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Prophets ghost dance the return / of the crucified to rule the world.

Free dreams of labor love life / going home where no home is.




Ode to Bowling Balls

            for Miriam

                 By Rudolph Lewis


Each day we cry tears forgiving

theft, rape, murder, conquest

we busy in our bee buzzing worlds—


“get up in the morning, look out

for the old folk, raise the young

put bread on the table, and

get some sleep.” Is there more?—


Lost rituals of corn, battle

& manly death in sacred forests.

Is there a place to plan for us?—


Prophets ghost dance the return

of the crucified to rule the world.

Free dreams of labor love life


going home where no home is.

Rushing with abandon down

flood water drains we struggle


over, always starting over, always

having to pickup the pieces & build

anew—“the challenge always to survive


in one piece, with a semblance of sanity."

posted 2 December 2005

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Kam: Rudy, Nice poem. . . . Thanks.

Jeannette:  I like this, especially "going home where no home is." 

Miriam: Rudy, thanks for the dedicationmy lord, a poem for me, quite an honor.  It's interesting the way that you've incorporated my words into the poem, but I believe you're taking a shot (yet again—smile) at my emphasis on the quotidian at the expense, you suggest, of the really important:  poverty, corruption, classism, etc.  But maybe (yet again) I personalize too much.  The girls (K., Sandra, Jeannette, others, and I) talk about this a lot—how we women have to hold up the sky.  And I do, indeed, think it's a gender thing, though I hate like hell to sound sexist.  I truly believe that women have to lead more balanced, more grounded lives, because we have to tend to the everyday realities.  

Well, maybe I should only speak for myself.  I am very, very much concerned about rape, violence, war, corruption, classism, homophobia—all the horrors with which we have to contend--but each day that I get up I have to take care of somebody:  ease the dying, help my sick mother, search for my lost child, pay my grandson's tuition, take food to a friend with lung cancer, help the daughter who fell down the steps last week.  

Then, somehow, through it all, try to DO something about the big issues and, still, find time to write and be productive and creative and make my life mean something in the short time that I'm here on this earth.  Don't you understand that?  Your grandmother, whose letters I read with such interest, held up the sky for you.  As I've explained, the really critical question for me is "Did s/he love enough?"  Yes, your grandmother loved enough.

K. asked, in response to my piece about Rosa Parks, "Does feminism preclude your enjoyment of motherhood and the strengths garnered from nurturing another life . . . then seeing that life develop into adulthood?"  Absolutely not!  Being a mother and a wife and a professor and a lover and a scholar and an activist are part and parcel of who I am as a woman and a feminist.  Yet, whenever I share some of the bits & pieces of my life—my struggle through graduate school with four small children, for example—you guys never give me any credit.  You suggest, sort of elliptically, that my views are too personal, too individual, too middle-class.  Or did I misread your poem?  Love and peace, 

Rudy: "Ode to Bowling Balls," it's not either/or. It's both/and. I was just trying to write a poem. I love you as you are. But I must be me also. That's not an indictment of you. Women must do what they have to do, of whatever class to hold family and support their needs and endeavors. Classism is not an issue in this poem. Did you know in Iraq and Palestine it’s the most educated, skilled, and talented women who blow themselves up to shame their men into action? Special virtues don't just reside in the poor, who may be often their worst enemies.

By the way I too was raised in a world that women (Mama) felt that a woman had her duties and a man had his duties. That which was in the house was her province. Outdoors he had his say. We would not have had all the life we had without Mama. But Daddy was not Mama. We needed both, we a product of both.

Maybe he was impractical. He died people owing him money. Anti-clerical, he was a man concerned with the ethics of religious life, of that which was beyond the comforts of life. Okay, call it manhood, call it peoplehood, call it freedom, call it the Spirit that strives to free itself from the body that restrains it. They struggled like titans--the personal and the political. Did they love each other? They defined love different than what we find in romance novels. Though family still live in a house he built, long after his death, many felt freed from an oppressive regime.

It was mostly his antiquated irrationality that was recalled by the women, the storytellers of the family. And, of course, I had my criticisms. As a child, he was brutal, a son of a slave. Today, when I measure myself against what he accomplished I find myself a small fellow when it comes to holding together a family against rapacious forces. he did it with five daughters during the Great depression when they were paying 25 cents a day. 

