A Dwarf's Lament
By Rudolph Lewis
mind-wringing night is damp with sadness. Lovemaking gives me no
rest, only a moment’s release. My bed this morning is hard
with memories. Sitting up, I light a cigarette. I lean back
against the cool wall and draw deeply the tobacco and fire into
my lungs and blow out puffs of smoke into the darkness.
woman by me snores like a man without a care—satisfied and
sure of herself. Papa wouldn't give a copper for me and my
situation and a woman like Leona Harris. He the upright man. A
head taller than middling. And on his burying day the sixth of
November 1910—he stretched out in the cold ground and I
shacked up with a woman he'd give not a glancing note.
that's not the thing. Here, I'm a man 42 years old, at the end
of the first decade of a new century, uneasy with what Daddy,
packed in the cold clay, thinks. Dead or alive, there's no way
pass Sam Francis, that man among men.
a man twice over and still I hear, "That's Sam's boy."
As if I ain’t got a life of my own. Always in his shadow, even
now on his burying day.
dark room is blue with the fullness of the moon and stars, true
in the reality of time and space. To be up there with the gods
of the night, with that smithy in the sky, away from all this .
. . Blue smoke clouds away into the dark shadows of the room.
it Papa, what can I say, she makes me feel good. Ain't that
enough—to hold a woman in my arms? She makes me laugh. She
doesn't treat me like a child ever at your belt buckle. Ain't
that worth something, even though I settle for less? Ain't that
worth something, Pop?
rolls away on her side. Crickets and frogs and silence reign in
the morning air. A bird chirps to his mate. I love the smell of
her in the taste of my mouth. She knows I am a man, all man, and
then some. She done told me time and time again, nobody makes
her feel the way I do. She talks like she done been around the
world. And I, a man more than she could dream.
you ain't like these other men. They so rough. You make a woman
feel like a woman. And make her feel proud of it," she told
me, in one of her moments of sincerity.
like other men? That talk makes me uneasy. I like my toast
unbuttered. I don't trust that easy spread. I'm not one of her
lounging friends. I got my own mind and need straight talk when
we’re not stretch out for lovemaking. There’re times I want
things clear as a bell.
can lie when she want to lie and you can't get no difference
when she lying or thinks she’s telling the truth. It’s like
pulling hen’s teeth. You know deep down it’s not there. But
you hold onto her "that’s the truth" because there
just ain’t nothing else.
you say is a lie," I told her once, my foot planted, my
finger in her face. "Everything you say is a lie." She
shuddered as if I had just cut her open and pulled the blade.
But that was mean of me, too mean. My hurt cut her too deep,
even for her comfort. There’re times work and wisdom can’t
satisfy and I just need her, like a drug to kill a pain.
pull my pants on, then the socks, and tie my shoes. I don't know
where my shirt and hat is. Shadows hide the truth of things. I
stumble on a stool, noisily, waking her.
sits up in bed. "What's wrong, honey? Come gib Mama a
like honey to a bee. I sit on the edge of her bed of flowers and
take her in my arms. My face in melons with large nipples that
are her breasts.
going somewhere? I'm fixing you breakfast this morning. Some
grits and bacon. Me, you, and a cup of coffee."
soft and lies heavy in my arms like longing. I kiss her and take
her tongue wet in my mouth. Breathless I nibble her ear. I want
her like maple on pancakes.
pull back, "I got to go. There's still a hundred pounds in
on sweet daddy," she begs like a kitten. I pull away from
her voice. Tentacles that bury in your brain and you lost in
some inky world. And you don’t know which way to turn.
seen my shirt, hat, my things?" I call out to her.
you needn't talk to me like that." Her knees on the bed,
she look into the darkness. "Check the corner. On the
chair." Her green eyes sharp as a cat's. "There they
are! You must be blind as a bear." I fill the last slit
with a button. I toss water on my face.
you soon." I move toward the bed, her breasts, and her
on baby, don't go." She pleads, her hand hot on my thigh.
I'm leaving, I say, over my shoulder. Always the pull and tug,
the drag and the ceaseless struggle of desire. I walk into the
knows I hate to steal away from a woman willing and wanting me
to roll around in her garden. Sweet delight of forgetting
everything. A few clouds from the south pass across the moon.
The air on my neck warm and chilly like a woman's fingers making
circles in my mind.
am I to do? My daddy died today. Can I get passed that, and go
on? It all seems so undone. The foundation laid but the house
still to be raised.
come to the wooded wagon path, dark as pitch. I pause for a
moment and look back across the field to Leona's house. She
crouches at the window, her heart sends out a silent call for me
to return. That’s the imagination of desire, a wish. I'm
certain she’s dead to the world.
turn toward the deeper darkness of the woods. I get to the
branch and I'll be half way home. The crickets and the frogs
stop their songs suddenly as I step beneath the tall overhanging
oaks. An ear to silence, they smell death about me.
never knew him. It was always work and wisdom talks. More often
the work of silence than talk. He never told us about Suffolk.
