ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
Ellington’s handshake was so smooth, so warm, so tender
as he courteously held Rosemary’s farm-roughened palm.
Books by Kalamu ya Salaam
My Story My Song (CD)
* * * * *
Another Duke Ellington Story
By Kalamu Ya Salaam
The dance had ended forty-some minutes ago but no one seemed to be in any rush to go anywhere. Though they usually clamored to be on the road, quickly gone from these hick towns after they played, tonight the musicians were casually strewn backstage; some even cradled their still warm horns, occasionally sounding a very soft note or two. Duke grinned inwardly. Collectively, these men were his instrument and it made Ellington feel good when they felt good.
As always there was a coterie of jazz aficionados, aspirant entertainers, and non-music-related hopefuls who lingered in the hallway that led to the rear parking lot in which a bus waited to take the band back to the train depot where Duke’s private pullman car was parked, well-stocked with appropriate food and other road comforts almost unknown to most musicians who crisscrossed America.
One gentleman stood at the end of the slow moving queue crawling along the wall outside Duke’s dressing room. This small farmer recently turned salesman patiently awaited his turn to thrust the evening’s printed program into Duke’s hands so that Mr. Ellington might grace him with the gift of an autograph and, hopefully, also a flash of that fabulous love-you-madly signature smile. A stone-faced woman stood stiffly at his side. She had had a long day, was tired, and was the only audience member not displaying a beatific expression.
Unfurling the seduction of his whiskey-tinged baritone, Duke graciously received this last couple. “I am Duke Ellington. With whom do I have the pleasure of making an acquaintance?”
“Ah, Squire, Joe Squire. You can just put: To Mr. and Mrs. Joseph Squire. Please, I mean if you don’t mine.”
“Mister. And madam. Joseph. Squire. Thank you so very much for gracing us with your appearance tonight. You, your lovely wife, and all the other audience members made each of us feel at home.” Duke shook hands cordially and paused to sign the program that Joseph Squire had tentatively proffered. As Duke finished his inscription with a flourish, he turned to the woman who remained starkly still looking as though it would have pained her to move. “Mrs. Squire, I’m sure you have a lovely first name. Might I inquire what it is?” Duke held his gracefully manicured right hand waist high in front of Mrs. Squire.
Mrs. Squire was slightly taken aback by the man’s forwardness. She had not touched many negroes before and though she appreciated his musicianship she was not interested in any personal contact with this mister Duke Ellington. But he spoke with such manners and deference in his tone, and he bent at the waist slightly in sort of a half bow, and his smile seemed so sincere; her hand floated forward more drawn by Duke’s personal magnetism than guided by her own will.
“Her, her name is Rosemary,” Joseph Squire spoke up on behalf of his silent wife. Joe knew that Rose was past ready to go home and she had begrudgedly accompanied him backstage in his quest for Ellington’s autograph. Now that Joseph’s search had been successful, they should go.
But, she hesitated: Ellington’s handshake was so smooth, so warm, so tender as he courteously held Rosemary’s farm-roughened palm. “Mrs. Rosemary Squire would you please allow me to show you something stunningly beautiful which I have just recently discovered? Please indulge me. It won’t take but a small moment of your time.”
Duke gently released Rosemary’s hand after slowly guiding it back down to her side. He turned to the small group of people surrounding him. “Excuse us one moment please.” Without hesitation Duke cleared a path with a regal sweep of his left arm. He touched no one, instead everyone instinctively melted back like butter retreating from the radiance of a heated knife. With his right forearm Duke smoothly pushed open the dressing room door.
The first object Rosemary admiringly focused on was Duke’s stage shoes: a pair of gleaming patent leather pumps which sat languidly atop the dresser table next to a half drunk demitasse of tea–between two slivers of lemon a chamomile tea bag lay beside the china. Had Rosemary glanced at Duke’s feet she would have spied black lambskin loafers, but at that moment Rosemary’s nostrils flared as she inhaled the fragrance emanating from a spray of cut flowers which freshened the atmosphere as the bouquet lay beneath the over-sized dressing room mirror.
Duke sensibly had left the door wide open. At a discreet distance Joseph Squire and a few other people peeped into the room hoping to also see whatever was the beautiful something Ellington had promised to show the tight lipped woman.
