Abiding Faith Letter 47

Abiding Faith Letter 47


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



I understood how Robert Johnson could have mystical experiences at the crossroads and be desirous

of making a pact with the Devil. Anything was better than the Mississippi sun in some

white man’s fields. I understood the anxiousness to go somewhere else, to get away, to go north t

o Chicago and begin anew. Was not that the existential theme of black life in America?



Letters of an Abiding Faith:

Legacy of a Slave’s GrandDaughter to her Son

written by Ella Lewis to her Son (Rudolph Lewis)

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Letter 47

May 23, 1987


Dear Son,

Just a line to let you hear From me. I doing a little Better. I Sorry I So long answering your letter Just diden Feel like riten. The rest of the Family doing OK. Hope you are OK.

I look For you When I see you in my Yard. I hope you Bring your TV.* Rite me What the Date you are Coming home Just a note. Hope see you Soon. All is Glade you are Coming home.

So Bye now

From Mother

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*The semester was ending at LSU. My thoughts had gone beyond the state of Louisiana or even New Orleans. I was indeed unhappy. I had failed in my hopes. Mona Lisa and I had grown even more distant. I had gotten into irreparable arguments with several professors. I wanted out. My fellowship was renewable, but obtaining the degree was not motive enough to hold me there in Louisiana. 

Even New Orleans had lost its fascination for me. I had a great yard sale. I sold all the furniture, including the armoires of Yusef Komunyakaa. I had lugged it from New Orleans and I did not have the resources to store it any place. I also sold my books that I had brought from home to Monroe to New Orleans and then to Baton Rouge. I sold my school books, including those for the classes I had that semester. Oddly, one of the professors, a writer who taught the techniques of literature, bought his own book. We talked. I talked to him man to man, rather than as student to professor. I still do not think that he got it. He made no attempt to find out what was going on with me and why I was leaving the doctoral program. Nor did he attempt to persuade me to stay a bit longer.

I was carrying only that which could fit into to my Volkswagon bug. I, however, shipped Mama’s quilts by bus to Emporia, Virginia. .I took the long, slow way home. I knew that I would never drive this way again. I drove up Route 61, through the Mississippi delta. In one long flat stretch of land, there was cotton to my right, cotton to my left, and cotton behind me and before me. I did not see one tree, not even a live oak leaning. Then there were the lonely crossroads. I began to understand Charlie Patton and Robert Johnson and the existential wailing of their blues. The black people who hoed these fields and picked the cotton in the hot steamy sun, doubtless, took their meals in the fields. There was no shade. There was nowhere to go but into another cotton field. 

I understood how Robert Johnson could have mystical experiences at the crossroads and be desirous of making a pact with the Devil. Anything was better than the Mississippi sun in some white man’s fields. I understood the anxiousness to go somewhere else, to get away, to go north to Chicago and begin anew. Was not that the existential theme of black life in America? It was always better somewhere else. I drove through Memphis and Nashville. I spent no time in these places. I then crossed the mountains into Virginia and drove Route 56 toward Emporia. I came down the hills at an average speed of about thirty-five miles an hour. But it was a wonderful descent because I was on my way home to Mama and my “peoples.”  

Actually, the description above about driving through the Mississippi delta was probably after I left Monroe and NLU. This last trip I might have actually driven through Atlanta and then Charlotte. For I knew I spent some time in Charlotte with a group of Sudanese students I had known in Baton Rouge and picked up a girl at a nightclub in Charlotte and took her back to their place and she stayed the night.  The  Sudanese Muslim whom I knew and made friends with in Baton Rouge was Abu Gerris. He visited me that summer in Jarratt. We went to Baltimore, visited my friends, and returned. After he called once I lost track of him.

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update 30 December 2011





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