evolved into a much larger beast.
“It now marks the end of orientation and the official recognition of the new class in the campus community. Mary Sweet, college physician from 1908 to 1937, suggested it as a way to eliminate hazing of the first-year students.” (Student Handbook, 7)
As such it is featured and endorsed as a series of events geared towards encouraging friendly competition between the four undergraduate classes. Often guised as obscene amounts of decor, upon the Quad and within the winding halls of Alston student center, and on the first floor of Buttrick. There is no escaping the cat.
According to official publications,
“Black Cat week begins when the college bell rings at midnight on Sunday. Each class is assigned a day to throw its party in Evans Hall and to dress like its mascot. Black Cat week also includes a bonfire Thursday night, junior class
production on Friday night and a formal dance Saturday night.” (Student Handbook, 9)
In very formal terms it has been explained like this,
“Every year, a color is assigned to the incoming class that represents it during its time at Agnes Scott. The colors alternate among red, green, blue and yellow. With this color in mind, each class picks a mascot.”
But we know there is so much more.
Each class is represented by a mascot chosen upon their arrival in the freshman class, often embodying the vibrant, lively, and colorful reality of the women that make their class unique. With Denis the Menace being the most popular mascot in the past years of Black Cat, appearing three times in the past 50 years. In the most recent years mascots have come to represent, pride, stature and class bravado.
With numerous name changes in recent years and, riveting debate between factions of the respective blue and red classes during my college career, one will find within the class mascot, a sacred polity. For example, In my sophomore year, the Blue Buccaneers became the 2012 Blue Water Dragons, and with the costume change, came the establishment of a more formidable foe. Our sister class at the time, ordained in greatness were the 2010 Phoenixes, and we rose to meet. We’ve never quite risen out of their shadow.
In the last decade, a most holy and incarnate precedence has been set with the 2000 Blues Brothers, the 2001Sun Goddesses, the 2002 Queen of Hearts, the 2003 Poison Ivy, the 2004 Sirens, the 2005 Queens of the Nile, the 2006 Vixens, the 2007 007 Bond Girls, the 2008 Luna Moon Goddesses [the beautiful class that we replaced] the 2009 Golddiggers, tried and true and the ever exceptional class of 2010 Phoenixes. Respect is learned, honor is due, and given. All hail the sisters that came before us.
With each class mascot incorporated unto the Black Cat Cafe mural, and etched into the pages of time, each Black Cat Week reads like a quirky seance, with page 10 of the Student Handbook, as an glorious roll call.
Indeed the makings of a cult.
The week begins with the ominous ringing of the Agnes Scott Hall tower bell on Sunday night at Midnight. Fondly referred to as the Quad Rush.
“As the bell rings on Black Cat week at midnight Sunday, each class decorates the campus, both Woodruff Quadrangle and a designated floor of Alston Campus Center, with its color and mascot.”
All four classes stay up all night in anticipation, and although preparation has been going on behind the scenes for weeks, months even, rushing the quad is only the beginning display.
For example, Party Days are celebrated primarily in and around our enormous dining hall, within its gothic styled walls, each day adorned with a different class color. There are often streamers, banners and outlandish amounts of food coloring. It’s delightful and delicious.
On Wednesday night we have scotties on a level playing field, with Trivia Night. Everyone crowds into the hub, and cheers on their class. Each class year gets points for participation, and the winner gets bragging rights for the year. The first year class always, plays with Kiss on their team.
Then the week get’s wild! Nakedness ensues, and a long sleeved shirt can’t be found in miles of the campus. And the bonding begins, over beers, barrels, and bonfire.
“Traditionally, first-year students try to keep their mascot’s identity a secret until the bonfire, while sophomores try to uncover the mascot beforehand and reveal it to the school.”
The classes become protective of each other for the most part, the yellow and green alligned by sweat, the blue and red class pledging allegiance to each other with nothing less than blood.
“Each first-year class becomes the sister class of the junior class at Agnes Scott. Red/blue classes are sisters and green/yellow classes are sisters. Each class creates its own song and a song to show its love for its sister class. Both are performed at bonfire and at Junior Production.”
WE LOVE OUR SISTERS they scream, bare chested, flasks high, and no memory of the hours prior to this unleashing.