“Rosemary Squire,” Duke guided her forward with the faintest touch to her waist, “regard. Behold something beautiful.” She turned to look at Duke. What was he saying? Duke nodded toward the mirror. She turned again. Duke stepped sideways so that he was out of the reflected line of sight. “Notice the elegance of the eyes. The determined jaw line which undoubtedly reflects a willful and passionate personality. But above all, the clean symmetry of the facial plane and the…aghhhhh,” Duke intoned wordlessly, “but oh, you can see as well as I.” Then Ellington stopped speaking.
Someone nearby gasped almost inaudibly. Rosemary virtually transformed before their sight. What had once been a cold mask of tolerance warmed into a tender visage of contentment. And as she started a smile, Duke picked up his pair of shoes from the dresser and backed out of the room. In the hallway Duke paused and touched Joseph lightly on the shoulder, ” Never forget , your wife is beautiful. Though youth may leave us, beauty can always find a home within. Sometimes beauty slumbers but even then requires merely an appropriately gentle nudge to reawaken.”
Then, on padded feet, Duke glided noiselessly down the carpeted corridor just behind Johnny Hodges who was already blasèly ambling toward the back exit. Clark Terry had been patiently leaning against the wall opposite Duke’s door; he grinned as he too shoved off to take his leave. Terry had seen the master do this many, many times before. Duke was casually adept at reading people and adroitly drawing out their best qualities regardless of how they felt at any given moment.
Exhibiting a rainbow of diverse complexions, a small knot of people stood outside the auditorium’s rear egress. Sporting their best coats and warmest hats, the locals huddled in the chilly Indian summer night exchanging murmured conversations with Ellington’s worldly array of well traveled musicians.
“Excuse me, the time of our departure draws neigh and I’m afraid we must bid you good night.” Disappointed but understanding sighs drifted through the frosty air as Duke strove to extricate himself from the thinning throng. A lady who would not be denied sought Ellington’s attention, an attractively tall woman, slightly darker than cinnamon. Duke signed her program “love you madly” and then climbed into the vehicle, the beginnings of a melody capering in and out of his consciousness.
Suddenly realizing where she was, Rosemary Squire pirouetted in slow motion searching the dressing room for Ellington. Ellington however, by then, was reclining aboard the bus. Rosemary’s gaze fell directly onto her husband. Joe was a bit blurry as Rose squinted at him through partially damp but very happy eyes. He smiled at her. She beamed back. And they walked off hand in hand.
* * * * *
“Another Duke Ellington Story” (published in Italy; journal?; date?) — “it’s been published in italy. i don’t even know the name of the journal, but i can find out and get the publication date. the story is about duke ellington, but the focus is on a female audience member” (Kalamu ya Salaam)..
* * * * *
music website > http://www.kalamu.com/bol/ writing website > http://wordup.posterous.com/ daily blog > http://kalamu.posterous.com twitter > http://twitter.com/neogriot facebook > http://www.facebook.com/kalamu.salaam
* * * * *
* * * * *
#1 – Justify My Thug by Wahida Clark #2 – Flyy Girl by Omar Tyree #3 – Head Bangers: An APF Sexcapade by Zane #4 – Life Is Short But Wide by J. California Cooper #5 – Stackin’ Paper 2 Genesis’ Payback by Joy King #6 – Thug Lovin’ (Thug 4) by Wahida Clark #7 – When I Get Where I’m Going by Cheryl Robinson #8 – Casting the First Stone by Kimberla Lawson Roby #9 – The Sex Chronicles: Shattering the Myth by Zane
#10 – Covenant: A Thriller by Brandon Massey
#11 – Diary Of A Street Diva by Ashley and JaQuavis
#12 – Don’t Ever Tell by Brandon Massey
#13 – For colored girls who have considered suicide by Ntozake Shange
#14 – For the Love of Money : A Novel by Omar Tyree
#15 – Homemade Loves by J. California Cooper
#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper
#17 – Player Haters by Carl Weber
#18 – Purple Panties: An Eroticanoir.com Anthology by Sidney Molare
#19 – Stackin’ Paper by Joy King
