Emilio Santiago

Emilio Santiago


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes




Selected Poems from

Nia: Haiku, Sonnets, Sun Songs

By neo-griot Kalamu ya Salaam




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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Emilio Santiago


I woke up, slowly, or I though I woke up. Maybe I was still dreaming. Next

thing I knew I had quit my job at the factory, and at the office, and on the

assembly line and I was sitting on the warm ground with my father fishing in

city park. We both had on freshly washed jeans and old shirts. His had a

torn pockets and a hole in the left sleeve, mine had chocolate milk stains on it

from that morning when I went to drink the milk and missed my mouth.


My dad was showing me things he never showed me when he was alive, or

maybe it was things he showed me but things somehow I was unable to see

then even though he tried to show me. I smile as I see myself learning stuff

from my dad. I was 13 and I was learning how to smile like a man.


When the sun started going down we walked home. He walked slowly

enough that I could keep up without rushing. I was holding the poles and

the empty bucket, we had released all the fish we caught. Daddy had said

there was no need to take what we didn’t need, and he put his arm around my

shoulder, loosely around my shoulders, and kissed me on the nose.


Fully awake now, I look over at you. You are still sleeping. The window in

our room are shaded but the morning light is spread around the edges like

the crust on bread. You make a very light whistling sound as you inhale

while sleeping. I don’t want to turn the TV on. I don’t want to see anymore

hostages. if I turn the TV on I will become a hostage too. What does your

mother think of me now? I am in the middle of my life and there are no bells

on my shoulders, no post graduate degrees on my wall.


I can hear the traffic in the street outside. Where do people think they are

going? I wish everyday I could go somewhere I’ve never been before, touch

the doors of houses I’ve never entered, walk in the wash of seas that have

never wet me. I start to wake you and ask you the last time we walked along

in the park wandering hand in hand through the flock of ducks or when was

it I most recently kissed you in public. Over all I’m pretty satisfied with our

furniture, it’s just the nagging thoughts that we didn’t really need a leather

sofa and glass coffee table to be happy, but it’s just a thought.


I see the shape of you beneath the thin sheet pulled up almost to your

shoulders. The radio has come on automatically, and as the jazz filters into

the room and into my consciousness I realize it’s on WWOZ and someone

is on the radio saying that this is a gorgeous Monday, that Mondays are the

best days of the week. I look at him queerly. The music is nice.


Suddenly there is this sound, this song that doesn’t quite sound like the

average song, it sounds so, so, so I don’t know, so lonely, no not lonely, so

incomplete, unfinished. It sounds like he is in my head, or I mean that music 

is music that is inside me, and somehow he saw it. Did my father tell him to

play his music? And then the track is over. I listen for what the artist is and 

the DJ calls my name, but I never made any music. I never made the music I

wanted to, maybe he is trying to tell me something.


The next song that plays is a ballad in some language I don’t recognize but I

clearly see myself singing this foreign song on a red tile patio early in the

morning with five freshly cut yellow roles in my hand.


I stand up to listen to the music better. Both my hands are on top of my

head with my fingers interlaced. I am nude. You wake up. I can feel you

watching me. My eyes are closed.


When the song ends you ask me what I am thinking. I tell you I don’t know

and you kiss my hand, the hand with which I reached down to touch your

thick dark brown hair.


Is this still a dream? No, my fingers are wet where you kissed me. The music

 is filling our bedroom. Maybe I am supposed to be an artist. Finally I tell

you as much of my truth as I am able to understand at this moment. “I was

just listening to that music and it made me think about a lot of things I’ve

always wanted to do. . . .”

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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.” We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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Forged: Writing in the Name of God

Why the Bible’s Authors Are Not Who We Think They Are

By Bart D. Ehrman

The evocative title tells it all and hints at the tone of sensationalism that pervades this book. Those familiar with the earlier work of Ehrman, a distinguished professor of religious studies at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill, and author of more than 20 books including Misquoting Jesus, will not be surprised at the content of this one. Written in a manner accessible to nonspecialists, Ehrman argues that many books of the New Testament are not simply written by people other than the ones to whom they are attributed, but that they are deliberate forgeries. The word itself connotes scandal and crime, and it appears on nearly every page. Indeed, this book takes on an idea widely accepted by biblical scholars: that writing in someone else’s name was common practice and perfectly okay in ancient times. Ehrman argues that it was not even then considered acceptable—hence, a forgery. While many readers may wish for more evidence of the charge, Ehrman’s introduction to the arguments and debates among different religious communities during the first few centuries and among the early Christians themselves, though not the book’s main point, is especially valuablePublishers Weekly  / Forged Bart Ehrman’s New Salvo (Witherington)

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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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updated 9 April 2008




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