Both Water and Bridges

Both Water and Bridges


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



One week, in the year I turned 30, it rained for days and days running in

New York. The skies remained black from dawn to dawn. I almost

slit my wrists. The only thing that kept the razor from my skin was

worrying about who would find me and how it would affect them.



Books by Kalamu ya Salaam


The Magic of JuJu: An Appreciation of the Black Arts Movement  /   360: A Revolution of Black Poets

Everywhere Is Someplace Else: A Literary Anthology  /  From A Bend in the River: 100 New Orleans Poets

Our Music Is No Accident   /  What Is Life: Reclaiming the Black Blues Self

My Story My Song (CD)


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Both Water & Bridges

 (for Staceyann in the space/time continuum)

By Kalamu ya Salaam

a fear expressed is a fear reduced don’t let anxieties about the future, curdle  the sweet of tasting in the present

every “now” has its own joys, its own  sorrows. every lived moment is now. it is  not the water but the bridge that ages 

precisely because the water is  constantly renewing . . . and so, keep running be water, renew and run, run and renew and

where ever, whom ever you touch, build build bridges, links, one to the other whomsoever the other is, we should create

a crossing, a way to connect, a bridge built by each of us to the other of us as we flow on and follow our own paths

and so to be whole is to be both: be water constantly running be bridges constantly built

life is motion/movement. keep going.  share the beauty of your flowing, the beauty of your bridges connecting everywhere 

howsoever old you grow, share your beauty,  build more bridges. be both water and bridge, flow & connection—a luta continua . . .

11 May 2010

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Old Water/Running

                          By Staceyann Chin


Eleven-thirty-one in the morning and my day is already done dog walked breakfast had/I am back in bed home with the green wall and the treadmill staring at the muted TV the ceramic turtles sitting pretty on bursting bookshelves My New York routine has become old/water running under a tired bridge having built a fortress around my celebrated survival my palms tap out a known rhythm dum da dumb my mouth never opens wide enough to see teeth my grandmother is gone my mother may well be dead I don’t know anything anymore dogs needs stability babies require constants not variables a house a car regular/bills/safe love real passion is never predictable never safe I want to hurl my four corners over an abyss hiss the name of some new war into the black sky resurrect the battle-scars of the fights I left behind jump I want to jump like I’m fifteen and fierce the thirties have brought quiet listen the elders said I heard my own heart slowing my blood simmered down I pulled my limbs in and waited all this listening has made me antsy all the fires I hold in my fist are still burning I’m afraid my arms will fossilize into the statuesque tongue is holding steady against wooden coins and foolish dreams I always dreamed I could change something even if it was only hubris I wanted to be a part of something bigger than just my drive to live forever I craved something harder than the core of me broken in childhood I’ve spent my life building it tougher than any man any woman who thinks she could crack me by throwing me into a radiator is a fool I’m a granite motherfucker/diamond without the shine these days nothing gets by me not kind words nor soft appreciation these are ten things people do not know about me 1. I hear everything but I am not always listening 2. I don’t ever love with all my heart only the parts I know will survive you 3. I never get drunk no matter how much I drink I always know who did what/when/whom 4. The everyday of life bores the fuck out of me 5. I want to go back to school but I do not know how to admit how much I do not know 6. My body aging/frightens me feminist freak who loves the lines on her flesh I mourn the folds increasing the width of me 7. I love fucking, but it scares me when my lover knows too much about me I withdraw/fast 8. Half the things I own weigh me down I want to give away my bed/toss my couch and move to Morocco 9. Intimacy unnerves me makes me think of to-do lists 10. I want to take a road trip. A long one. No apparent destination. No schedule. No deadlines. Nothing but me and sky. All this and I am still so afraid of falling on my face on my fists coward the word grows angry in my nostrils coward/why can’t you just follow your gut/coward fail or flight the magic is in the doing coward/what about your forties? your fifties what about those years no one wants to hear an old woman rant what will you do then when your legs won’t bend like they used to the time to move is now while your pussy still gets a little wet so much water done pass under this old bridge what you mean you afraid of drowning coward if you do not go now the heart of you is likely to turn from pulsing sinew to everlasting stone

