Kalamu ya Salaam
The Magic of JuJu: An Appreciation of the Black Arts
A Revolution of Black Poets
Everywhere Is Someplace Else: A Literary Anthology
From A Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets
Our Music Is No Accident /
What Is Life: Reclaiming the Black Blues Self
My Story My Song (CD)
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Forty-Five Is Not So Old
Kalamu ya Salaam
It was 1:30 in the morning. Lucinda was half a jigger away from inebriated as
she held a double shot of Seagram's and 7up poised before her glossy, hot pink
painted lips. Precisely at that moment, Lucinda made up her mind "since I'm
going to die eventually, I might as well live tonight" which meant she was
not going home alone tonight. In fact, she wasn't going home at all, at least
not to her own home.
Billy must of thought she was a fool. "Away on business" or so he
had said with feinted casualness. Lucinda knew. Even as she had allowed herself
to act like she believed him when he said he had to go to Portland for four
days, she knew. Maybe he really did have some business to do there, but for sure
he was sleeping with Sandra with her little narrow ass. It didn't matter that
Billy had left Thursday during the day and that Sandra was at work on Friday,
answering the phone when Lucinda called on some pretense or the other. "I
know something is up," Lucinda mouthed right before the cool liquor crossed
Just thinking of that little 96 and three-quarter pound strumpet made Lucinda
angry because invariably it made Lucinda think of when she weighed 115 pounds
and was good to go, but that was at least eight years ago. Her eyes growing
increasingly glassy, Lucinda silently surveyed herself in the large mirror
behind the bar. "One hundred fifty-five pounds really wasn't that heavy,
besides I'm tall and have big breasts. How is it these little skinny wenches can
get men so excited, what's to it?
"Furthermore, the slut has buck teeth. What in the world could skinny
Sandra possibly do for William James Brown that he likes better than what I do
for him," Lucinda wondered as she took another slow sip of her mixed drink.
"I don't look bad--for my age. Hell, in fact, it's not really age. It's
experience. I look good to say I'm as experienced as am."
Lucinda smirked as she thought how Sandra couldn't massage Billy Jo's feet
like she did, then wash them in a little antique porcelain wash basin--I bet she
doesn't even own any antiques, dry them with a ultra-fluffy, teal-colored towel,
and then slowly suck his toes as her fingernails crawled up and down the soles
of his size eleven feet. And for sure, Sandra had no clue of some of the more
simulating thrills Billy Jo's big toe could arouse.
Like when Lucinda felt
really risque, really felt like lighting up Billy Jo's little firecracker in
her sexy night sky, after cutting his toe nails with a clipper and gently
buffing the edges to a smooth evenness with an emery board, after washing them
in warm water with a scented soap, after tenderly drying them and then sucking
them as he lay back on their bed, after massaging his feet with baby oil, and as
it got good to him, after all of that Lucinda would climb up on the bed and
slowly stroke her pussy with his big toe, stroke it until she was wet. God, a
woman didn't know what she missing if she had never reached a climax with her
lover's toe tapping on her clitoris. What did that inexperienced child know
about sophisticated lovemaking? Lucinda took a long sip of her drink.
Lucinda thought about how pleasantly surprised Billy Jo always seemed
whenever she dropped in on him at work. With a toss of her luxuriously coiffured
hair which had been crafted into a gleaming and glistening, jet black, lengthy,
chemically treated mane which languidly lay across her shoulders, Lucinda
remembered how it had been the last time she turned on Billy Jo at his office.
"Billy, I was in the neighborhood. I was on my way to that little
boutique I discovered, you know the one I told you specializes in silk batiks
and as I crossed Poydras I felt this twinge like a little spark of
lightening." He had looked at her partially annoyed but also partially
pleased as she stroked his male ego. "I couldn't wait. So..." she slid
seductively around his desk, "I decided to stop here."
Lucinda reached down and slightly opened Billy Jo's bottom desk drawer. She
propped her leg up on the edge of the drawer as she took his right hand and
cunningly glided it beneath her skirt and up her thigh. Lucinda shuddered
involuntarily as she expertly guided his fingers into the curly mass of pubic
hair and the moist flesh of her mound. She tensed her thigh muscles when his
fingers reached her clit. "Yes, yes, I needed that," she salaciously
whimpered while throwing her head back and squeezing her eyes closed with the
same intensity as the forceful contractions caused by Billy Jo's fingertips tap
dancing on the head of her clitoris. Lucinda savored the first trickles of what
would soon become a musky flow. And then his phone rang. It was intrusive Sandra
reminding "Mr. Brown" he had an appointment in ten minutes.
