Category Archives: Non Fiction

Metal Stained Crimson

Contributor~ Amanda Zober
As I look down at the pages in front of me, I can feel the ice cold metal of the blade slide. I see the scars across his hands and the blade slide across marred skin. The pages are filled with his self mutilation, scars from long ago and freshly healed wounds cover his flesh. I stare in shock at the book in front of me, not because of what he was doing, but because of the past that haunts me. The cold metal of a pointed blade slides across my skin, I can feel the blade as if it were truly there. The strong odor of iron fills the air; I can remember the pain and watching as blood flowed through the self-induced slit. I can remember reveling in the pain; enjoying every second of the stinging sensation moving throughout my body. I enjoyed the pain; it was what brought me peace of mind and something as close to a happiness that I’ve never known. I can remember watching as blood pooled around me, the water stinging the wound further; soon the blood stopped and everything was cleaned, the only evidence of what occurred were the scars covering the skin. I remember stopping and the blade disappeared, leaving me only a sick fascination with knives. I’m soon brought back to reality by the feeling of cold metal against my skin; the smell of iron filling the air and crimson pools surrounding me. In a state of unawareness the knife found my hand and the blade found my skin; I smile remembering the joy that my blood being shed gave me. I still feel the blades in my slumber, haunting me till the end of eternity, to never cease this joyous pain that I love.

Full Circle

Seems like falling down
Lost balance, hit the ground
Endless mistakes thrown in your face
It’s not right, it’s not okay
Rug swept out
All these doubts

Maybe it’s poetic
Maybe it’s pathetic
Karmic justice
Cruel Irony
Shakespearean dramedy

It’s gonna turn around
Can’t lose what you never found
No need to worry
The future is stunning
You’ll hit the ground running
It’s coming full circle now

Don’t worry about the end
Everything will break or bend
Even when it feels the good is gone
It won’t be that way for long
It all comes back around
And pieces together again

Contributor~ Amanda Zober

BLOOD ON THE LEAVES, BLOOD AT THE ROOT

By, Jason O. Logan

I’ve only had a panic attack one time and that was when I went to see a traveling exhibit about lynching when I lived in Atlanta a few years ago. The display, called WITHOUT SANCTUARY, was held down on Sweet Auburn Avenue, the historical center of Black Atlanta, at the King Center which honors the memory of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I was apprehensive about going to see it because while I don’t consider myself squeamish, I don’t have a morbid fascination with scenes of death and carnage either. The exhibit was free, I was in the area, and I had knocked off from work early that day so I steeled myself for the horrors that awaited me and went to see the exhibition.

 
Different versions of the Abel Meerpool-penned classic, STRANGE FRUIT, played softly in the background of the area where the exhibition was held. Billie Holliday’s version is definitive but hers isn’t the only one. I’m particularly partial to the Cassandra Wilson rendition from her NEW MOON DAUGHTER collection, which was played too. No matter the version though, that lachrymose ballad has always been in my soul since the first time I heard Diana Ross sing it in LADY SINGS THE BLUES when I was about six or seven. Some things just burrow into you for reasons unknown. I found out why when I learned more about the history of this country, in and out of school, and how the past for good and ill affects my present and future.

The burning flesh

The burning flesh

I spent about half of my childhood in a fair-sized town in the southwest corner of the state of Georgia raised partly by people who knew about lynchings and lived through legal segregation. My eighty-something grandmother who lives up here in New York after leaving home for good almost sixty years ago told me she grew up with two JC’s in her life, Jesus Christ and Jim Crow, and the only reason the latter didn’t kill her was because the former protected her. Yeah, it was that crucial.

As I walked through the setup transfixed by the black and white photos of human bodies slow-cooked over open flames or hung from bridges as examples to what happens to nigras who got too uppity back then, I thought about how it was probably only through the grace of God none of my ancestors ended up in displayed in one of those pictures. Not that too many of my elders were hellraisers. But it didn’t matter if you were a church deacon or a ‘shine bootlegger, a hard worker or a lazy no-account, an old grey-haired man or a babe still in the womb, if a white mob came after you with blood in its eye all that was needed to be the guest of honor at one of their lynch parties, planned or impromptu, was to have black skin.
I never asked my old folks about lynching or the Klan or segregation too much and they never volunteered that information either. My maternal great-grandmother was the most talkative one about the past but she always laughingly spoke about how her bad temper as a little girl always got her in trouble. Her husband, my great-grandfather, would just tell me I was too young to know about that mess and to go get his spit cup for his tobacco juice. My father’s mother, Grandma Fields, was always salty until the day she died but she never talked too much about the past. However, she always told me to watch myself around those folks across the tracks.