“Bonfire is a chance for all classes to dress like their mascots, sing their songs and show off class spirit. Bonfire takes place on the Woodruff Quadrangle on Thursday night during Black Cat week. It is at this event that the first-years reveal their mascot.”Once the seniors have sobered up, they make time to rehearse before their last show of class pride. They fight off the younger classes, and beat what’s left of their dignity with a stick. It gets quite competitive here. Down in the trenches we go.
“Field Day gives the classes a final opportunity to compete before Junior Production. Field hockey is the main event—class teams learn the rules of the game and practice during Black Cat week. Students who do not wish to participate directly earn points for their class by showing their spirit on the sidelines.”
Let it be said, that in 2011 that will not be the case. Mortar Board President, Tesia Ogletree ’12, in response to those with strong allegiances to field hockey as the main field day event,
“Field games have always been a part of the Black Cat tradition, but in the past few years, they have not been included,” said in direct response to students that have openly disputed the shift from field hockey as the main event on Field Day, based on the assumption of field hockey as an immovable tradition.
The field games that have been scheduled for Thursday afternoon this year, have been included in the hopes of creating greater participation amongst the classes. By creating the opportunity for a number of different teams to participate from each class, these field game events will hopefully foster class spirit, and team involvement.
Three legged race anyone?
Then comes Junior Production! The culmination of it all!
“The junior class writes, directs and performs Junior Production on Friday of Black Cat week. This play satirizes life at Agnes Scott, as well as campus personalities with good humor and wit. The entire campus is invited and is seated by class. After Junior Production, the Black Kitty is awarded to the class that
performed best during Black Cat week.”
Characteristics of Junior Production: a din that is a jarring assault to ever sense. Scantily clad women, gyrating to the latest hip hop songs, and a dash of ‘we love our sisters’ for good cheer.
And who runs this show? Let it not be forgotten, all hail Mortar Board.
Mortar Board is A National Honorary Senior Society, and for all intensive purposes at Agnes Scott operates primarily as a delegated board of seniors during Black Cat week. With a community service focus Mortar Board hopes to become involved in reading programs in local schools, with continued efforts to host other events outside of Black Cat. As well, Mortar Board 2011-2012 recruits and selects Mortar Board 2012-2013.
And who crashes it? Let it not be forgotten, all make way for Pestle Board.
It’s a gang of sorts. The week leading up to Black Cat they are capped, chopped, cupped and cued.
“Capping week is evident to everyone on campus. Each year, juniors who wish to participate are paired with a senior. The senior leaves a bag outside the junior’s door every morning filled with crazy clothes and instructions for the day.”
Last but certainly not least is the Black Cat Formal. The most civilized part of the whole thing in my opinion. That’s where the cats play nice again, and we’re all sisters again. Every one dressed, and most clean up nice. It’s quite a treat, with catering, and music, and a dance floor that you can’t actually see because everyone’s on it.
It’s what I look forward to most. It’s beautiful, enchanted, and thank God, off campus. It’s our homecoming, and our coming out. Works Consulted
Agnes Scott College Student Handbook 2011-2012
HYPERLINK “http://www.agnesscott.edu/Media/Website%20Resources/pdf/studentlife/studenthandbook/student-handbook.pdf” http://www.agnesscott.edu/Media/Website%20Resources/pdf/studentlife/studenthandbook/student-handbook.pdf
“It’s one bloody event.”
I don’t think men understand periods. I think they understand the 28 day thing, and the let’s bleed from our vaginas, but I really don’t think men understand periods. Perhaps we’ve never tried to explain it properly, because we don’t understand it properly but i just wish sometimes men would just get it.
I wish they would get that I am not simply annoyed because they’re being obnoxious, but because I am infinitely aware that after puberty the most complex process their bodies will carry out on a continuous basis is ejaculation. Yes, I took it there. The female body discards the uterus lining month after month, with rigorous fervor. The unique female hormones of estrogen and progesterone regulate all things menstrual.
There is quite a bit of science behind periods. And with scientific precision, the endocrine system controls every month of reproduction. Simply put, there are three phases, and during each phase the body focuses on a different organ of the endocrine system. There is a follicular phase, a luteal phase, and a day for ovulation, of which is the pinnacle of the whole thing.
In one sentence, the menstrual cycle is the main event of the female body in its monthly efforts to prepare for a child. Something that separates us from males. And with every miracle making effort, It’s one bloody event.
From the first day of bleeding to the average 28 days later the body will bring the whole orchestra of ovaries, follicles, breasts, cramps, back pain, nausea, fatigue, acne outbreaks, irritability, sensitivity, fluctuating libido, and high body temperatures into a symphony of “God, my body’s wreaking havoc on my life.”