"That's enough," Lucinda said pulling his hand away, "for
now." And then she remembered his astonishment as she bent over to slowly
suck her moisture off of his fingers. "We can't have you smelling like
pussy when you shake hands with the movers and shakers of industry."
When Lucinda completed tongue washing each finger, she reached into her mauve
silk purse which hung by a silver metal shoulder strap dangling off her left
hip. Moving aside her black satin panties which she had removed in the parking
garage, she withdrew a pink linen handkerchief that was embroidered with her
initials. Before she finished drying his fingers, there was a knock at the door.
As Sandra entered, Lucinda ostentatiously finished her task with a flourish,
waving the handkerchief, "there, all clean, all dry."
After daintily refolding her handkerchief and replacing it in her brightly
beaded pouch, Lucinda slowly kissed her husband on his clean shaved cheek,
paused to close the bottom desk drawer and cheerfully called out to him over her
shoulder as she sashayed past Sandra, "have a good meeting honey, we'll
finish ours tonight."
Pausing at the doorway, Lucinda pirouetted coyly, "and Sandra, you have
a nice day. Ok." That little narrow-ass secretary didn't know anything
about how to administer sexual quickies.
While she was lost in the reverie of remembering the sexual games she often
played with Billy Jo, an impeccably dressed young man sat on a stool one removed
from Lucinda. Attracted by the resonance of his masculine baritone ordering a
cognac, Lucinda turned to look directly at his massive profile. She sniffed and
caught the faint whiff of an expensive cologne. He was ruggedly handsome.
"Hi," she smiled at him.
He looked at her briefly. Lucinda saw the almost imperceptible survey flicker
as his eyes started at her face, moved quickly down her body, strayed briefly to
her behind--she sat up straight and slightly arched her back--and down her legs,
and...nothing. He turned away without even responding.
She wanted to throw her drink at him. Instead she decided to annoy him.
"I said, hello."
He grunted, turned his head and pretended he was ignoring her. Lucinda hated
to be ignored.
She got up, slid onto the stool next to him, and ignored his ignoring her.
"My name is Lucinda."
"And your name is?"
Oh god, what a common name, Lucinda thought, he probably doesn't even have a
college degree. Lucinda's liquor continued the conversation, "Jawon, that's
nice." Pushing her purse aside, Lucinda leaned forward on the bar's leather
lining. "Jawon, I'm conducting a survey. Would you mind if I asked you a
couple of opinion questions?"
Jawon grunted without looking at her.
"I take that grunt to mean, 'oh god, why doesn't this old bag just leave
me alone with her silly questions. I'll answer one or two, but she better make
Jawon was slightly taken aback by her boldness. He turned to get a second
look at this woman. Lucinda leaned back slightly, crossed her legs, and did not
bother to tug down her worsted wool dress. Noticing her broad, soft calf
leather, black belt with the bold, gold buckle, Jawon accessed she was probably
some kind of leather freak who liked to tie down men or spank them with riding
whips. Nah, it's not worth it, was his final appraisal.
"If our ages were reversed," Lucinda leaned forward again, bracing
her flawlessly made-up face with the back of her exquisitely manicured hand,
"If I was a mature man and you were a young attractive woman, would you be
offended if I brushed you off without so much as a civil hello?" Sporting a
self-assured smile, Lucinda looked directly at Jawon awaiting his answer.
Acid cruelly dripped from Jawon's thickly mustached lips, "I think you
ought to be at home baby-sitting your grandchildren instead of out here trying
to rob the cradle."
"Ah ha. Well, Jawon, ten years from now, I hope you're not sitting on
the other end of this question, and if you are, I hope the lady's whose
attention you're trying to get, is just a bit more understanding than you are
now. That's all. You may go now."
Jawon backed off the stool and walked away, leaving a dollar tip on the bar
and no further acknowledgment of Lucinda. Lucinda turned to face the mirror
behind the bar and in the reflection caught sight of Roderick, the genial
bartender, standing discreetly to the side dressed in black slacks, crisply
starched white shirt topped with a hand-tied black bow tie, and a black and
white checkered vest highlighted by a metal name tag which mirrored the bar's
multicolored neon and florescent lit interior. There was neither smile nor smirk
on Roderick's lips, nor did his eyes give any indication that he had watched the
drama unfold. Without bothering to look directly at him, Lucinda sat her drink
on the dark wood of the bar and familially addressed Roderick, "Well,
Rodney don't just stand there. Freshen my drink, please."
