Sunday, May 27, 2007

A Memorial Day Reverie

A Memorial Day Reverie

by Rudolph Lewis, editor: Chickenbones, a journal

The night is cool. There is a pregnant half moon at midnight casting shadows on the lawn. There are breezes in the pines and the oaks. A whippoorwill is in the southern woods. A bird whistles in the dark. In the cemetery hickory nesting are mockingbirds that utter a peep every now and then. The coolness has stilled the insect symphony and the choruses of tree frogs. No rain is expected until next week. So it has been a week of cool nights and warm days, though today it got up to about 90 or so. My room was hot, so I was in and out, away from the computer and working on my website. My automobile is in the shop so I have had to wander about the house -- in and out of Mama's room watching a movie here and there.
I also sat on the porch awhile and read a chapter of The Dark Heathenism of the American Novelist Ishmael Reed by Pierre-Damien Mvuyekure, which involves Reed's literary criticisms of Eurocentric monoculturalism and violence and how he counters it with HooDoo. While there in that mindframe there were those who were visiting the dead, putting flowers on the graves of th dead and the telling of stories about them. As Marvin X reminded me with his Memorial Day poem, most of us black folk treat this holiday muck like All Soul's Day in New Orleans.
We do not deal with it as a day for the military dead. All our lives have been like a war, I suppose, especially when one lives in urban centers. I lived through the "rebellions" of 1968 while in Baltimore and in Harlem. Lived through the wars that the police made on the black community post-1968, and the rise of petty drug gangs of survival. Black youngsters filling up local prisons so that they are now bursting at the seams. Lived through the traditions of RIPs painted on abandoned houses in the slum areas.
I have escaped that world for at least a year now. Here, in the countryside, some come down from the cities to remember their dead. They bring their hoes and brooms and clean around and off the graves. This church cemetery began in 1948. There are two former slaves buried here and more sons and daughters of slaves buried here. So visitors to the cemetery wander about looking at tombstones and vaults of not just their immediate kin. This kind of activity will be going on through Monday. Of course, there are some family cemeteries as well. Some of them are overgrown with bush and trees. And some of the very old ones have been plowed under.
To while my time away, I have seen a lot of John Wayne movies, well, at least, three. One was a rendition of the Alamo Story and the last one about Wayne as a HUAC agent spying on and arresting Communists in Hawaii. I suppose if I didn't know about Du Bois, Robeson, and Langston Hughes, I would see John Wayne as very heroic. My last movie for the day was the 1933 version of King Kong. I've seen it before but experience always allows us to look at such films with fresh eyes. This time the film reminded me of 9/11 and its aftermath. It had similar props and themes: urban terrorism with white women falling from tall buildings; civilization vs primtivism; the significance of air power defeating urban terrorists; the easy defeat and exploitation of Third World peoples, cultures, and wildlife. Of course, we never get to know these people. They are wearing strange garments and dancing around fires and uttering Voodoo words.
Kong was removed from his natural habitat and carried to New York so that the lead character, a Barnum & Bailey, could exploit him as one of Nature's freaks, as the 8th Wonder of the World, exploited much like the South African woman on display in 19th century France. Kong's blind attraction to Western beauty led to his death, a fall from a high place, much like Sadaam Hussein. Maybe beauty killing the beast will be the case with Iraq as well. Our President tells us rather plainly and dryly that we can expect more death and destruction there. He's like a father. So brace ourselves for the inevitable. He assures us nevertheless that we must have faith in our military technology to do the job to bring the oil home. That the 3000 dead (so far) will be redeemed. One longs indeed to have respect for and faith in one's fathers.
Maybe it will be as Father Bush and the militarists say. I doubt it. Memorial days come and go. We will have another one next year, if we are here. Maybe the 3000 will not have doubled. But I suppose we Americans must have our hero myths, even if they are built on Hollywood actors like Ronald Reagan and John Wayne. But I think we need to explore them more deeply. We need more dancing. Have you ever seem Ron or John Wayne do the twist. But the West mocks the Sun Dance, the boogaloo, Juba, and the Congo. Our inflexible world is becoming more and more costly, socially disruptive, and deadly. We do have our military dead here at Jerusalem--from WWI, WWII. Korea, and Vietnam As far as I know we have none from the Middle East wars. Such wars are, however, endless so there is still that possibility.The moon still cast shadows. Whippoorwill stll sings his songs as the earth and the morning cool. Like most Americans I feel rather helpless in the matter of our foreign wars and our global plans to dominate the planet. That I am a registered voter seems rather meaningless. That I am thoughtful only causes my blues to have an edge. Reed says writing is fighting. But I am losing confidence in that too. I looked over the revised percentages:
30% Bush loyalists, most of whom have the tradition "slave mentality" of the white middle-class
30% Passionate true believers, but susceptible to propagands and capble of 180 degree turns
30% Fence sitters, cynics, opportunists
10% People who are capable of intelligent analysis
Well that kind of political grouping saddens me indeed. It will be difficult to get a word in edge wise with that kind of audience. I am so afraid that the John Wayne movies will win out this Memorial Day. But I still have the silence of the birds and the insects, the sacredness of the fields and forest to give me some comfort and maybe even help me to work some hoodoo. A few friends also send me their musings. So at least I am not alone in these sad times. I am glad that we have persons around like Marvin X. Even in my sadness, he makes me laugh. Maybe he will give you a chuckle too -- Rudy