Source: Facebook

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Weathering Depression: Surviving the S.A.D. Blues

By Staceyann Chin

When I was growing up in Jamaica I never understood why white people on TV talked so much about the bloody weather. Little old ladies exclaimed to other little old ladies, “Isn’t it a beautiful day?” and I was perplexed by the question. Outside my window the bright, hot sun shone everyday and all day long, no matter what time of the year it was. When it rained, it did so for only a few warm minutes. Then the sky was immediately blue again. My British pen pal wrote pages and pages about the cloudy London sky. I read the perfect penmanship and was bored beyond measure. I responded in tedious kind about the sunny skies in Montego Bay, all the while wondering why the strange girl was so interested in matters as mundane as clouds. Then I moved to New York City and the weather report became my lifeline as I dressed for the day. There is nothing to describe the journey from the tropics, where we never think about the weather except to complain that it is hotter than usual, to a place that freezes over for months at a time every year. And for years I couldn’t understand why every September I would fall into an inexplicable, unshakable depression, why verses and verses of tragic, dark (badly written) poems filled my journals, why I wouldn’t answer my phone, or go outside, or eat very much. Every time the sun went away I wanted to crawl under my covers and go to sleep forever. And for months I had minimal contact with the world beyond my apartment, and I became tacit and sharp with those close to me. Many of my relationships ended under the strain. For half a decade, periodically and sporadically I was a wreck and I had no idea why. One week, in the year I turned 30, it rained for days and days running in New York. The skies remained black from dawn to dawn. I almost slit my wrists. The only thing that kept the razor from my skin was worrying about who would find me and how it would affect them. And suddenly, it got warm, and the urge to harm myself disappeared. I decided that it was time to have a closer look at what was happening to me. Like any good self-indulgent writer, I started reading the journals I had kept over the years. It took me two journals to discover that though my bouts of sadness were often informed by difficult events in my life, they were completely at the mercy of the weather. If something slightly disappointing happened in the spring, I could brush it off as unimportant and easily bounce back from the disappointment. But if the same thing happened in the fall, it would push me down into a pit of sorrow. Every fall, for the first five years I lived in New York, this pattern of behavior ensued. As soon as it got cool, I started pulling into myself. The colder it got, the more intractably depressed I became. I talked to friends about the phenomenon and found that many immigrants from the continent of Africa, from all the different islands of the Caribbean, even people from the South and California had similar tales of the cold-weather blues. And when I googled it, I found a term, seasonal affective disorder (SAD), a disease where people who experience normal mental health during the rest of the year become depressed in the wintertime. It’s some kind of negative response to the lack of sunshine and warmth. I suppose there are varying degrees of it, and I don’t imagine I had the worst version of it. Because as soon as I knew what was happening to me I felt better. Even though I don’t know why it happens, knowing that it was not some imagined condition made it easier to navigate. I talked to my therapist about it, and thousands of dollars later, when my mood plummets, before I do anything, I check the color of the sky. If it is gray, I know that what I feel may be driven more by the weather than anything else. Now, my life feels less crazy in the cold months, less hopeless, and more in control of my moods. That means I manage my day to day, my year to year much better than I did before. Today, it is raining. Hard. The sky has been morose for days now. The temperature outside falls a little every hour. I am cooped up in my Brooklyn apartment, snuggled down under the sheets with one of the most brilliant minds of our time. She is sleeping. I am working, blogging, trying to make art of my afternoon. The wall in my bedroom is painted the color of a summer sky.   Everyday I try my best to navigate the delicate balance between my flawed psyche and my less than ideal environment. And I suppose have found a way to be happy. Years ago I would have scoffed at the hippie-like quest for something so elusive as happiness. But, happiness, or the absence of discontent, I have found is not something you search for in the heavens. It is simply the feeling that sustains you as you dance along the continuum of grief and anger and disappointment and change. It is the ability to feel the sun’s rays caressing your face, even with the threat of the darkest skies hanging angry overhead.

