I’m what you made me. Burdened down like a burro since I could remember, carrying all your full-grown baggage, walking behind you through the desert of your life. You hate me. You scorn me. Sometimes I laugh about it. Sometimes I cry when I think no one’s looking. I’m Teflon—you made me that way and now you can’t stand me. Remember how I picked you up off the floor? How you leaned full tilt into me, looking for salvation, looking for a problem-solver? I was six. I was six and I wanted to be running freely through a field, standing free-handed on a merry-go-round, hanging upside down on monkey bars somewhere…but I was there with you. There while you gave birth in your bed at home, while you left your husband and needed someone to pick up your belongings, while you stood in a jailhouse and I spoke through a plate-glass window whispering, “I love you.” I was six, and then nine, and then twelve and it never changed. And when I went to college in spite of you, you renamed me, remember? Sophisticated Bitch. That’s what you said to me…to me…and now you tell people that I’m the one…me…the one who never loved you. You made me old way too soon and now you hate that I can’t erase my memory. When you look at me, when you speak to me with that venomous hissing sound coming from your mouth, you are filled with spite…for me. Like I was never there for you. You moved on you said and I should get over it, but I’m still a burro lost in your desert and I need you to own it. (©2014 Rosa Clipper)
I have not been on this site for a little over a year. My mother passed away and I put down my writing pen (again) and wrapped myself in sadness. I’m not over being sad, or missing her, and I don’t know that I ever will be, but writing is what gives me strength, fulfills me, and defines me. So I’m back.
The first time I signed up on this site and created this blog I said I would write everyday. I realize now that such a commitment takes time to work up to so for now I’m just saying that I’ll write when I’m inspired. Hopefully that will grow into an everyday thing.
I blame you really
though you’d never know
behind my plastered smile
the broken heart acknowledging
the me I didn’t get to know
glaring past the who I am
because of you
over the din of past hurt and wants
chained down and rotting
like a corpse inside
the wish you weren’t borns
the shut up
the why are you here
followed up and reinforced
by cords and water hoses
slaps hits kicks
that came so easily
like habits hard to break
they follow into man choices
that work like thieves tiptoeing
across the floorboards until
i hate you
in genuflecting bedside
shadows growing long and longer
until I am swallowed up
and spit out whole
on the other side.
Today I am not posting something I wrote, but something my son wrote for school. He was asked to write a paper for Black History month about a Black American hero. He chose my father who died in 1972.
My American Hero:
My grandfather Clarence Henry Clipper is the hero about whom I am writing. He died on October 27, 1972 and he was an American hero. He was born in West Virginia in 1925 and raised in Pittsburgh by his mother Louise Goodlow. In 1939, when he was just 14, he lied about his age and joined the Navy as a mess attendant. He had no idea that he would become part of the group of Black mess attendants who, in 1944, would break the Navy’s color barrier and become official Navy men.
From 1923 to 1944, African Americans could join the Navy only as mess attendants. A mess attendant would work in the kitchen and cook the Navy men’s food. In 1944, the Navy fully integrated so that African Americans could be Navy men and officers. Books about Navy history say that mess attendants faced humiliation, were beaten, and treated like slaves. Their living conditions were terrible and they worked long, hard hours. In 1944, the discrimination did not change, but African Americans were allowed to participate in World War II on the battle front.
My grandfather fought from 1944 until the end of the war. In between then and the start of the war in Korea, he would meet my grandmother and later marry her. He fought in the Korean War where he was captured and held as a prisoner of war for a year. He survived and was awarded the equivalent of a Purple Heart because at the time they did not officially award Purple Hearts to African Americans. My grandfather did not set out to become a hero but it was just a part of who he was as person.
When he left the military, he would help Brownsville, Texas integrate its schools, help start a Rio Grande Valley Chapter of the NAACP, and serve as a deacon in Brownsville’s only Black church. He died from cancer when my mother was only three and received a full 21 gun salute in honor of his military service. I did not know him but he is my favorite American hero.
Sabrina woke up to the sound of a chainsaw burring in the front yard. She jumped out of bed and ran to the front door screaming, “Daddy, please don’t cut it down! Daddy please!”
She was too late, huge pieces of trunk and limbs lay across the property and her father stood looking self-satisfied, convinced he had done a good job. He turned to his daughter, “None of that screaming. What’s done is done.”
Sabrina stared first at the tree, then at her father. “How could you Daddy? It was Momma’s favorite.”
“Get your tail back in the house girl,” her father said sternly. “It’s just a tree. Ain’t ever been nothing else but a tree.”
Sabrina felt the tears welling up in her eyes and turned around so her father wouldn’t see them. She felt empty, not for the first time. She missed her mother and now the last piece of her was gone forever. She winced as she heard her father start up the chainsaw again, determined, she knew, to grind the stump into the ground along with all her mother’s memories.
I should have known the day
would turn out like this topsy
turvy out-of-sync roller derby
when I woke of feeling jazzy
at odds with my normal bluesy
sit down at the counter with coffee
attitude so humming Wynton I poured
orange juice in my cup overflowing
into the saucer then walked past
my collage of Ibrahim Ferrer
and Billie Holiday cd covers
wondering where the contents
would find themselves maybe
in the car under the seat
with the sippy cups from last week
or at work inside my desk who knows
but the snow outside painting everything
white and the slight bit of blue air
sneaking past the rubber sealant
on the front door makes me nervous
so I hum a little louder putting rhythm
in my step while I wait for the house
to spring to life so i can tell them
mommy’s home all day.
I am not the person I was then
so you look at me strangely
“but why” you ask like a plaintive
child but my answer will only make
you more confused maybe angry
“because” i want to say to you
“simply because” i don’t want to be
that person who says “yes” and “sorry”
and “I’ll help you” because it hasn’t gotten
me very far so far and I sit empty
sometimes empty of me having given
and given and given to almost nothing
in return except the resounding echoing
ever-repeated “can you do more?”