ChickenBones: A Journal
for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes
Diary Notes from
The Marcus Bruce Christian Archives
University of New Orleans
Books by Marcus Bruce Christian
Song of the Black Valiants: Marching Tempo / High Ground: A Collection of Poems / Negro soldiers in the Battle of New Orleans
I am New Orleans: A Poem / Negro Iron Workers of Louisiana: 1718-1900 / The Liberty Monument
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On the Death of Marion Badon
[note dated, but probably late 1944 or early 1945]
His eyes came back again to the Girl whom he had always called “My Heart,” and his grief began to rise and his eyes dimmed. He wiped them dry and still stood there alone with the Girl in the silence of the undertaking parlor. His lingering last look, took in the folded hands resting upon her belly, her long tapering fingers–hands that he had kissed so many times–and his gaze followed the somewhat peach-colored knitted evening gown on up, passing over the wrinkles of her throat–not very deep ones–the color of her skin.
It was now “the tint of Mexican gold,” as Lafcadio Hearn might have said, but it showed much more color than when she had been alive, he thought. Then she was much whiter, her skin like ivory just beginning to show the first tinge of yellow. He looked at her breasts–almost non-existent, and studied her chin and her swollen carmined lips. Her cheekbones seemed to stand out more prominently in her swollen face, and the powder was too heavy for naturalness. Her lips protruded more than he had ever known them, and the bridge of her nose showed a pronounced ridge that was almost Jewish. Her hair was browner and fluffier than he had known it. He had always thought it as black as the raven’s wing. And it was one of the things that accentuated her Indian blood. But now it seemed dark brown and fluffy like a white woman’s.
When he reached her forehead that he had studied so long and remembered perhaps more distinctly than any other part of her face, he looked at it and did not find the whiteness accentuated by the hair–black hair–parted in the middle. The brown hair was now parted on the side. One deep wrinkle cut a small gulley across her brow, the wrinkle that he had seen grow deeper with the years. But one caught his attention and held it more than anything else. it was a slight group of very small wrinkles which might have been made by one in pain and bewilderment, fighting hard against oncoming darkness.
It could have been placed there by the pressure of thumb or forefinger of the undertaker upon the unresponsive skin, but to the Man it told of those last few minutes when the Girl, whom he had so long laughingly called “My Heart,” had looked up for the last time out of the vale of pain, and bewilderment and attempted to open wider her surprised, dimming eyes at the approach of the Dark Rider. He looked in vain for the gray hairs that he had kidded her about only two weeks previously, but they were not to be seen.
Then, a great cry welled up out of his soul, “O Marion,” and he turned and went to the side door of the parlor, and stood studying the nearby houses and rooftops, as the evening Angelus of the church across the street rang out its benediction of blessing and peace across the hot city that lay spent beneath the heat of a slowly cooling day. He stood at the door, thinking, thinking . . . .
I am reading through long books on Louisiana history that I have never seen, documents that I find unfamiliar, but interesting and true to fact, and I have already dreamed of that cemetery where Marion is buried.. It is funny that the type of dreams are so similar to those I had long ago. But these dreams must be mixed up with my interest in Louisiana history, and especially New Orleans history, that seems to have been born a part of me. There is always that damnable feeling that I was in New Orleans some time long ago, when the houses were close to the sidewalk, and built in the old style of long ago.
I think it a species of incipient insanity, having experienced that our slight “normal” aberrations are the things that grow into complexes when the pressure of nerves is applied. But if ever a man had reasons to believe in reincarnation, I have those reasons when I stand before houses that I have never seen but seem as familiar to me as if I had been raised up in them. I never saw pictures of French houses before I came to New Orleans and country houses are not built like these queer specimens one sees in the downtown section of New Orleans, but still I cannot account for it, and yes, when I first came here at the age of seventeen, it was the downtown section that awoke [something in me]. . . .
Each time that he felt sobs rising to his throat, he forced them down and went on, but suddenly someone began singing “Danny Boy,” over the cheap radio next door, and grief came down in torrential tears. He went towards the front of the house so that the people next door could not hear him through the thin walls of the kitchen and bathroom. Snatching up a soiled sheet, he sat down, shaken with the first onrush of incoherent grief — bitter, wringing grief — long-delayed grief, and gave himself up to it.
He tried to reason it out even then. He had not ever loved the Girl wildly, nor hardly hoped to love her possessively, but he did remember that he had often said, that she was one of his dreams. He had never had any wild desire to marry or be with her. Maybe it was the funeral or the sadness?
Then he commenced thinking how for years he had kept in touch with her and she with him, how it was only meet and salute and then gone, but it was always–sooner or later–that meet and salute. He had held on to other woman that long and in just that sort of way. . . .
Down through the streets of Old New Orleans the procession slowly wheeled its way. the Man could remember with vivid exactitude several insignificant things which never would have been noticed at all. Somehow the sinking rays of the sun — although still hot — took on a look similar to that other funeral procession in which he had rode almost thirty years before. It was his father’s funeral and he could remember how the children at the school where he attended, stop from their play to look up at the horse-drawn plumed hearses and carriages as it passed by.
Pass old houses that awoke dim, nostalgic memories out of some other-life that the Man might have lived, and into the oak-lined old French avenue, to the large cemetery with its rich tombs of marble and granite. Although he had oft-times passed there when he was a chauffer twenty years before, he never knew that colored people were buried in that fine cemetery. He turned to Rev. Holmes and asked: “Are the white and colored segregated in here, Reverend?” and was answered. “I do not think so, in fact, I am quite sure they are not. these old cemeteries of more than a hundred years, haven’t got much segregation–never had.”
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By Marcus Bruce Christian
Study of the blacksmith tradition and New Orleans famous lace balconies and fences.
Acclaimed during his life as the unofficial poet laureate of the New Orleans African-American community, Marcus Christian recorded a distinguished career as historian, journalist, and literary scholar. He was a contributor to Pelican’s Gumbo Ya Ya, and also wrote many articles that appeared in numerous newspapers, journals, and general-interest publications.
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#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
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#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
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#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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A Novel by Jesmyn Ward
On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family thats about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrinas inexorable winds is the voice of Wards narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her familys raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brothers blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt. Her fathers hands are like gravel, while her own hand slides through his grip like a wet fish, and a handsome boys muscles jabbered like chickens. Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isnt usually just metaphor for metaphors sake. She conveys something fundamental about Eschs fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, whats salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.
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By Noam Chomsky
In this urgent new book, Noam Chomsky surveys the dangers and prospects of our early twenty-first century. Exploring challenges such as the growing gap between North and South, American exceptionalism (including under President Barack Obama), the fiascos of Iraq and Afghanistan, the U.S.-Israeli assault on Gaza, and the recent financial bailouts, he also sees hope for the future and a way to move forwardin the democratic wave in Latin America and in the global solidarity movements that suggest “real progress toward freedom and justice.” Hopes and Prospects is essential reading for anyone who is concerned about the primary challenges still facing the human race. “This is a classic Chomsky work: a bonfire of myths and lies, sophistries and delusions. Noam Chomsky is an enduring inspiration all over the worldto millions, I suspectfor the simple reason that he is a truth-teller on an epic scale. I salute him.” John Pilger In dissecting the rhetoric and logic of American empire and class domination, at home and abroad, Chomsky continues a longstanding and crucial work of elucidation and activism . . .the writing remains unswervingly rational and principled throughout, and lends bracing impetus to the real alternatives before us.Publisher’s Weekly
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From The World and Africa, 1965
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update 9 January 2012