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The Other Side of Paradise: A Memoir

By Staceyann Chin

A fresh, forthright, affecting memoir by Jamaican performance artist Chin finds warmth and humor in her abject, parentless childhood. The Paradise of the title is the slum of Montego Bay, Jamaica, where Chin spent her hardscrabble adolescence, and her remarkable memoir is framed around her mother’s rejection of her and her older brother, Delano, and the uncertainty about who Chin’s father really was.

Born to a young, street-savvy girl with a penchant for distinguished older men with money (in this case, a local Chinese businessman who always insisted he was not Chin’s father), Chin spent her early years along with Delano under the care of their stern, God-fearing, illiterate grandmother.

Early on, the spirited, defiant youngster learned to lie about her parentage, while the poverty and neediness of the siblings rendered them charity cases for relatives in Bethel Town and Kingston.

Once, their mother came to visit them from where she lived in Montreal, Canada, though she quickly foisted them onto other relatives for good, leaving Chin, at age nine, to fend for herself in the shack of her harsh great-aunt whose boys routinely attempted to rape her. Nonetheless, Chin excelled at school, thanks to financial help from the man who refused to acknowledge his paternity, and became an emigrant success story later in New York. Her courage in coming out as a lesbian underscores her intrepidity in making this story her own.—Publishers Weekly

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A completely absorbing account of how a girl born into denial and contempt can grow up resilient, sane, and full of purpose. She also shows me a culture I knew far too little about—the everyday life of young people in Jamaica and the threat of violence looming over anyone who might be too independent or queer or outrageous. How wonderful that this outrageous, talented, determined woman has given us her story.—Dorothy Allison, author of Bastard Out of Carolina and Cavedweller “Staceyann Chin’s memoir is a heartbreaking feat of unflinching memory and language. Set in a Jamaica far from the tourist brochures, The Other Side of Paradise is Chin’s rich and nuanced story of family and abandonment, love and brutality, and a child’s struggle to survive and find a home that will accept her. A remarkable young woman emerges, whose gift for poetry has been forged by poverty, religiosity, and a circle of adults who found the child in their care. This is A Portrait of the Artist written for our age. I love this book—and I am completely hamstrung by the feelings it evokes.”—Walter Mosley The human family is a complex ecosystem, a magnificent experiment of righteous diversity. The Other Side of Paradise captures the evocative struggle of one strong but fragile flower. Staceyann breaks our hearts a little, and then brings us safely, gratefully, home. —Rebecca Walker, author of One Big Happy Family and Black White and Jewish Staceyann’s courage, sensitivity, and bravery are exposed on these vulnerable pages. Captured is the fire, passion, and light I experience when she performs. Liberating, beautiful, and life-affirming, The Other Side of Paradise is simply incredible.—Russell Simmons, author of Do You!

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By Staceyann Chin

Staceyann Chin’s work, widely known as a co-writer and original performer in the Tony Award–winning Russell Simmons Def Poetry Jam on Broadway, has received rousing cheers at the Nuyorican Poets Cafe and in her one-woman shows Off Broadway. A proud Jamaican national, she has been featured on The Oprah Winfrey Show, where she spoke candidly about her experiences of growing up on the island and the dire consequences of her coming-out there.

With Crossfire, Chin collects for the first time twelve years of writing from a no-holds-barred career that has fearlessly bridged the divides not only of race, gender, sexuality, and national origins, but those of performance and poetry as well. In the author’s words, “I would say I do a mad dance between the kind of poetry that attempts to clarify detail and the kind of hurricane that is necessary for performance.” Crossfire combines Chin’s most outspoken and revealing poems, performance pieces, and personal essays that have earned her an iconic status among spoken word audiences and beyond.

