by Ricardo Cortez Cruz
(contains sameple of "Independent Funk" from Blacks' Magic album by Salt N' Pepa)
"Ah, mama love me one more time/Ah, mama love me one more time/You gimme little chance, maybe you will change your mind."-Blind Blake, "One Time Blues," Chicago, IL, circa April 1927.
After Kennedy was scoped out and violently tagged in a hide-and-seek game before a massive march of wild chasers fell upon Washington D.C., after Malcolm was warned by The Fruit of Islam and its sick leader to go back to Satan, after that freaky Sunday when King won the Nobel Peace Prize (was caught speeding and let go), then was bugged all-night while he slept with another woman, blackness fell on the ghetto like ashes covering ashy negroes, dust covering dust. And while Midnight Starr kept saying "play another slow jam-this time make it sweet," a devil disguised in dread appeared in the projects like the Jamaican DJ Kool Herc and confronted my momma Calypso in the street, calling her out by her maiden name. Twisting tales of slavery forwards and backwards very rapidly, this devil started spinning program music about the black struggle, his index finger pointing into negritude, the tip of his sharp nail like a Shure needle digging into black vinyl, nothing but grooves in his hands as he showed her his version of the battle for democracy, other deejays moving to crowd around in an effort to compete with him and his mad skills, to see if he had Technics/techniques. This man was two-faced, Gemini, Momma told me. He was something/somewhere between Taurus the Bull and Cancer, she said. "That motherfucker was sort of ecliptic/eclectic," Champ from the hood once added, "like a great circle."
This god, a kind of masterful technician who had suddenly appeared on earth and came from the east with two Pioneer turntables, a 'wax museum,' and a coffin, communicated over a mike, my momma said. "My name is Legion, and we are many," he said, proudly, as if he was a rich ho. It was not audible speech, my momma said, but rather thoughts and feelings and slanguage made known to her in her mind. In fact, while his sounds were being heard, he scratched his voice, she said.
As she listened to him, he put a smooth spell on her, turning her everywitchway, talking quickly as if he was a hustler peddling silks, she said. However, after seducing my momma into falling in love with him, he stayed with her only long enough to teach her the ways of evil and hue-mankind, she said. "Go and deliver my people," he said. "For I have seen their suffering and heard their bitch-ass cries." Then, like a spook, he disappeared, she said.
Despite having no insurance, Momma decided to follow The Dream he had given her, which was more like a vision, according to her. Homeless and forced to walk in a death rain until she reached a hospital alley, my momma became even more determined to give birth to the seed this spook had planted. Once inside General Hospital, my momma leaned up against the wall near a sink and where the corridor was dull and silent. She turned on both the hot and cold knobs for warm water until the pipes started screaming, their big mouths spewing out large amounts of corrosion/corruption. Still, while lying besides a sterile cloth that said "stat" and "o.b.," she did not panic, she said. But when the water broke loose and oceans flooded the very ground that she stood on, my momma quickly became scared for her life.
"It was at that moment that I laid down," she said, sewing threads together, working on some bloody fabric, doing patchwork. "I temporarily gave up because I knew I had been fated." (My momma could have lied to me here because I know that she don't talk like that.) But when the light from above found her and the pressure became greater, momma said that she took a deep breath and then pushed as hard as she could, shutting her eyes in order to make a wish.
I entered this world marked by blues. I was cold. But even then, I felt the beat of my own heart. While I nervously wiggled-bloody, naked, and crying-in my momma's praying, ashy hands, she slowly walked out of the alley with a headache but gently raised me into the dark sky, into the cosmos and shit with the Mexicans and so on all hoarded around us on the street corner and stooping in the grass, staring like it was their nature. Even in the darkness, she saw them talking smack under their breath, scrutinizing her, casting their scorn for what they knew that she was about to do. These Cholos were spitting and spewing Spanglish, seemingly talking in tongues. One couple in particular was smoking their herb with Jesus slinging/slanging around their necks as if blessing them two/too. Still, Momma remained firm, poised, she said, before lifting my head to comfort me. Then she proclaimed, "Behold the only thing greater than yourself!"
What my mother never told me was that the desire to awe the enemy is a disease. "When we break a proud spirit, we achieve something that is final and completely crazy," Momma once whispered to me later while ready to go to sleep in the rocking chair that she would spend most of her life in.
But way back when she was carrying her load, Momma said that she had a powerful craving to see herself as an instrument in the hands of God. "I was Eve," Momma said, "I was the life-giving one. Do you even realize how much power that was?
"Unfortunately, God played me," she told me. "I had begged God to keep you away from evil, keep you away from the sex and all of that, them sluts and Welfare mommas and black men that are only all about cutting things up instead of putting things together."
"Everything is possible when we are absolutely helpless or absolutely powerful," Momma said she had yelled to God, reading the lines on my face and working terribly hard to hoist me up as if I was the troubled creation of Doctor Frankenstein about to be unbound.
There was no talk then, Momma said.
"It was as if you was waiting for the white man to slap you, but the white man never touched you," she said. "That night, there were only squalls.
"Unfortunately, I don't think you ever listened to me or anyone," she said, needling me. "You followed the lead of Spin-Around, that skeezing little tramp who usta' take long rides in a '72 Lincoln full of dogs and bitches and go out to the fields where strange fruit swung and hung from the trees in abundance, like it was nothing. She'd go out there in that desolate landscape, where blood dropped like wild cherries, period, and do them all in front of the fowl/foul before taking herself back to her street corner and performing circles while screaming her own motherfucking name."