Only that some man owned him.
don't know what you mean, son. A man has to work. But I didn't
own it, my hard driven work. Somebody else told me what to do
and what not to do. Where to go and when to come. I were a child
when I was a grown man. I was more capable than many. Now I own
my work. I own me. Most of all my chillun. And that’s the key
to life. No man has a say other than me when it comes to my own
soul. That is all any man needs to know, for that's every
moon is high in the overhanging limbs of oak and gum. Who can
count the stars in the sky? So many mysteries no one can talk
about. No one can explain the ways of God. A deer crashes
through the pines.
how does one explain no mama, no grandmama, no granddaddy. What
child doesn't want to know where he from? To know is to be more
than half a man.
I know your heart's pain. But I haven't the words. All your
answers will come in time. God is good. In him you can find
rest. Joy is in here. (He placed a hand across his heart.) Every
man is got to grasp it hisself. It's special for each. Some
things you got to find for yourself. But you got to listen.
Forget the things in your mind. Listen to the voices in the
wind. They echo what is in your heart and the good that is in
didn't look up. His eyes were on me. He wanted to know how his
words weighed on me. No room to wiggle. Always the tension, the
struggle. The silence.
man can't be of such dogged will as you, Papa. A back unbent
still at eighty-one. You made everything easy. You just lay down
one night and decided you had had enough. And died. You decided
you could no longer stay away from a woman we never got to know,
your young wife, and our mother.
stench of the pig pen is in the air. The house is near. I come
out on the field of naked cotton stalks. No light yet at Sis
Tammy or at Malviny’s.
old man was proud of his two daughters and the choices they made
in husbands. Men that stand tall. They chose men that wanted to
make their own families. Men who found comfort under Papa’s
tree. That sturdy oak of a man. A man that other men looked up
no wife for his first born and no chillun. There was never even
the slip of a tease. He held back. Maybe he didn't have the
words. For me his silence is still pregnant.
never asked "What's wrong son? Why can't you get it
right?" Never one reproach. Always the silent distance. A
presence that uttered the refrain: "He'll work it
it out? Work it out! What in the hell is that? Can a mouse be an
elephant? A pony, a horse; a guinea, a turkey? A dwarf a man?
How can one get pass that?
wind picks up. We gonna have an early snow this year. A thin
snow, a mild winter. Just enough to kill a few mosquitoes and
clear the head of the fog and mist of summer.
is it going girl?" I unlatch the stall. Minnie comes to my
hand. She asks for little and gives much. I don’t know what a
Virginia farmer could do without his mule. She knows how to test
a man's fortitude in the wet heat of the sun. Ash-gray dirt
scorching bare feet.
stand aside and she trots to the other end of the yard. The pigs
are alert and begin their chorus of grunts. The rooster in the
yard struts to the fence. The hens are restless.
I open the barn door and pull out a few ears of corn. And then the burlap
bag and head toward the blue whiteness of the autumn field.
I’ll have a hundred pounds before the day’s end. My fingers
in the soft whiteness of cotton. . . . Life is more than a dream.
* * *
* * * *
Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays
Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a
collection of fourteen essays by scholars and
creative writers from Africa and the Americas.
Called one of two significant critical works on
Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late
1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of
Carter G. Woodson and
Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as
well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations
were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early
essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish
medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an
historical context for understanding 20th-century
creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone
writers, such as Cuban
Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist,
Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the
significance of Negritude in Latin America. This
collaborative text set the tone for later
conferences in which writers and scholars worked
together to promote, disseminate, and critique the
literature of Spanish-speaking people of African
descent. . . .
Cited by a
literary critic in 2004 as "the seminal study in the
field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which
most scholars in the field 'cut their teeth'."
* * *
Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in
By Melissa V.
According to the
author, this society has historically exerted
considerable pressure on black females to fit into one
of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the
Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless
Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to
white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of
those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the
relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable
temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as
an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the
characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television
shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
points out how the propagation of these harmful myths
have served the mainstream culture well. For instance,
the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for
black females to feel a maternal instinct towards
As for the source
of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their
own bodies during slavery given that they were being
auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless,
it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate
the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate
* * *
The White Masters of the
The World and Africa, 1965
By W. E. B. Du Bois
W. E. B. Du Bois’
Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization
* * *
Ancient African Nations
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
* * * * *
Negro Digest /
Browse all issues
* * * * *
The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan
The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll
Only a Pawn in Their Game
Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for
George Jackson /
* * *
The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg
Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804
January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of
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* * *
update 16 June