#20 – Children of the Street: An Inspector Darko Dawson Mystery by Kwei Quartey
#21 – The Upper Room by Mary Monroe
#22 Thug Matrimony by Wahida Clark
#23 – Thugs And The Women Who Love Them by Wahida Clark
#24 – Married Men by Carl Weber
#25 – I Dreamt I Was in Heaven – The Rampage of the Rufus Buck Gang by Leonce Gaiter
#1 – Malcolm X: A Life of Reinvention by Manning Marable #2 – Confessions of a Video Vixen by Karrine Steffans #3 – Dear G-Spot: Straight Talk About Sex and Love by Zane #4 – Letters to a Young Brother: MANifest Your Destiny by Hill Harper #5 – Peace from Broken Pieces: How to Get Through What You’re Going Through by Iyanla Vanzant #6 – Selected Writings and Speeches of Marcus Garvey by Marcus Garvey #7 – The Ebony Cookbook: A Date with a Dish by Freda DeKnight #8 – The Isis Papers: The Keys to the Colors by Frances Cress Welsing #9 – The Mis-Education of the Negro by Carter Godwin Woodson
#10 – John Henrik Clarke and the Power of Africana History by Ahati N. N. Toure
#11 – Fail Up: 20 Lessons on Building Success from Failure by Tavis Smiley
#12 –The New Jim Crow: Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness by Michelle Alexander
#13 – The Black Male Handbook: A Blueprint for Life by Kevin Powell
#14 – The Other Wes Moore: One Name, Two Fates by Wes Moore
#15 – Why Men Fear Marriage: The Surprising Truth Behind Why So Many Men Can’t Commit by RM Johnson
#16 – Black Titan: A.G. Gaston and the Making of a Black American Millionaire by Carol Jenkins
#17 – Brainwashed: Challenging the Myth of Black Inferiority by Tom Burrell
#18 – A New Earth: Awakening to Your Life’s Purpose by Eckhart Tolle
#19 – John Oliver Killens: A Life of Black Literary Activism by Keith Gilyard
#20 – Alain L. Locke: The Biography of a Philosopher by Leonard Harris
#21 – Age Ain’t Nothing but a Number: Black Women Explore Midlife by Carleen Brice
#22 – 2012 Guide to Literary Agents by Chuck Sambuchino #23 – Chicken Soup for the Prisoner’s Soul by Tom Lagana #24 – 101 Things Every Boy/Young Man of Color Should Know by LaMarr Darnell Shields
#25 – Beyond the Black Lady: Sexuality and the New African American Middle Class by Lisa B. Thompson
* * * * *
By Kiini Ibura Salaam
Ancient, Ancient collects the short fiction by Kiini Ibura Salaam, of which acclaimed author and critic Nalo Hopkinson writes, ”Salaam treats words like the seductive weapons they are. She wields them to weave fierce, gorgeous stories that stroke your sensibilities, challenge your preconceptions, and leave you breathless with their beauty.” Indeed, Ms. Salaam’s stories are so permeated with sensuality that in her introduction to
, Nisi Shawl, author of the award-winning Filter House, writes, ”Sexuality-cum-sensuality is the experiential link between mind and matter, the vivid and eternal refutation of the alleged dichotomy between them. This understanding is the foundation of my 2004 pronouncement on the burgeoning sexuality implicit in sf’s Afro-diasporization. It is the core of many African-based philosophies. And it is the throbbing, glistening heart of Kiini’s body of work. This book is alive. Be not afraid.”
* * * * *
By Frank B. Wilderson III
Wilderson, a professor, writer and filmmaker from the Midwest, presents a gripping account of his role in the downfall of South African apartheid as one of only two black Americans in the African National Congress (ANC). After marrying a South African law student, Wilderson reluctantly returns with her to South Africa in the early 1990s, where he teaches Johannesburg and Soweto students, and soon joins the military wing of the ANC. Wilderson’s stinging portrait of Nelson Mandela as a petulant elder eager to accommodate his white countrymen will jolt readers who’ve accepted the reverential treatment usually accorded him. After the assassination of Mandela’s rival, South African Communist Party leader Chris Hani, Mandela’s regime deems Wilderson’s public questions a threat to national security; soon, having lost his stomach for the cause, he returns to America.
Wilderson has a distinct, powerful voice and a strong story that shuffles between the indignities of Johannesburg life and his early years in Minneapolis, the precocious child of academics who barely tolerate his emerging political consciousness.