Perched in her chair, Momma leaned back and used a kitchen towel to brush away her perspiration. "Lawd, cool the fever and ease the pain," she whispered. "I said, cool the fever and ease the pain."
"Yeah, Momma, I've told you a thousand times already, I know that I made a big mistake with Spin-Around," I said, interrupting her. "I was really out there. I never intended to be that woman's customer, but she begged me to suck the milk/chocolate out of her tits. What's a nigga to do? It was hard for me to turn away."
"And dat's why your black ass got burned!" Momma added. "Let me tell you something. Spin-Around always bragged about being emancipated until oneday the po-po caught her ass for solicitation, dragged her home, and whipped her big lips until they shut, using Charms, a piece of hard candy, to molest her two little girls in the process. Afterwards, she hung herself, looking like a scared crow, all sick, the guilt perhaps too much to bear. She dropped herself so hard from the light fixture on the ceiling that the chains seemingly squeezed all of her water out through the eyes. The poor soul got her windows washed before the lights went out. They say that the final notice on her end table, the bill from the electric company, was red. 'Yep, that was probably the backbreaker,' the medical examiner later said. Son, I didn't want to tell you all of this-I had hoped to keep it a secret since ya' don't see her anymore, but now I don't give a fuck.
"You should know that, even though Spin-Around managed to keep her legs waxed, it still wasn't enough to keep the blues away," Momma said. You can never forget where you came from, Momma said. "What a big-ass waste, that labor of love leaving the world with so many tears.
"She was somebody child once," my momma said. "Why'd she have to go around screwin' with mine? Now we got this endless cycle of babies making babies. What's happening to our children today? They like clay. Everything depending upon whose hands they put in." Momma never stopped looking at me for an answer.
For awhile my momma was quite dead; she said that she saw the chickens come home to roost. Said I took her milk, too, not realizing it was contaminated from toxemia. Remember when you were inside my belly and you experienced me staggering, felt me suffocating you? Momma asks.
I remember everything.
"Boy, you sucked from my breast for so long that I can only blame you for the lump that developed, the thing that made me uglier." Momma shows me the one tit that can still give. She squeezes it and just one drop of it makes me cry like a baby. Her milk is so sticky, it never wants to let me go. She curses me, calls out to Damballah, casts another one of her deadly spells by using that drop, hits me with shit more powerful than Negro blood. Then she says quite frankly and sadly, "I gave up the ghost."
We all have ghosts, know spooks or demons that will haunt us until we confess our sins and repent. But unfortunately, my momma never stops; she just lingers on.
"You blew out my goddamn ears with all that piercing, thunderous gangsta' rap!" she says, operatic as if doing a libretto, shrilling to give me a sample.
"You killed my equilibrium, causing me to fall all the time before I finally quit!" she finally screams because we have been arguing all the time.
"But Momma, you are a haint, some kind of freaky spook whose voice enters my mind just like my daddy's," I say. "Why should I listen to you now? Why should I care?"
Since Daddy flew away, Hoodoo has got Momma hurting, feeling bad, so, everywhere I go, every little thang I do, she keeps trying to make me hurt two/too. "Too bad you was one of the lucky ones to have yo' daddy split when you was little," she says, only stopping to eat from a box of donut holes. "I probably wouldn't have lost my nerve like I did, made fun of your big head, or led you to believe that you were phat in the first place."
"I ain't fat/phat at all," I told my momma when I was still large and ambitious enough to go to school.
"I ain't phat/fat at all," I told my momma when I was hungry. I made sure that I set the record straight before she slipped away while sitting on that rocking chair in our home where she rocked and rocked-swaying powerfully with emotion, lulling in her own security, shaking herself violently with disturbance-before she went completely off and then, snap, was gone.
"These days I am what they call an 'anti-hero,'" I tell momma, handing her her papers and a tiny cup of watered-down coffee (cause coffee made her black). She sits in that chair almost silent, but is smoking and knitting a comforter with a dark underside, putting her butt out, staring at the puff. For this drama/spectacle, I start to yearn for a piano on a platter; that's what "Negroes" called barbecued ribs back in the day, when they sported angels at the front of their Caddies, when it was good to be a high roller.
Momma keeps practicing voodoo, "to becloud the mind" of her enemy, she says, trying to control me as if I'm the bad seed, as if this is her biggest battle. She keeps sticking me with her needle. Not a Shure needle, not something old school or for the record, but that crooked sewing needle, the one she uses to stitch up the holes, wounds, of other people. She works it like DJ Craze. And, I begin to find it all unsettling, the drama, but she keeps talking, maybe because she never notices, never seems to pay attention, to how I feel.
"This, youngblood," she says, "is how I've created zombies and orchestrated my own return from the dead.
"This, youngblood," she says, looping it, looking up at me again, "is what I use to prick my fingers and check my flesh and blood, sugar. This, this, is how I curse those that won't do right. I curse them."
"I have no comment," I say to Momma, but I really do have a smart remark, so I go on.
"I am the son of God," I blurt out to Momma, spinning around, almost dancing in front of her like I was James Brown with those bad songs and "the big payback" in my head. I talk to her as loud as "Pretty Boy" Rick Flair, the smooth wrestler from TV, as if I'm a low-down nigga goin' crazy and drama is the thing that pays me.
"Holler back," I tell her, "'cause, you know, I live to prove that others will die!" And, if I remember this scene correctly, she took a deep breath before blowing away some ashes and softly replying, "Well then, I wish you were never born."