My old folks never said anything hateful about white people but I always noticed a shift in them when white people came around. A certain kind of wary alertness that was always cordial but ever watchful for anything to pop off. They never shushed my cousins and me around them but they seemed to make sure we were always close to them until the white insurance man left or we made it back home from shopping downtown at Belk’s and Otasco. Always wary, always watching.

Leo Frank

Leo Frank

I saw the image of Leo Frank’s broken body. Frank was a Jewish factory manager who, by most accounts, was railroaded for the murder of one of his workers, Little Mary Phagan, a hundred years ago this August. He was snatched out of the state penitentiary by a lynch mob and hung 170 miles away in Marietta, GA, just a few blocks from the apartment complex I lived in at the time. The mob did the work the state of Georgia wouldn’t after the governor had commuted Frank’s sentence to life imprisonment. There’s a plaque marking where the deed was done right next to a KFC franchise even though his final resting spot is less than fifteen miles away from me as I type these words.

I saw the cover of a magazine that had to have been well over a century old which was illustrated with the drawing of a terrified Black man in a yellow shirt and ripped, red pants tied to a post in the middle of a vaudeville stage with white men firing away at him with six shooters and shotguns. The drawing was so vivid to me that I thought I could hear the gunshots, smell the smoke from the barrels, and, poignantly, feel the naked horror their poor victim must have felt before he died. My knees started to shake with that one.

Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze

Black bodies swinging in the southern breeze

It became difficult to breathe looking at the postcards of lynching victims sent through the U.S. mail with cheerful greetings on the back of them talking about the barbeque from the night before. Many of the cards showed the dead surrounded by hundreds of people who came out to watch the entertainment. I learned in college that many lynchings were considered social events like an Independence Day jamboree or a big-tent church revival but having visual proof of this fact made my throat tighten.

My heart felt like it was going to burst my chest when I read about the lynching of the pregnant Mary Turner in 1918 in Valdosta, GA, about ninety miles from my hometown. Mary was a twenty year old whose husband had been killed by a mob after a white landowner was murdered by one of his workers, a Black man named Sydney Johnson. Mary’s husband was one of thirteen people killed during the ensuing riot which lasted a week. She was swept up in it after she threatened to swear out warrants against those who had killed her man.
Her fate is related as follows from the memorial website, The Mary Turner Project:

Consequently, Mary Turner fled for her life only to be caught and taken to a place called Folsom’s Bridge on the Brooks and Lowndes Counties’ shared border. To punish her, at Folsom’s Bridge the mob tied Mary Turner by her ankles, hung her upside down from a tree, poured gasoline on her and burned off her clothes. One member of the mob then cut her stomach open and her unborn child dropped to the ground where it was reportedly stomped on and crushed by a member of the mob. Her body was then riddled with gunfire from the mob. Later that night she and her baby were buried ten feet away from where they were murdered. The makeshift grave was marked with only a “whiskey bottle” with a “cigar” stuffed in its neck.

I had to leave after reading that. I thought my heart was going to explode from the stress of trying to keep from screaming in rage and sadness right there in the middle of the exhibit. I don’t know how long it took for my heart rate to slow down and my breathing to steady but it was a while. In this country, we live with violence everyday whether it comes in news reports, action movies, video games, or the stuff that comes kicking down the door in your personal life. The silent price of living here is that we become desensitized to all the real and pseudo violence. But seeing all that unadulterated hate and mayhem and murder broke me. It was too much to take in all at once; too much to look at from a supposedly safe distance of decades. This violence was right there, close to me as my heart banging against my chest from fear.

That fear was the realization that such violence is still with us in our modern times, only a YouTube video or a hyperlink away if we want to see it. Off the top of my head, I can list the names of men, women, and children who have been killed in the past few years and had their murderers walk. A little boy the same age as my son playing in a park across the street from his home shot down by cops. A man the same age as me strangled to death on a street corner by the police. A young girl the same age as my oldest niece shot in the head by an off-duty cop because he thought someone in her crew was pulling a gun when he reached for his smartphone.