As Roderick moved toward her, Lucinda glanced at her watch. It was almost
midnight in Portland. Lucinda mischievously decided to call Billy Jo and disturb
whatever little excitement in which he was engaged. Before Roderick could pour
the freshener, Lucinda waved him off, "Rodney, I've decided to go home
instead of sitting here and getting my feelings hurt. Be the gentleman that you
are and call a cab for me please."
Lucinda never, never ever drove her white Lexus when she went alone to paint
the town. A solitary woman cruising down the avenues late at night was like
flashing a baked ham in front of hungry bulldogs. Any man that she might meet
would pay more attention to her car than to her, and assume that where there was
a Lexus there was a big bank account that they might access. Besides, it was
safer this way. Not that she had ever done much more than flirt--just to see if
she still had what it took to attract a man ten years younger than she. Most of
the time... oh, why think about.
Pulling two crisp, new twenties from her purse, Lucinda waved them at
Roderick, "I assume this will cover my tab for four doubles and also
adequately provide for your well being."
Roderick nodded affirmatively as he received the bills with a smile. His
clean shaven head was oiled to a soft attractive sheen and were it not for the
gaucherie of two gold capped teeth, Lucinda might have found him attractive as
well as personable. "Will there be anything else I can do for you?" he
asked Lucinda in a charming tone that implied he was both a trustworthy listener
and a resourceful procurer.
Lucinda's liquor got the better of her normal disinterest in what other
people did or didn't do. "Does diabetes run in your family Rodney?"
"Not that I know of. No, I don't believe so. A little arthritis is all
I've ever heard about, but then my folks are from the country, out Vacherie way.
Don't a day go by they don't walk at least a mile and all their food is fresh,
"You're fortunate, Rodney. Did you know the treatment for diabetes is
deleterious to the libido."
"So, I've heard."
"Watch your diet young man, we wouldn't want your libido going south
before you're sixty-five."
"Ah, no mam. We certainly wouldn't want that to happen." Roderick
had been idly wondering if she were single or out for a fling, or both. Without
her having to say anymore he knew that she was grieving for a husband or lover
who was no longer sexually active. Someone called to him from the other end of
the near empty bar. Roderick waved an acknowledgment to the customer while he
was wrapping up with Lucinda. "Is there a particular company you
"No. How would I know, I don't usually take cabs."
"Ok. I'll be right back." Roderick walked briskly down to the
waiting customer, served him, reached under the register, pulled out his
portable phone and rotely dialed the White Fleet number as he walked back to
where the matronly woman sat.
"A cab is on the way. The dispatcher will ring me when they're
"Such an efficient young man you are."
"Thank you," said Roderick with a bow of his bald head.
"Rodney, one more thing."
"Yes. At your service."
"Might, I use your phone to make a quick long distance call?"
requested Lucinda while removing another crisp twenty from her purse along with
the note page on which Billy Jo had written his hotel telephone number. "My
husband would just love to hear from me at this particular moment."
Roderick took the twenty with his right hand and handed the phone to her with
"Take your time," Roderick said over his shoulder as he moved to
the far end of the bar.
"Mr. William James Brown, please. He's a guest." Lucinda smirked at
the thought of calling Billy Jo from a bar. "Hello, my lover. Where ever
"You know where I am. I gave you the number and you called it."
"I miss you."
"I miss you too, honey."
Then there was an awkward silence as Lucinda waited for Billy Jo to indicate
interest in her. And waited. And waited.
"Other than missing you, I'm doing all right, thank you," Lucinda
finally broke the silence, not bothering to mask her sarcasm.
"I'll be home late Sunday night."
"Should I wait up?"
"You don't have to."
"Billy Jo why do you..." her words trailed off into a stiff
silence. Something was in her eye, she paused to dab the edges of her left eye
with the heel of her hand. "You know where I am now?"
"No, I don't Lucinda. Where are you?"
"I'm sitting in a bar, but I would rather be somewhere with you."
Something else was in her eye now. "Billy I just want to make you happy.
Be good to you. Make it all good to you..." Lucinda abruptly stopped
babbling. "You see you've got me babbling. Would it excite you if I told
you I wanted you so much that we could make phone sex right now. And...,"
Lucinda paused. "I started to say something really naughty but this is a
mobile phone and anyone could be listening."