Wilderson’s observations about love within and across the color line and cultural divides are as provocative as his politics; despite some distracting digressions, this is a riveting memoir of apartheid’s last days.Publishers Weekly
* * * * *
There are more African Americans under correctional control today–in prison or jail, on probation or parolethan were enslaved in 1850, a decade before the Civil War began. If you take into account prisoners, a large majority of African American men in some urban areas, like Chicago, have been labeled felons for life. These men are part of a growing undercaste, not class, castea group of people who are permanently relegated, by law, to an inferior second-class status.
They can be denied the right to vote, automatically excluded from juries, and legally discriminated against in employment, housing, access to education and public benefitsmuch as their grandparents and great-grandparents once were during the Jim Crow era.Michelle Alexander, The New Jim Crow
* * * * *
By Colin Grant
The definitive group biography of the WailersBob Marley, Peter Tosh, and Bunny Livingstonchronicling their rise to fame and power. Over one dramatic decade, a trio of Trenchtown R&B crooners swapped their 1960s Brylcreem hairdos and two-tone suits for 1970s battle fatigues and dreadlocks to become the Wailersone of the most influential groups in popular music. Colin Grant presents a lively history of this remarkable band from their upbringing in the brutal slums of Kingston to their first recordings and then international superstardom. With energetic prose and stunning, original research, Grant argues that these reggae stars offered three models for black men in the second half of the twentieth century: accommodate and succeed (Marley), fight and die (Tosh), or retreat and live (Livingston). Grant meets with Rastafarian elders, Obeah men (witch doctors), and other folk authorities as he attempts to unravel the mysteries of Jamaica’s famously impenetrable culture.
Much more than a top-flight music biography, The Natural Mystics offers a sophisticated understanding of Jamaican politics, heritage, race, and religiona portrait of a seminal group during a period of exuberant cultural evolution. 8 pages of four-color and 8 pages of black-and-white illustrations. Colin Grant Interview, The Natural Mystics
* * * * *
By Tracy K. Smith
Tracy K. Smith, author of Life on Mars has been selected as the winner of the 2012 Pulitzer Prize for Poetry. In its review of the book, Publishers Weekly noted the collection’s “lyric brilliance” and “political impulses [that] never falter.” A New York Times review stated, “Smith is quick to suggest that the important thing is not to discover whether or not we’re alone in the universe; it’s to acceptor at least endurethe universe’s mystery. . . . Religion, science, art: we turn to them for answers, but the questions persist, especially in times of grief. Smith’s pairing of the philosophically minded poems in the books first section with the long elegy for her father in the second is brilliant.” Life on Mars follows Smith’s 2007 collection, Duende, which won the James Laughlin Award from the Academy of American Poets, the only award for poetry in the United States given to support a poet’s second book, and the first Essence Literary Award for poetry, which recognizes the literary achievements of African Americans.
The Bodys Question (2003) was her first published collection. Smith said Life on Mars, published by small Minnesota press Graywolf, was inspired in part by her father, who was an engineer on the Hubble space telescope and died in 2008.
* * * * *
By Derrick Bell
In nine grim metaphorical sketches, Bell, the black former Harvard law professor who made headlines recently for his one-man protest against the school’s hiring policies, hammers home his controversial theme that white racism is a permanent, indestructible component of our society. Bell’s fantasies are often dire and apocalyptic: a new Atlantis rises from the ocean depths, sparking a mass emigration of blacks; white resistance to affirmative action softens following an explosion that kills Harvard’s president and all of the school’s black professors; intergalactic space invaders promise the U.S. President that they will clean up the environment and deliver tons of gold, but in exchange, the bartering aliens take all African Americans back to their planet. Other pieces deal with black-white romance, a taxi ride through Harlem and job discrimination.
Civil rights lawyer Geneva Crenshaw, the heroine of Bell’s And We Are Not Saved (1987), is back in some of these ominous allegories, which speak from the depths of anger and despair. Bell now teaches at New York University Law School.Publishers Weekly
* * * * *
From The World and Africa, 1965
* * * * *
* * * * *
If you like this page consider making a donation
online through PayPal
* * * * *
Browse all issues
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
* * * * *
update 31 July 2012