The Caribbean Writer

Snapshots, Headlines and Clippings

Donna M. Weir


In West African philosophy
time is measured not by
a linear movement of hands
across the face of a clock
but by the sequence of events that occur
in our daily lives
so when the phone rings
at 4 in the morning
and i croak, “mother it’s 4 a.m.”
she says, “there’s an earthquake in LA”
“but i live in Berkeley” i say
she sucks her teeth and says:
“gal git up out de bed and tun on the tv”
and I do
‘cuz see
I got used to 4 o’clock phone calls
way before
knew the heavy-eyed,
shuffling response to the call
of four o’clock feedings
like any working class Woman-of-Color
who has brothers, fathers, sons, cousins
in any inner-city
in this beautiful mosaic of madness
this melting pot of blackeyed peas
and lynchropes,
fried plantains and burning crosses,
blood-puddings and blood-baths….
I am familiar with the fetid smell of fear
it invades our bodies
seeps out of our pores
congeals the blood
when the phone finally rings
after hours of waiting for that one phone call
allowed only when the arresting officer
is good and ready
tethering on the edge of manhood
our youngmen are afraid to make that final leap
lest the gesture be mistaken as a reaching
for that imaginary
gun or blade they’re carrying
so we watch
with a mixture of dread and wonder
as they lock their hair into beautiful coils
of Afrocentric pride
knowing its yet another marker of difference
that will set them apart
label them radical=dangerous=criminal
and yes
it is hard
and insulting
and necessary
to look at your brother-nephew-son
from the perspective
of the women who clutch their handbags
as he bops by head down
completely unaware of her existence
for you still remember making up games
to get him to brush his teeth
watching him fly barefoot thru loose red dirt.
bucking his toe and come running,
snot dripping down his nose
for that magic sister-auntie-mother spit
that’s gonna make it all better
and…like a mother who has
too many children and a fading memory
I still go thru all my brothers’ names first
when I’m trying to summon my only birth-child
So we do not/cannot turn the phone off
so sure that one of these days
the inevitable is going to happen
while we’re sleeping, fucking, writing poetry
and just too busy to answer the damn phone
I still wake up for my son’s 6 o’clock feeding
anticipating the day he will be too macho to say
“I want the Mami, I got a oouie…”
for I have no cure for the disease
that will transform him from cute to criminal
in the gaze of a racist world
that both needs and creates these categories
for its own survival
So when my neighbor watches nervously
as her daughter and my son play together
her anxiety makes me jittery,
I ask “Well, what is it, are they playing or fighting?”
she says “they’re playing, but I’m afraid it will escalate…”
the word hangs in the air like a noose waiting for a neck
escalate into what? I want to ask
I want to say something acerbic and smart like,
“well I removed the oozie from his diaper just this morning”
but i say nothing
for the sound of her own meaning
stripped naked of its pretenses
and shoved back at her, would somehow
find a way to ricochette back on me
inscribing me as the crazy black bitch
she always knew I was
so I say nothing
just let the word hang there like a death sentence
create its own images
develop its own myth of origin
tell its own sordid tale
ESCALATE: Confrontation between the Inkatha Freedom Party
and the ANC escalated into violence in the province of Natal,
South Africa today, 300 ANC supporters were massacred
a ghastly patchwork quilt of dead Black bodies adorn the 6 o’clock
painted Zulus wearing traditional war-gear dance
across the screen balancing spears
on their shoulders
three days later
Buthelezi shakes hands with LeClerc and Mandela
for inter-national tv
instead of his war-clothes Buthelezi wears a suit
and a smile that doesn’t quite reach his eyes
ESCALATE:gang violence escalates in South Central LA
claiming yet another young life…
Black on Black Violence has escalated to enormous
proportions in New York City in the past decade…
deliberately the gaze never focuses on the root
of any of these problems
Zulus are scapegoats for violence in the townships
if you can keep the niggers killing each other
they won’t have time to fight the oppressors
not a drop of supreme white blood will be spilled
in South Africa or South Central
While the Western World waits expectantly for another
democratic election
a euphemism for saying
“niggers stay in your place and watch us make a puppet out of Mandela”
for as history teaches us over and over again
when the smokes clears up
there will be fewer Black people left
to fight over a tiny piece of mock apple pie
and Blacks in South Africa
will be about as free as those in South Central,
Brooklyn, Detroit, Oaktown…
and the new blood yet to be spilled will travel
in a dark red stream down into the very center of the earth
to fuel and ignite the fire at the earth’s core
so do not wonder at the frequency of earthquakes, fires and floods
or the novelty of 2 year old Black Boys learning to say Malcolm
do not even pretend to wonder at the righteous anger of
young Black mothers
for even when you force me to bite my tongue into tiny fragments
I will spit the bloody pieces in yo’ eve.


Copyright © Donna M. Weir

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