Silence. The liquor kept her talking long after she normally would have
"I'll be forty-nine next week and, in another four months or so, you'll
be forty-six, and that's not so old. I was thinking maybe some other medication
might...," his silence was not making it easy. "Are you sorry that I
couldn't have children?" As Lucinda questioned Billy she instantly
regretted saying anything and wished that he would say something. Anything.
"Billy are you there?"
"Yes, I'm here."
"And I'm not."
"Lucinda, I think you've had too much to drink."
"It's all right. I'm catching a cab home."
"See you Sunday night, honey."
Lucinda held the phone to her ear long, long after the dial tone sounded
following Billy Jo hanging up. As Lucinda lowered the phone from her ear,
Roderick moved toward her. Before she could hand the phone back to him, it rang
and startled her. She almost dropped it. Roderick grabbed it, also catching hold
of her hand in the process of securing the phone.
"It's ok, I've got it." She left her hand nestled in Roderick's as
he used his free hand to expertly hit the talk button, shift the phone to his
ear, and answer, "Hello." While he listened to whomever was talking,
Lucinda tightened her fingers on Roderick's hand. "Thanks. She will be
Roderick hit the talk off button and leaned on the bar without trying to pull
his hand away. "Your cab is outside."
"Yes, it is."
"Rodney, you wouldn't be interested..."
"I don't get off until four and I've already promised..."
"Just kidding." said Lucinda unconvincingly as she reluctantly
released his hand. "Have a good night."
Lucinda slowly descended from the stool, studiously attempting to maintain
her balance and walk as straight as she could. Roderick shook his head,
"the world is full of lonely people."
Meanwhile, in Portland, Billy Jo lay on his side in the dark, Sandra firmly
massaging his back.
"That was Lucinda."
"What did she want?"
"Nothing. She was drunk."
* * * *
"45 is not so old" (Dark Eros, 1999)—"it's in
dark eros, but i think it is listed under a pseudonym
that the editor used because he was also using some of my poetry and a rather
long essay" (Kalamu ya Salaam)
An updated version of "Forty-Five Is not so
Old" was published in Robert Fleming's 2004
Intimacy. That version is also online in
Kalamu's new blog
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music website >
writing website >
daily blog >
* * *
Guarding the Flame of Life
New Orleans Jazz Funeral for tuba player Kerwin
They danced atop his casket Jaran 'Julio' Green
Audio: My Story, My Song (Featuring blues
guitarist Walter Wolfman Washington)
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* * *
Obama's America and the New
Jim Crow (Michelle Alexander)
/ Michelle_Alexander Part
II Democracy Now
Michelle Alexander Speaks At
2 of 4 /
part 3 of 4 /
part 4 of 4
more African Americans under
today--in prison or jail, on
probation or parole—than
were enslaved in 1850, a
decade before the Civil War
began. If you take into
account prisoners, a large
majority of African American
men in some urban areas,
like Chicago, have been
labeled felons for life.
These men are part of a
growing undercaste, not
class, caste—a group of
people who are permanently
relegated, by law, to an
status. They can be denied
the right to vote,
automatically excluded from
juries, and legally
discriminated against in
employment, housing, access
to education and public
as their grandparents and
great-grandparents once were
during the Jim Crow era.—Michelle
The New Jim Crow
* * *
The Natural Mystics: Marley, Tosh, and Wailer
By Colin Grant
The definitive group biography of the Wailers—Bob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Livingston—chronicling their rise to fame and power. Over one dramatic decade, a trio of Trenchtown R&B crooners swapped their 1960s Brylcreem hairdos and two-tone suits for 1970s battle fatigues and dreadlocks to become the Wailers—one of the most influential groups in popular music. Colin Grant presents a lively history of this remarkable band from their upbringing in the brutal slums of Kingston to their first recordings and then international superstardom. With energetic prose and stunning, original research, Grant argues that these reggae stars offered three models for black men in the second half of the twentieth century: accommodate and succeed (Marley), fight and die (Tosh), or retreat and live (Livingston). Grant meets with Rastafarian elders, Obeah men (witch doctors), and other folk authorities as he attempts to unravel the mysteries of Jamaica's famously impenetrable culture. Much more than a top-flight music biography, The Natural Mystics offers a sophisticated understanding of Jamaican politics, heritage, race, and religion—a portrait of a seminal group during a period of exuberant cultural evolution. 8 pages of four-color and 8 pages of black-and-white illustrations. Colin Grant Interview, The Natural Mystics
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update 16 June 2008