Fearfully is no way to live life. Fear is a warning, an alert to let you know there’s danger ahead so proceed cautiously. Proceed with a purpose, face the danger and take action. Speak honestly and forthrightly, march, or grab a two by four and beat the hell out of the danger. There may be no lynch mobs like the ones from a century ago but the violence of those horrid deeds still exist to this day.

This country has too much blood at its roots to be so hungry for more. The strange fruit that bloom never hung from just southern trees. It was a national shame then, it’s a national crime now.

Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh

Scent of magnolias, sweet and fresh

For more information about Without Sanctuary and The Mary Turner Project, please go to the listed websites:

http://withoutsanctuary.org/main.html

http://www.maryturner.org/

Strange Fruit by Cassandra Wilson

People and Nightmares

People are the most interesting and frustrating creatures to ever come into existence, and I do mean creatures. For all of our fears of animals and their ferocity, my irrational fear of birds included, we are so much more violent, destructive, and on such a larger scale than other animals. We don’t do it to because we need to, to survive. We don’t kill to live. We murder, we hurt each other. We steal, we rape, we tear each other down in the worst possible ways. We don’t gain anything for it. We aren’t fighting for survival. This isn’t the Hunger Games. We do it just because we can.

True to fault, we are the monsters that go bump in the night. We are what we are afraid of. The little voice inside of our heads that tells us to hurt others the way that they have hurt us, that tiny urge to make someone else feel as bad as you do. We don’t usually listen to these thoughts; we know right from wrong. Sometimes though, the thoughts get so strong. That desire to get even, it’s terrifying. The fact that we have those thoughts in the first place is enough to be scary, but we can be downright frightening when the mood strikes. Unlike other animals, we are fully aware of the consequences of our actions. We know we are hurting others, but we still do it anyways.

We have our reasons, whatever they may be. We do what we are going to do, and why not? We fight, we hurt and sometimes things start to spiral so far out of control and there is nothing we can do about it. There are things we could have done to prevent it or lessen the damage, of course, but hindsight is 20-20. So now we do what we do best and dig our hole deeper; dragging down as many others as we possibly can. Misery loves company after all.

We hate when we hear words about ourselves from other people who have no business talking like they know something. It sucks and it hurts. We know how horrible it feels, yet we do it to others. Everyone gossips. Everybody talks. We are all guilty of it at one point or another. So why do some of us act all high and mighty about not wanting to socialize with “people like that“? They do it just as much as the rest of us, if not more. Truth is, they are no better than the rest of us, even if they act that way. People don’t change; it’s just different names, faces and places.

It’s like a game. We play, we fight. We break, and we bend. We push and pull until something gives. We give just enough and take twice as much. Though for some of us, that part isn’t true.

It is like an act for us. We play the part we’ve been assigned, whether it is true to who we actually are or not. We can fake it with the best of them and tell the truth with the worst of them. We give sugar coated words laced with false security over the painful truth, whether it’s for our own benefit or someone else’s. It’s all just one never-ending loop of chasing our tails like a dog, only to end up right back where we started.

We can deny it all we want, but it doesn’t change a thing. Life can suck, and it will kick you in the ass in ways you’d never even think possible. People don’t always turn out to be who you thought they were, and that isn’t always a bad thing. We grow up and we change. We aren’t always going to be the person that we currently are, and we aren’t all the people that we were years ago. We change and we adapt. It’s all a part of life. Some of us have a hard time accepting that.

Sometimes we blame others for our own short-comings. Who cares? We all need to believe that it wasn’t just all us sometimes. None of us have it all together, no matter how it may seem. Some of us just can’t accept what is staring us straight in the face. Repress and deny. It’s so much fun just like the ulcers you get from doing it so much. Makes for a great time, right?

This is why people are so interesting. Not only do we hurt each other for no better reason than we can, we do the same thing to ourselves. We are a never-ending circle of, “do we-don’t we, rise and fall, yes and no”. We contradict everything we stand for, and keep on going like we always have.

We fight, we fall, we rise back up and we lose all over again. Sometimes we win and sometimes we don’t. We work our asses off, all in different ways, to get what we want. We sometimes end up screwing things up so bad, it’s all we can do just to cut the cord and let it go.

So I say, C’est la vie. Do what you won’t to do. Live your life. Try to be happy. Try not to be the things in the nightmares that keep you up at night. Realize that sometimes, when people that you’ve screwed over tell you that they wish you the best and hope that you get everything you’ve ever wanted, it isn’t always for selfless reasons. Sometimes they do it because, even if you do get everything you want, you still won’t be happy; there will always be something. Enough just will never be enough for you. It is nothing personal. Being nice can be cruel at the same time.

