ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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 Few hands are needed these days / to till the soil when machines are quicker

than black fingers & stronger than black / backs. The Snakes, hunters, resisted the

feminizing of both farming & Christians.




Dreading Distrust & Reparations

                                           By Rudolph Lewis


Struck by lightning, a dead pine that’s been falling

for the last three months held up by limbs of live trees

finally hit the ground, today. There was no witness


except God & the ground upon which it fell. I had

on my mind fixing the roof of a forty-year-old storehouse

in much disrepair for decades, though it has been used


to store furniture, records, tools, books—covered in

mildew, mold, & dirt. Rain & rodents & ants have 

gnawed away Daddy’s carpentry he left for us in 1970.


The floor & walls are in as worst shape as the roof.

Why I took on this costly & extended project is

as mysterious & doubtless as idiotic as  murderous


bombs falling from the sky in distant Lebanon. Maybe

we’re preparing for an ominous future, when birds don’t

sing, a greater bloody war in which much more will be


lost than unhealthy inflated egos. Our tender sentiments

of a Warsaw ghetto past won’t be undone, nor our

eternally repairing what cannot be really repaired.


24 July 2006

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Reparations along the Nottoway

                                              By Rudolph Lewis

In this dark, damp forest, sounds of tree

frogs & insects still rule the night. Along

the bend of Nottoway—river of Nadowa

a people whose banner was burned over

three centuries ago—arrowheads can still

be found at Stony Creek where ancestor

clan Cheroenhaka mothers used to camp.


Today, a fawn was bounding through a

field of soybeans hearing the roar of my

engine. Few hands are needed these days

to till the soil when machines are quicker

than black fingers & stronger than black

backs. The Snakes, hunters, resisted the

feminizing of both farming & Christians.


In these woods the tarred roads we travel

now didn’t exist when I was a boy. There

was not even dirt roads when Mama was

a girl here at Jerusalem. Then there were

wagon trails & horse paths on which she

rode Duke bareback miles for a doctor’s

office up in Jarratt. Her father owned 75


acres of this forest then. The children of

slaves left these woods for urban centers

long after the Snake people lost the skies

to their conquerors. Scattered over seven

states & Canada, they’ll returning today

gathering to reclaim bloodlines—what’s

been lost in ledgers & museums. Can we

be repaired seeking bones, ancient spirits

wandering among cypress, oaks & pines?

26 July 2006

*   *   *   *   *

Reparations as an Artful Enterprise

                                     By Rudolph Lewis

I’ve almost gotten all the boards nailed down

on the storehouse roof—an enterprise started

as one of collaboration & cooperation like all

beginnings on the shores of discovery. Now I

go it alone. There’s always an injury in body

soul or spirit—some excuse, treaty violation

when peoples have different ways of going

about reaching a goal. Some dream of being

drivers, of pushing those below through the

heat & cold until the harvest is done. Some

tasks like carpentry require more measuring

& thought than dropping seeds in the tilled

soil, holding the handles of a plow, walking

or riding a machine. Repairing or restoring

is a more delicate matter. It depends less on

the richness of the soil or temper of weather.

It requires a vision of something lasting far

beyond one’s self, the aching of one’s belly.

26 July 2006

*   *   *   *   *

Divine Reparations Are Eternal

                                         By Rudolph Lewis

Summer is at its fullest. Our garden gave

& continues in its bounty: snaps, tomatoes

corn, spinach, kale, cabbages, butter beans.


August revival approaches—bombs still

fall. There is a market in winding sheets

for Gaza babies; people are on the move.


Today’s sultry stillness with its shadows

dry & scorching created a night without

moon or stars. Insects are a feast for bats.


We have our moments when Nature is at

her gentlest: a sun golden peeps through

the pines; soft breezes caress my cheek.


Can a soul ask for more with this spring

like respite: white bell flowers with red

centers blooming on the lawn? The birds


perched on their limbs are silently in awe

as tree frogs cry for rain in the rustling of

green leaves—a bloody mosquito & gnats


cannot spoil this wondrous cool evening.


28 July 2006

*   *   *   *   *

To Hell with Blackness & Nationalism

                                           By Rudolph Lewis


In this green forest of winding country roads

there are seldom two beams of car lights to

break in on the silent peace of insect songs


& the darkness of moonless, humid nights.

If not too insufferable I sit on the screened

porch, across from the cemetery, & listen


for God’s voice to speak as my ancestor.

Always skeptical, I’m sure I’d ask, “What

did you say?” I suffer like many deafness.


In a world filled with horrors, kidnapping

& other crimes—the clanging sickness of

terror & death I find it difficult to measure


what is truth. Daily, I go about my simple

tasks. Today, I shelled butter beans for a

few hours. Tomorrow, I return to roofing


my father’s storehouse. Now & then I try

to read a few pages in a scholarly  book

on the efficacy of blackness. As always


I raise questions. Who is it that speaks

to me across time & space? Is this God

or Satan? I sink another nail in tar paper.

31 July 2006

Poems from Mockingbirds at Jerusalem by Rudolph Lewis

posted 1 August 2006

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama's political success and Oprah Winfrey's financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today... than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don't know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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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 Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

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

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update 22 March 2012




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