Memorial Day, 2007

I am a veteran
Not of foreign battlefields
Like my father in world war one
My uncles in world war two
And Korea
Or my friends from Vietnam
And even the Congo “police action”
But veteran none the less
Exiled and jailed because I refused
To visit Vietnam as a running dog for imperialism
So I visited Canada , Mexico and Belize
Then Federal prison for a minute
But veteran I am of the war in the hood
The war of domestic colonialism and neo-colonialism
White supremacy in black face war
Fighting for black power that turned white
Or was always white as in the other white people
So war it was and is
Every day without end no RR no respite just war
For colors like kindergarten children war
For turf warriors don’t own and run when popo comes
War for drugs and guns and women
War for hatred jealousy
Dante got a scholarship but couldn’t get on the plane
The boyz in the hood met him on the block and jacked him
Relieved him of his gear shot him in the head because he could read
Play basketball had all the pretty girls a square
The boyz wanted him dead like themselves
Wanted him to have a shrine with liquor bottles and teddy bears
And candles
Wanted his mama and daddy to weep and mourn at the funeral
Like all the other moms and dads and uncle aunts cousins
Why should he make it out the war zone
The blood and broken bones of war in the hood
No veterans day no benefits no mental health sessions
No conversation who cares who wants to know about the dead
In the hood
the warriors gone down in the ghetto night
We heard the Uzi at 3am and saw the body on the steps until 3 pm
When the coroner finally arrived as children passed from school

I am the veteran of ghetto wars of liberation that were aborted
And morphed into wars of self destruction
With drugs supplied from police vans
Guns diverted from the army base and sold 24/7 behind the Arab store.
Junior is 14 but the main arms merchant in the hood
He sells guns from his backpack
His daddy wants to know how he get all them guns
But Junior don’t tell cause he warrior
He’s lost more friends than I the elder
What can I tell him about death and blood and bones
He says he will get rich or die trying
But life is for love not money
And if he lives he will learn.
If he makes it out the war zone to another world
Where they murder in suits and suites
And golf courses and yachts
if he makes it even beyond this world
He will learn that love is better than money
For he was once on the auction block and sold as a thing
For money, yes, for the love of money but not for love
And so his memory is short and absent of truth
The war in the hood has tricked him into the slave past
Like a programmed monkey he acts out the slave auction
The sale of himself on the corner with his homeys
Trying to pose cool in the war zone
I will tell him the truth and maybe one day it will hit him like a bullet
In the head
It will hit him multiple times in the brain until he awakens to the real battle
In the turf of his mind.
And he will stand tall and deliver himself to the altar of truth to be a witness
Along with his homeys
They will take charge of their posts
They will indeed claim their turf and it will be theirs forever
Not for a moment in the night
But in the day and in the tomorrows
And the war will be over
No more sorrow no more blood and bones
No more shrines on the corner with liquor bottles teddy bears and candles.
--Marvin X
25 May 2007
Brooklyn NY

for the best of marvin x, go to

1 comment:

A. Nzinga, MA, MFA said...

I am glad to have found this page. Please call. I need a number. Sages need thier entourage, so please check in. (sooner than later, please.) the poem, and indeed you are a vet. A true triple OG.
Much Respect