In the end, it’s all up to us. It is on us to make ourselves happy and it is up to us to choose right over wrong. We can choose our own actions, unless mob mentality kicks in. That is when we turn into mindless monsters, no smarter than the rubble under our feet from the ruins of what we burned down around us. We have free will, though, and should own up to it. I fuck up a lot. Sometimes my life is nothing but a string of one, “It seemed like a good idea at the time,” after another. It’s all a learning experience, and we all learn at different speeds and in different ways.

When it comes down to it, in many ways we are no different than the animals that we fear; in some ways, we are so much worse. We are destructive and careless. We are stubborn and prideful. We are willing to hurt other people to get what we want. We are also compassionate and giving. We are willing to do so much for the ones we care about. We are all the same, yet so drastically different. We are what is good in the world and simultaneously we are the monsters in our darkest nightmares.

Contributor ~ Amanda Zober

MR. BIG STUFF

A ball of brown eyes and curly hair

A ball of brown eyes and curly hair

It’s fun being the oldest child. Not always easy, but it is a lot of fun. You’re the first out of the house after graduation, you get to lord it over all the younger kids, and being the oldest male in the home, I always got the biggest piece of chicken at dinner time. The worst thing about being the eldest is that I had to grow up with a headstrong, temperamental younger brother who was my funhouse mirror reflection in every way. Our mama named him Phillip; his original nickname is Mr. Big Stuff but, I shortened it to Stuff as the years went on.

“Mr. Big Stuff” is a song by singer Jean Knight released in 1971, the year of my brother’s birth which was nineteen months after mine. My brother as a youngster was a ball of soft, curly hair and big, dark brown eyes that made him always the center of attention among family and strangers. From my hazy memories the song always fit Stuff because he had no problem being that center even at a young age and he made it known early on that he wanted everything his own way. That worked for me because I liked to fade into the background to see how all the angles played out even as a kid. I never wanted the spotlight because scrutiny came with it and I didn’t want to deal with it. Stuff, flash bastich he’s always been, welcomed it.

Angels with bent halos

Angels with bent halos

My sibling and I differ in everything from the physical to the mental and I wonder why we didn’t drive our mom crazier than we did while growing up. You don’t have to be a deductive genius to figure out there was a lot of filial violence over those years. Stuff has a hair-trigger temper while mine builds up until it explodes. Most times I’d let Stuff have his way because I wasn’t up for the back and forth but when I reached my full measure it would be on like Donkey Kong. We never broke bones or bloodied each other…much but we both dealt deep body blows when we threw down. I won most of them physically because I’ve always had size and inches on him but he got his licks in too.  Stuff always won the PR war though because somebody was always there to tell me I was too big to be hitting on my younger, smaller brother no matter what he did.

I stopped trying to win that battle eventually. By the time Mama moved us to Georgia from Philly, I was old enough not to give a damn either way and just hit the door to the library or a convenience store to pick up some comic books when I felt a scrap about to come on between us. I knew more than anyone Stuff was no angel so it was better for me to handle crap between us the way I did than expect anybody else to see my side of the story. I’m quite certain I was just as wrong as he was the many times we came to blows but in the heat of combat, it’s not about who was right just about who won.

PB&J always called a truce in the Logan Civil Wars

PB&J was always a good reason for a truce in the Logan Civil Wars

It wasn’t always a Mortal Kombat/Street Fighter mash-up between us though. I knew I could always count on Stuff to use his excellent art skills for any school projects I had while I was his own personal Google with the answers to any questions he might have about school, politics, and life. I was also the only one who knew how to cook grits the way he liked ‘em when our mom wasn’t home. Hey, we’re from Da Durty just as much as North Philly.
I sometimes think Stuff and I would have had a better relationship growing up if there had been more years between us. That year and a half difference kept me from being as protective of him as I probably would have if he were substantially younger than me. I’m certain he always took my judgment skeptically since he didn’t think less than two years gave me any greater store of life experience.

Whatever it was, Mr. Big Stuff and I still have a complex relationship even today in our middle years which is built just as much on raw and bruised feelings as deep love and loyalty. We feed each other with long-handled spoons and keep the miles between us so our relationship maintains an even keel. I’m not saying we’ll start throwing punches again if we have to spend too much time around each other but I’m not saying we won’t either.

