Baby’s Heart

I told Baby, “Don’t go back there ‘hind them woods where that creature live.” I told Baby not to go but she went over yonder one strangely cold summer day, ’round June, after I’d made her self a lunch of buttermilk biscuits and collard greens– Baby never liked meat too much. Said it tasted like sin to her. Said if God ate sin, it’d taste like meat with all the seasonings and cooked to perfection. Make you feel heavy afterward. Fill you up. It’d nourish you, but at what cost? Baby said, “Lady Mama, that ol’ meat a little too heavy for my soul. Don’t matter if it tastes good if I got to ask forgiveness later.”

Anyway, I’m just a-yippin’ and a-yappin’ like folk got time to hear a ol’ woman talkin’ bout fanciful things like a thoughtful child.

Imagination they called it. Tuh– imagination. If they knew the things I know I done seen they’d say I ‘magined it. But I told Baby what I saw. Warned her ‘cordin to just what I know I seen with my own eyes: that creature live ‘hind them woods. Out there by a little bog that ain’t got no life. Not even a fly piss in those waters. That’s how you know there ain’t no life. Flies, nasty things, they follow dead and decaying things. The nasty part of living is dying. Or so we think.

That creature creepin’ in the brush lives by a place that ain’t got no life. He thinks he knows what we don’t, us folk who follow life. Naw, the creature think life is just a part of death. He think from the moment we’re conceived we’re settin’ ourselves up to die. But what a creature that don’t live know ’bout life? You’d think not a damn thing. But Baby told me different.

Baby went in them woods. Sho’ did. Almost didn’t come back when her body did. I ‘spected something when she absentmindedly spooned some scrambled eggs in her plate one morning. She would’ve eaten ’em too if I hadn’t shouted. Ain’t nothing in the world could make my Baby forget her strict diet.

You could tell she’d seen something wretched. Something that’d make you sing Amazing Grace or the Lord’s Prayer. Or put the needle on a Patti Labelle record, especially if you seekin’ deliverance from that thing you saw that your mind won’t let you unsee. But your heart know it.

Your heart got more eyes than vessels and ventricles. It sees things out our souls which are hidden when looking out our bodies. And Baby’s heart never found its way inside her little chest while she formed in the womb. At least, that’s what I told her when she asked what made her so special. She never asked again when she came back from ‘hind them woods.

Her heart sees with everything its got, that’s why she took a moment to return to her body. Her little heart sees with ears and lips and hands and nostrils and thoughts. Lawd, that creature put a number on my Baby! If only she was a little more heart-blind, she might not have suffered so. But that’s just it, isn’t it? The heart sees with everything you got. Whether you want it to or not. And Baby saw, bless her heart, she saw that creature and almost didn’t come back.

When she finally did return to herself, she told me something that almost made me drop like a fly right where I stood.

“Lady Mama,” she always called me, “I shouldn’t have gone down there. I should’ve listened to you.”

“It’s alright Baby. I’m just glad you finally came back.” I held her tighter to my bosom then.

“Lady Mama?” she inquired softly.

“Yes, Baby?” I replied as I skwez her real tight.

“That creature…it don’t mean nobody no harm. And it’s a wretched creature to look at, if your heart stays hidden away. But when it doesn’t, when your heart finds its way outside you, that creature looks just like God.”


-Rahk

#prose, #short-story, #storytime

A Stranger’s Recollection (Excerpt from “Copperhead”)

We called her Copperhead, mainly because she didn’t have a speck of hair on her head. Everybody says she was born just that way. Although, those same folks say that Copperhead is her given name, so we take what they say with a grain of salt. Looking back, it was almost impossible not to speculate about that girl. Especially when she’d saunter silently by crowds of people as if they were tall blades of grass. Always in her own little world, distant. The quieter she was, the odder she was, and the more we speculated.

You’d hear tales, from familial hoodoo curses to divine retribution. Oh, we’d all have a go at theorizing. Especially because her old mean mama had hair to the small of her back. No natural force we’d ever heard of could shine a woman’s crown into a magic 8-ball from birth. I’m telling you, not one follicle chose to live on her scalp! Quite peculiar if you ask me.

