Tuesday, May 6, 2008

'hood, the Fifth

To everything
there is a season
and a time for every purpose….
….a time to kill
…. a time to die
…. a time to love
…. a time to hate

Pete Seeger

Civil War inLaos

(The Secret War)
Brother Bernard gently touched my arm and shook me until I peeked out from my swollen eyelids. “Good morning” he said softly and I smiled at him and admitted to aching all over. “It’s time for breakfast; big day ahead. I’ll see you in ten minutes” and he left me alone in my soreness.
I’d arrived at the farm just yesterday, courtesy of Marie’s uncle in the monastery. The room was kinda small with just a bed and dresser and chair and cross on the wall. There were clean towels, too. So I had this WWII duffle bag from her dad and didn’t unpack anything because I sat to think about whether I was staying. I missed her already, not because I hadn’t seen her – shit, it was just this morning that they put me on the train and sent me off. We both had tears. I missed her because the plan I agreed to was to stay here for several weeks and I already thought about breaking that promise at least 4 times. Her dad gave me his word to keep me up to date with happenings in the ‘hood. He never did promise me Marie.
I had to eat because I only had breakfast and now it was three o’clock and Brother Bernard led me through a maze from my room, past the chapel and to the kitchen. It was the biggest kitchen I’d ever seen and there were pots and pans on three stoves that I could see. The smells were fresh from long tables of newly picked and cleaned vegetables and then there was the hot soup and hot bread. Three men in robes were chopping and peeling and stirring and greeted me with silent smiles. Brother Bernard asked me if I liked peas and carrots (I really didn’t) and handed me about four bunches of carrots and a peeler after I nodded that I did.
There was no wasted time or motion in these rooms. We ate, in silence, and the dining room was cleaned in moments. I was taken outside and handed a pair of big rubber boots that reached almost to my knees. It was time to earn my keep. We headed straight to the barn where a wagon of baled hay was resting at the bottom of a conveyor belt. Someone gave me one of those hooks with a wood handle and pointed up the ladder to the topside door of the silo. So I went up. Inside it smelled both fresh and musty at the same time; a little weird up my nose. A motor started outside and the belt began whirring into the silo door. The first bale was on its way and the Brother next to me stuck a hook into it and pulled it back. Behind him, another very large Brother heaved it up to another who dropped it atop those sent up earlier in the day. Before I could turn around, another bale was on its way to the very large Brother and he, again, heaved it up. The Brother next to me said “Your turn” and I guessed I had to hook the next bale and send it towards the growing stack of hay bales. It felt good to do it right! Every five minutes we took a very short break so the stacker Brothers could move up a row and I was impressed as hell with the distance Big Brother could heave those bales. All the while we’re in there is a dust cloud from the bales being thrown around and my nose is filling up. After about four breaks to move the rows, Brother Bernard called up to send me down; so out and down I went hoping for a lighter duty. Seems one of the older Brothers needed to go back to that castle-like home and I was to replace him. Oughta be easy, he’s about seventy.
and a bale dropped at my feet
Loading it onto the conveyor, I wondered how many wagons they had like this.
How long would I be here?
“i can’t stop loving you”
Ray Charles
# # # # # # # # # #
How many buses did they have to ride? Not so many, after all. If a Negro wanted to ride on the inter-state highway system in a public bus, he could do it this summer. The Kennedy’s – both of them – convinced the Inter-State Commerce Commission to rule that segregated facilities were against the law. Only 400 people had to go to jail - some took a beating - to get it done. Was it worth it? Well, these riders forced Jack and Bobby to take a stand against segregation. Then, up sprang another organization called COFO that was supposed to co-ordinate the activities of about six other groups focusing again on voter registration. Either I didn’t “get it” or they just had too many people all trying to do the same thing at different speeds and pulling in different directions. They needed a leader; COFOs guy was weak and King and Abernathy got arrested in July and stayed in jail thru August. The movement needed a jump start.
A break came just at the right time.

One man stood up.
Field work during the Mississippi summers drained water from a person as a sponge gripped tight would drip its water. His brow wet as a sponge, James worked with his strong back to help his Choctaw Nation to their quota. The number grew slightly every year as he re-called but this year it was such a big increase that more people were asked to help at the Nation even if they had moved on. He had only left twice in his lifetime: once to serve in the air force for nine years and the second time to go to school at Jackson State University. Twice before denied by Ole Miss, he did apply a third time and worked in the fields while awaiting a new and correct response. He needed a “Dear Mr. Meredith” letter with a better ending.
How long would he have to wait?

# # # # # # # # #

My body got into the Brothers routine by the end of the day and on that third night at the monestary, after the days work, I lay on my bed exhausted yet thought about Bobby and those holes he has in his body.

It was just six days ago that me and him went to Martha’s for some beers. Martha almost always let Bobby and me into her tavern 'cause we pushed her out of a snow bank once and havin' a few beers on her was "thank you". Things were changing, the winds were blowing and we were desperate to feel the direction. High school graduates, our horizons now were broader than just tomorrow - we heard a sound coming and it was scary; but tonite we just needed a coupla beers and some laughs. Good times – I was tired after two pints of beer. I went home. Bobby went lookin for Carm and Sandy. He found ‘em at the Skylark.
I remember seeing the bloodied sidewalk and I remember that Joey saved me from myself – and I remember what Darryl’s father told me about ‘juice’ savin my life. If that was true, how could I be hating him right now? He didn’t do Bobby! 'juices' word is why I’m on this farm – but I don’t know who I’m more afraid of; Tee or ‘juice’.
I shouldn’t be afraid of either of these guys – I know them and they know me – but they don’t know each other and now that they hate each other – who am I?

“Oh my love my darling I've hungered for your touch”

Marie is
hoping the best for me.
Joey would help me.
I could always count on Dom

"When I need love
I hold out my hand and I touch love

I never knew there was so much love

Keeping me warm night and day

Miles and miles of empty space
in between us
a telephone can’t take
the place of your smile
But you know I wont be hiding forever
It’s cold out, but hold out and do like I do”

Righteous Brothers

The ‘hood was un-certain to me for the first time in my life.
Joey didn’t see me.
Marie went away to some school called Northeastern in Boston.
I found out only when her dad picked me up to take me back to the ‘hood and treated it like a piece of news; like about Bobby or the fight between ‘juice’ and Tee or Joey’s pneumonia.
the confusion returned

“He told that you’re leavin´I can´t believe it´s true

Girl there´s just no livin´
If I’m away from you

Don´t take your love away from me
Breakin´ up is hard to do

Remember when ya held me tight
and ya kissed me all through the night
I think of all that we´ve been through

They say it’s hard to do
now I know, I know that it´s true”
breakin' up is hard to do
Neil Sedaka

I was headed to
to find Marie
then to Northwestern

James Meredith was headed

to Ole Miss

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