Staceyann Chin has been interviewed on NBC, CNN, VH1, BET, LOGO, and 60 Minutes, and she has performed on the CBS-aired Tony Awards. Additionally, she has been a stock feature on the Peabody Award–winning HBO series Def Poetry Jam. Her memoir, The Other Side of Paradise, was published by Scribner’s in 2008.—Publisher, Alyson Books (June 1, 2010)

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I just discovered a bit last evening about Staceyann Chin. I had a midnight with my friend Kalamu. These chats are not frequent, every now and then. And he told me about his response to a poem by Staceyann. He was impressed by her poetic calling out in her fears and miseries. And Voila! There’s a poem in all this, he says, to himself. I had read … See Morethe poem before our chat. I was not quite sure who was the author. I thought at first it might be a Kalamu imitator, for he did not have his name on the poem. I thought I had read something about Staceyann Chinbefore. My initial impression was that she was a wild woman. And at that now, I was in no mood for a wild woman, a lesbian, a feminist. He said nothing in responses to the expression of my own fears. So I told Kalamu this and told him I’d take his word and take another look at Staceyann. So I spent the next four hours at my computer discovering that I too love Staceyann Chin. . So I posted Kalamu‘s poem “Both Water & Bridges,” a dedication to Staceyann on ChickenBones. And I found her on Facebook and the poem that inspired Kalamu’s poem and then I went to and found more of her work.I spent the rest of the four hours laying out what my research had uncovered, including the beauty of Staceyann Chin. I hope you’ll take a second look at Staceyann as well. I think you too will come to empathize with her life and her struggles and come to love her as well. Loving you madly, Rudy

12 May 2010

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Guarding the Flame of Life

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Audio: My Story, My Song (Featuring blues guitarist Walter Wolfman Washington)

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



#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 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

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The New Jim Crow

Mass Incarceration in the Age of Colorblindness

By Michele Alexander

Contrary to the rosy picture of race embodied in Barack Obama’s political success and Oprah Winfrey’s financial success, legal scholar Alexander argues vigorously and persuasively that [w]e have not ended racial caste in America; we have merely redesigned it. Jim Crow and legal racial segregation has been replaced by mass incarceration as a system of social control (More African Americans are under correctional control today… than were enslaved in 1850). Alexander reviews American racial history from the colonies to the Clinton administration, delineating its transformation into the war on drugs. She offers an acute analysis of the effect of this mass incarceration upon former inmates who will be discriminated against, legally, for the rest of their lives, denied employment, housing, education, and public benefits. Most provocatively, she reveals how both the move toward colorblindness and affirmative action may blur our vision of injustice: most Americans know and don’t know the truth about mass incarceration—but her carefully researched, deeply engaging, and thoroughly readable book should change that.—Publishers Weekly

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Blacks in Hispanic Literature: Critical Essays

Edited by Miriam DeCosta-Willis 

Blacks in Hispanic Literature is a collection of fourteen essays by scholars and creative writers from Africa and the Americas. Called one of two significant critical works on Afro-Hispanic literature to appear in the late 1970s, it includes the pioneering studies of Carter G. Woodson and Valaurez B. Spratlin, published in the 1930s, as well as the essays of scholars whose interpretations were shaped by the Black aesthetic. The early essays, primarily of the Black-as-subject in Spanish medieval and Golden Age literature, provide an historical context for understanding 20th-century creative works by African-descended, Hispanophone writers, such as Cuban Nicolás Guillén and Ecuadorean poet, novelist, and scholar Adalberto Ortiz, whose essay analyzes the significance of Negritude in Latin America. This collaborative text set the tone for later conferences in which writers and scholars worked together to promote, disseminate, and critique the literature of Spanish-speaking people of African descent. . . . Cited by a literary critic in 2004 as “the seminal study in the field of Afro-Hispanic Literature . . . on which most scholars in the field ‘cut their teeth’.”

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

Browse all issues

1950        1960        1965        1970        1975        1980        1985        1990        1995        2000 ____ 2005        


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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery /

George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 — The Founding of Haiti 

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posted 12 May 2010




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