Here I go getting sidetracked. No wonder the youth drift off every now and again when old folk talking to y’all; us old folk drift off first I bet. That’s how we get sidetracked in the first place. Now where was I—Ah. Copperhead, that’s right.

If her head was something to startle the potholes in a pool table, her body was the pool stick; straight up and down. But for some reason, you always knew she was a woman, even from behind. Androgyny loomed over her shoulder with hot breath, but womanhood took hold of her slim frame and adamantly refused to let go. Woo wee, she was skinny! And black. Just like soot. Growing up, some of the unlearned boys used to say to her, “Keep on laying out in that sun. God gonna spit and turn ya into mud.” They wished they’d never parted their lips once Copperhead struck back.

I remember my friend Smoke theorized that she got the name Copperhead due to the venom in her speech. Once you had her gaze on you, you’d swear you were tip-toeing in the woods on a quiet summer night. You’d swear you a slithering rattle sent you into fight or flight. The moment you had her attention, you knew you’d stepped off the path at the wrong time.

One concentrated sentence could bring a professional football team’s ego to the turf, and she’d never miss a step. You would think, with her being so quiet and alone all the time, that she was afraid to speak up. Those unlearned boys discovered that snakes could talk on that day. And they also discovered that no man is going to like what a snake has to say to him.

Truly, no one could say she was mean and convince a jury to confirm the allegation. No, Copperhead tended more towards honeycombs than swarming stings. But the swarms were there to protect the sweetness of their hard labor, and their queen. So, who can really blame them if you poke their hive with a stick? Imagine having worked all week, and come pay day, some fiend steals your wages—anybody would become a swarm worthy of Exodus.

Though, by now, even the strangest passersby are familiar with the local dangers. The commoners find enough kindness to warn strangers about the vipers lurking around town.

Last I heard, Copperhead rarely has to ready her infamous fangs nowadays. The people leave her to do whatever she pleases, still wary of her venom.


-Rahk.

This was originally the first chapter of the novel in the works. How does it read? Is your interest piqued? Your feedback is not only welcomed, but encouraged! Thank you. 

#copperhead, #excerpt, #prose, #short-story, #water

Mother-Son Talk

Mama says, “Man be feral.
Apt to concquer–
Yet can’t concquer his beast.
Makes him irrational
Like a rabid wolf
Intent to maintain his awareness
As he seeks the meat ‘neath your chest.”
Mama says, “Man be feral,” and “a little too infatuated with woman’s breasts.”
I say, “No mama, man be hurt.”
Mama says, “And what wounded beast, is not demon in deed?
Ever seen a rabid jackal? That’s a demon indeed!”
I say, “But mama, daddy ain’t no beast.”
Says Mama, “Beast no match for a monster.”
“So, Mama, woman be monster?”
“Yes, Baby, but only when beasts are upon us.”
“What’s woman before then?”
“Baby, before when? Beasts were created before men.”


-Rahk.

#poetry, #prose, #when-rahk-writes

Stained Glass (Excerpt from “Copperhead”)

After a frustrating, yet moving service, Minister Bully returns to her small office to open the note she found in the church hymnal. It was folded, yet slightly exposed as the hymnal rested on the shelf of the pew in front of her.

Bully’s breath catches in her throat at the sight of her daughter’s name.

 

To: Min. Bully

From: Copperhead

Those men you share the pulpit with, they don’t intend to give you that freedom you crave. They don’t mean to give any of us freedom. And you know it. I know you know it.

You are the same woman who, with utmost certainty, declared: “Men, they mean you no harm because they don’t mean to see you as equal. Their own kindness, because that’s what they’d call it, will never let you speak as clear as the dainty glass they think you are.”

You are the mural those kind men try to cover when they recognize their true stature.

Don’t allow their kindness (because that’s what you’d call it) to leave you as melted sand. Let their so-called kindness temper you, mama. On the day stained glass speaks, it will speak with your voice.

#bully, #copperhead, #letter, #water