Some women’s body get so caught up in the music that they’re sick in bed with headaches, menstrual cramps and vomiting. I count my blessings to not be made incapacitated by the whole thing. My body sings a quiet tune of, let’s get nothing done, while we’re sore all over, cranky all the time, and ready to fight. And when I’m paying enough attention to my body I can at least sense when it’s about to come along. I eat extra bananas, I swear by them, they’re packed with potassium. Just in the hope of alleviating menstrual cramps. I try to exercise, and stretch [Yoga has been my savior in that regard] and to sleep as much as possible. But when all else fails, if I lie in bed with my computer’s battery on my lower abdomen, it helps that uncomfortable tearing of my uterine wall from my uterus, and that sensitive and uncomfortable throbbing between my ovaries and my legs. Women call them cramps in polite company. I simply say, get out of my face, my uterus is falling out.
Prompt 1: Joan Didion Mosaic
Daylight Come And Me Want Go Home
“Where do I begin?” I asked myself.
The only plausible answer appeared to be,
“Where your mother ends.”
I assume that we all have a catalyst moment, that transforms our narrative, and spurs us into action. After all, when we meet individuals of merit and prestige, we often inquire, of the moment that changed their perspective, and galvanized their vision. For me, that moment was realizing that I had to learn to make my decisions without my mother. A woman wise and aged by time.
I imagine what she was like when she was my age. Vivacious, bold, enlightened, brave. It is only now that I realize how much she buffered me from the world. Only now do I realize that she was a proxy for every decision I ever thought I made.
Sean Paul says aptly in a song, reminding me that it’s, Never Gonna Be The Same: “Say when mi look up inna mi life its plain to see.
That its never gonna be the same.
Take another step on towards my destiny.
But the memories still remain,” the lyrics of one of my favorite songs replaying in my mind, and urging me towards tears.
The weight of loss and failing cripples my ability to be objective.
So I hold the tears back, afraid to confront my thoughts of abandonment and resentment. Regardless of all my baggage, the song remains a favorite because it takes me back to Kingston, and I am home again. I am fifteen one more time, and all is well in my world. My dreams are big, and my heart is big enough to carry them.
Except, time travel is not yet possible. So each time I hear this song I think of my mother, and my cousin, my grandfathers, my high school friends. All of their faces assaulting the linear frame of my cognitive memory, by revolving time and sentiment into a hodgepodge of mismatched fragments.
“Oh crap!” I yell in the auditorium of my mind.
I catch myself before I fall, and take time to in fact look down at where I claim to be going. I forget for a moment where I am going, then compose myself and continue walking. Walking along the pathway that leads to the theme houses. The railings are rusted, and the stones are cracked in inconspicuous places. Yet I am glad that they are there, lest, I trip and fall flat on my…in fact I must be more careful, for I am and will always be a clumsy jane. Once I have made it home, I sit.
Sitting on the front porch as time goes by. The cars are passing, fading quickly into the horizon of my mind’s eye. Red. Black. Silver. Toyota. Hyundai. Jeep. Here in this moment, gone the next. I wonder where they’re going.
For me, there is a never ending story to the turning of the world. And I am merely a poet. I see and understand things in stanzas, and yearn to put them to verse. I interpret, time, place, people, things as metamorphic facets of a story, yet to be told.
Yet I have come to a place where I must force myself to write.
“And I find myself here on my knees again
Caught up in grace like an avalanche
Nothing compares to this love, love, love.” I sing along to one of the most powerful songs from Hillsong United’s album Aftermath. The lyrics take me to a parallel universe. One in which I am empty and perfect.
So here I sit, and envision my future. I am sitting in my office when I receive the final arrangements of our trip to Panama. I am anxious with excitement, and begin to make a list of things that need to be done before my departure. Call my sister. Pick up my dad’s suit from the dry-cleaning. Post on my blog. Begin writing my article about this afternoon’s interview with Anthony Bourdain. The youthful desires of my heart, take me from here, and then the cars honk, and the cursor blinks, bringing me back from my daydream.
“And you never got the chance to see how good I’ve done
And you never got to see me back at number one
I wish that you were here to celebrate together
I wish that we could spend the holidays together,” Mariah Carey closes this chapter, the simplest of visits to myself in a past life.