It's not always that we see the other in our mirror. He said when I go out into the world I'd find out what he tells me the world is. Of course, it was not either/or.

I found his truth but I could not respond to it as he, make his sacrifices, only my own. As I grow older I love him even the more, though when he died I held a grudge, maybe that's  what insufficient love is. Now, in my own way, I have become him. 

Truly, I meant no offense in using your words. They just happen to work in a poem I was trying to write. I was watching a Burns film on the decimation of Crazy Horse, Chief Joseph, those of the Ghost Dance, Wounded Knee, and an Indian today speaking of how he deals with these memories. And then your words, a capsule of black life, in response to Ariel Sharon's starting a new party—that he has some balls, unlike some of our own black leaders. It all got mixed up.

I am your admirer. Your sentiments and others are mine that I struggle with each day, not because they are not real and true but there is always so much more, and that there has to be more, and I want that which is more, too. Both be the same universe. The poem if anything mirrors this internal struggle when times worsen.

Oh, by the way, I took a few liberties and posted a promo of Homespun Images

Miriam: We're on the same page, Rudy.  No, it's not either/or; it's ying and yang, male and female, individual and collective, personal and public.  But the elements exist in a precarious balance, and each of us must find the percentage of both/and that is right for us.  

When I'm dialoguing with my male friends, I have to keep the woman thing, the gender thing, up front because so often when we debate about race and class, the female element is subsumed, swept under the rug, as it were.  I was happy that, in posting my comments, you pointed the reader to the four powerful and empathetic articles that Kalamu wrote about women.  He is definitely a do-right, think-sane brother, as are you.

I did not know that the most educated and talented women in Iraq & Palestine are the ones who blow themselves up and that they do so to shame their husbands.  Are you sure about that?  I haven't read that anywhere.  In one of the recent bombings, for example, it was the husband apparently who persuaded his wife to join the group, but her bomb didn't detonate.

The strict separation of duties according to gender—that outside/inside division—that your parents followed has been substantially relaxed by successive generations.  From all that you've said about them in various narratives, I have the impression that, as the children of slaves, they were traditional, old-fashioned, stern disciplinarians, who probably carried a stick and knew how to use it. 

My mother describes my great grandparents, former slaves, in the same way.  Though you may chafe at that impracticality, irrationality, and even brutality, it produced a fine son with solid values—YOU.  Those of us who are your friends certainly do not see you as a "small fellow."  You have accomplished so much more than he ever dreamed of, and, were he alive today, I know that he would be very proud of you and of your achievements, especially your acts of kindness and generosity.  No, I don't think you are like him, but you have just learned to understand him better and, therefore, to love him more.

When I speak of love, as in "Did s/he love enough?", I am not talking about romantic love either.  I am speaking of the capacity that an individual has to love another, be it one's child, parent, spouse, or friend. I suspect that your parents did not love each other in the way that we think of the term today.  (By the way, (and you don't have to answer this if you don't want to) is your birth mother still living?  Did you know your birth father?  Do you have any kind of relationship with your siblings?  You mentioned living with your mother & siblings when you first came to Baltimore).

I saw the same Burns film about the decimation of the Native Americans several years ago.  Isn't it a part of a whole series on the building of the West, in which each segment deals with a different ethnic group?  What the Europeans did and are still doing to the Native Americans is criminal.

Your "Bowling Ball" poem is strong.  I'll write about it later.

"I own you as my son.  No grand Son."

Rudy, I just finished reading (in part) your Introduction  to your mother's letters and then a few more of the letters.  Both are very very moving, especially the reason that you give for preserving and posting the letters—so that your family and that holy ground will never be forgotten.  I understand so well how your mother felt because that's the way that I feel about my grandson Gregory.  

He's my son.  I took him in my arms when he came out of his mother's body, brought him home with me, nursed him through all his illnesses, rescued him when his drunken father ran his mother out of the house with a shotgun, paid his way through college, and talked to him often about life & love. 

On Dec. 16th, I'll go to Knoxville to see him graduate from college.  My baby!

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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

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