ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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But let’s put all of this aside; / for more than all of this, / my personal concern for self

and others has been diminished / by the disgust and enmity / hardening my heart.




Neighbors and Invaders

By Mackie Blanton



Along my inner right thigh

the stealth of teeth or pincers

or stingers

unsuspectingly has

invaded poisoned stiffened

my musculature.


An expected

self-effacing Southern Male

I have quietly endured the stale

pain for five weeks now

bowed by grim armature;

first before leaving the US

and now here, at a sidewalk café,

bending beneath lemon trees over memories,

a cappuccino and chocolate-covered nuts,

at best each night believing it would lift,

at last surrendering to my massages

and caresses.


This unneighborly incursion

happened I suppose six weeks

or so ago

(What do I know of such things?)

on my own Louisiana land

somehow somewhere

among the debris and rubbish


from the womb and maw and tresses

of a sweetly named hurricane.


All I have sought here

was an antibiotic salve

bought in halting Turkish

at an Ankara pharmacy.

I have hope now here in Izmir

that the balm, absorbed below crusting pus,

will work miracles beneath the skin:


a sleuth to match

my silence

an experimenter to match

            my risk-taking

a problem solver warrior to match

            my visitor’s love

for the terrain and plains

of the daughters and sons

of conquerors.


I am kept awake at night

however both by the pain

setting up camp

just above my knee


and by images entrenched

along my brain

of a suffering

worse than my own

(unless of course poisoned

I am dying): of

those abandoned homeless or dead

along America’s Gulf Coast

by an indifferent loveless wind

with a comely name: Katrina.


But let’s put all of this aside;

for more than all of this,

my personal concern for self

and others has been diminished

by the disgust and enmity

hardening my heart.


For my life, for our lives along the Gulf,

have been embalmed by the caresses

of quacks shysters and hucksters

not by the pummeling of

sudden war or famine or suicide bombers

but by the greed and slight of neighbors

massaging their pockets purses and wallets.


There are no words now

sublime enough to distract us

from thieves,

from the truth about men and women

who have not led,

nor even to divert our aim

away from their target heart.


When was I bitten or stung



Was it when I hung out mildew

on tree trunks in the sun light

so that my clothes could air

dry out smell fresh again?


Was it when I fell to my knees,

lay down on toxic pavement,


from rushing through the swampy

stench and mold of living room bed room

study, retrieving possessions things

I would do better to learn to live without?


When were we fooled and betrayed



Was it when we first opened a book

about union unity liberty good citizenship?

The Dream?


Or was it that second book

often read at mother’s knee

about belief community compassion



Again, The Dream.


Those books from my home,

now heaped at the curbside,

besogged with unseen toxicity,

hidden warfare inherent duplicity,

surrender their ink and evasive stains

to the evening air.


Take pictures and save receipts,

adjusters tell us.  My neighbor,

an amateur photographer, will flit

here and there in most of the

neighborhoods of dead zones and

ruin – Flick!  Flick!  Snap!  Snap! –

and frame his takes for an eventual

one man opening at a fine French

restaurant, with wine cheese and

chocolate-covered ants.

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Wow. This is an incredible keeper.

It is so twilight zonish to get mail from you in Turkey about New Orleans.  I guess you are kind of obsessed. I guess I would be too.  I would really like to know the answers to my earlier questions about your life there.  I like to imagine people where they are. I need a sense of place to know and think of my friends.  I have a sense of place for Linda and Jordan now.  Oh my. 

We hear the Avian flu is in Turkey.  Have you heard about that wonderful tidbit?  Linda

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You're going to have to envision me as you get me, Darling.  Did I forget to tell you that, well, now I've had it all?  Just this past -- Monday, was it, already? -- I experienced my first earthquake ever while sitting here at my office desk! And on a morning I forgot both wallet and passport back in my apt.  Who would have been able to identify the corpse?!

They now tell me here that Izmir undergoes underground tremors constantly.  Some people report 150 for Monday; others, 500.  Whatever the exact number, four were felt across the territory on Monday and two were bigger than had been felt in years: 5.7 and 5.9, though the US registered it as a 9.  I could feel the quake move through me and take over my body as if I were just another extension of the room I was in, like a column or a chair or bookcase.  I still have dizzying phantom imaginings that I can feel one starting up again, especially when I am in a tall building; or perhaps what I am feeling is just one of the many tremors of the Anatolian Fault.

The campus closed on Monday, as did all schools.  The streets were filled with parents rushing to rescue their kids.  Kids were crying.  Panicky motorists were arguing, even fighting, because nerves were suddenly on edge.  Some people died from fright or from accidents while rushing out of imagined harm's way.

Most people have slept out in their cars these last two nights, afraid to be indoors where the roof might cave in on them.  They say it's better to live in a two-story apartment building, on the second floor. That way, you won't have far too fall and you are not on the bottom.  In my new apartment building, constructed to be earthquake proof (I hope), I live on the 7th floor. Mackie

posted 19 October 2005

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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#8 - Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby
#9 - The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane

#10 - Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

#11 - Diary Of A Street Diva  by Ashley and JaQuavis

#12 - Don't Ever Tell  by Brandon Massey

#13 - For colored girls who have considered suicide  by Ntozake Shange

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#16 - The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

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#18 - Purple Panties: An Anthology by Sidney Molare

#19 - Stackin' Paper by Joy King

#20 - Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey

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#23 - Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark

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#7 - The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight
#8 - The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing
#9 - The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson

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#12 -The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander

#13 - The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell

#14 - The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore

#15 - Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can't Commit  by RM Johnson

#16 - Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins

#17 - Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell

#18 - A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life's Purpose by Eckhart Tolle

#19 - John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard

#20 - Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris

#21 - Age Ain't Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice

#22 - 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino
#23 - Chicken Soup for the Prisoner's Soul by Tom Lagana
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#25 - Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class  by Lisa B. Thompson

*   *   *   *   *

The Last Holiday: A Memoir

By Gil Scott Heron

Shortly after we republished The Vulture and The Nigger Factory, Gil started to tell me about The Last Holiday, an account he was writing of a multi-city tour that he ended up doing with Stevie Wonder in late 1980 and early 1981. Originally Bob Marley was meant to be playing the tour that Stevie Wonder had conceived as a way of trying to force legislation to make Martin Luther King's birthday a national holiday. At the time, Marley was dying of cancer, so Gil was asked to do the first six dates. He ended up doing all 41. And Dr King's birthday ended up becoming a national holiday ("The Last Holiday because America can't afford to have another national holiday"), but Gil always felt that Stevie never got the recognition he deserved and that his story needed to be told. The first chapters of this book were given to me in New York when Gil was living in the Chelsea Hotel. Among the pages was a chapter called Deadline that recounts the night they played Oakland, California, 8 December; it was also the night that John Lennon was murdered. Gil uses Lennon's violent end as a brilliant parallel to Dr King's assassination and as a biting commentary on the constraints that sometimes lead to newspapers getting things wrong. —Jamie Byng, Guardian / Gil_reads_"Deadline" (audio)  / Gil Scott-Heron & His Music  Gil Scott Heron Blue Collar  Remember Gil Scott- Heron

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Sister Citizen: Shame, Stereotypes, and Black Women in America

By Melissa V. Harris-Perry

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.     

Professor Perry 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 Caucasian babies.

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 indiscriminately.

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—WashingtonPost

*   *   *   *   *

The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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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 Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 17 April 2012




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