I do know that Stuff was the first one to call me in the hospital when I almost died four years ago to tell me that I couldn’t leave him to deal with our kookoo for cocoa puffs family by himself. He also let me know he would settle some debts for me if I didn’t walk out of ICU that could only be put into the black with some red. Like I said, neither one of us are angels.

What do I give him back though? I like to think he knows I have his back even if it’s something I don’t verbalize too much. That’s my fault but our rocky shared history and my macho pride explains my reticence in that area. Better to be there when he needs help than walk around saying I will when times are easy and be ghost when they get tough.

I wish our bond was stronger or, rather, more open but everything in its own time. We’re both getting older and will need to be there for each other when it comes to looking after our mother and our children as the years go on. That’s duty, though, when our relationship should have a little more joy mixed into it but, again, everything in its own time. Stuff and I may never resemble the Wright or the Wayans Brothers but, knock on wood, we’ll never be the New Age Cain and Abel either. Hell, I’d be happy if we were more like the Marx Brothers because then there would be a little more unpredictability to our already animated family gatherings down in Da Durty.

Together forever

Together forever

–Jason O. Logan

Merry Freaking Christmas

I hate Christmas.  Every year it comes around like that dog you gave some food to once and it just keeps nudging you for more.  I really hate the holiday with a passion.  I wish I could move to an island for December and live in a hut and not have to deal with picking out a tree, untangling lights, wrapping gifts and giving them away.  I also don’t want to hear carolers, see any light displays and vacuum pine needles after I take the tree out.

Now, I’m going to list my five reasons that I hate Christmas:

  1. Giving my parents gifts– My parents are pretty decent people.  But when you reach a certain age, you have everything, you’have seen everything and you have done everything.  So, it’s like, “What can I get that will blow their mind?”  I try to double team with my sisters about what we can get them-there’s one covert sister, she finds out the stuff and tells us. And, it’s usually wrong.  I reach the point where I call and ask them myself and cringe at their response, “I’ll take anything you want to give me.”  What I hear is, “No matter what loser type gift you give me, I’ll say that it’s nice and usually put it in the attic.”

Guess what, now they get gift certificates.

  1. Receiving gifts- One day, I was walking around Target with my kids. I was just killing time; so we played the “What if mommy had infinity million dollars” game where we pick out things we want.  I saw a really cute item.  It was on sale for $4.  I thought that if I had $4, I’d get it.  It was cute and small-nothing extravagant.  When I went back a week later (I had a lot of free time), it was marked even lower-closer to $1.97.  Oh yeah, I should get this now, if only this lint in my pocket was money.  Christmas day and we’re opening presents and I get this small wrapped gift.  It has a familiar feel to it.  I know what it is before I open it.  It’s the $1.97 item I saw at Target.

Now, the person who gave this to me will remain nameless but I was shocked (after I spent a sufficient amount above $1.97 for their gift).

“Do you like it?” the person asked.

“Oh, I love it,” I said, dripping in sarcasm, “I have the perfect spot.”

  1. Divorced parents-I’m a child of divorce.  Sometimes my parents can be so nitpicky over the holidays, I just want to try to split myself in half, to make each of them happy.  I remember once my father told me down to the millisecond how much time we’d spent with him the year before. (It went something like, “You’ve spent eight hours and fifty six minutes at your mothers’ house.  I was the recipient of forty five minutes.”)  I was like, “What?” and left speechless.

Of course, my sisters and I got together and bitched about this bizarre time keeping and spending system like there was no tomorrow.  It’s not like we did this crap on purpose but nevertheless, it’s annoying.

This is why I want the island.  I don’t have to worry about splitting myself in half.

  1. Toys! Toys! Toys! – Every freaking year, it’s “I want this!” or “I want that” or “Mom-look at this, it’s so nice, I need it!” It’s enough to make you rip your hair out by the roots and find the people that make these commercials and strangle them.  I know they are doing their job making that Barbie pool look so cool and inviting or kids laughing so hard at the dog that shits out balls; but I despise them, nonetheless.  I look around and see all the other toys my kid hasn’t played with-the dust all over it and at all the Barbie packs that aren’t even open.

“Why should I get this for you?”

“Because I don’t have it.”

“Not good enough.”

“It’s newer than the one I have.”

“But you don’t play with the one you have.”

Runs and gets toy, “Look, I’m playing now!”

Yeah.

And the final reason I hate Christmas is…

  1. Jesus was born in the summer-based on research. Google it.

Contributor: Tracy Cross Lucas