ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



His sparking candy eyes soaked into hers seductively as he removed the speck from her hair



Forbidden Fruit

By Jane Musoke-Nteyafas


They clashed. She with her knee length H&M designer suits, suede pumps, Gucci bags and him with his biker clothes; body-length black leather coats, spiked bracelets, faded jeans, laced boots and tattoos. She alternated between driving a small black Golf and the public transit while he rode a huge sparkling Harley Davidson motorcycle and took public transit once in a while. In fact it had been on the Bathurst Streetcar where they had met; one of those few times when she took the Bathurst Street route.

Sweet memories.  Chemical lightening in the air. Love sparks.

During the day Olenka climbed the corporate ladder at a call centre in the downtown core of Toronto. She worked in the telecommunications business as a supervisor but once she left the corporate scene in the evening and headed home, she loosened her hair from its uncomfortably tight bun, kicked off her shoes and rushed to her laptop with her microwaved dinner to work on her writing career. She wrote freelance for several Toronto magazines and online magazines. She also painted on the side and a few of her paintings were often in Toronto galleries. He on the other hand worked a midnight shift in a shelter for abused women and the rest of time was spent playing the guitar and oboe for his band. Occasionally he dabbled with drums as well and was slowly writing a book.

Their first glance at each other had been their undoing. Guilt-filled blushing cheeks and watery eyes. Cupid’s insipid interference. Scandalizing culture clash like monsoon’s and midnight summers or like Viking and Masai love. But Olenka could not turn away. Nor could he. Illicit longing glued their eyes to each other.

Forbidden love.

“I just want to be friends.” She lied.

“Me too.” He lied back and smiled. They both knew that it was a lie but they understood their secret code language. This time he kissed her very softly on the cheek, just a few millimeters shy of her lips, igniting the flames of her lust even more. His magnetic eyes said everything. They wanted to make love to her.

They clashed like the sun and the moon clash, and yet love had found a way of wrapping its honey syrupy fingers around them. They loved like artists. Their love was like a global love which had no boundaries; no country, no language, no religion, no colour – only the love for art. The first time she had seen him was a summer ago on the red Bathurst Streetcar and it was his long wavy silky, black-like-a-crow hair tied in a ponytail which had attracted her to him. She remembered that it had been a sun-drenched Sunday afternoon and she had just come from the Eaton Centre on Queen and Yonge Street. The fact that he dared to have such long hair had her staring at him in the discreet way women stare at men, as she struggled into the streetcar with her grocery bags. Everything he wore was black giving him an air of mysticism. With his dark sunglasses and lean build he reminded her of the Matrix. He wore black leather gloves and gothic-like jewellery. Even the huge guitar case he held was encased in black leather. He was an enigmatic mixture of a cowboy, Goth and biker. There was something hard and yet at the same time soft about him.

Forbidden love.

He was pale, and yet his features made it hard to pinpoint what his background was. He looked like he could be anything from Latin to Welsh to Greek. He had a handsome boyish face, full Indian red lips and unblemished blanched almond skin. His eyes were hidden behind pitch-black sunglasses, again highlighting that aura of mystery he carried about him. It was clear that he had shaved that morning; his cheeks and chin looked baby smooth with that smoothness many black men could not attain. He smelled of a fresh, masculine scent which sent her heart pitter-pattering. She tried to guess his age. He looked like he was in his late 20’s which made him older than her. Just when she started to feel ashamed of staring at a white man like that, the sunlight glinted a strange angle in his face and she realized that he had been staring at her too. She felt herself blushing despite her dark skin. 

Forbidden love.

Olenka was mixed. Her mother was a beautiful, blonde, blue-eyed Russian woman who had fallen in love with her average-looking, cocoa-brown Ugandan father; at that time a political and law student at the Patrice Lumumba University in Moscow in the 1960’s. A few years later, a few harsh winters later, a degree later, she had been the result of their matrimony and her five siblings had come along after her. At some point they had moved to Uganda. But Olenka was one of those biracial people whose African ancestry had claimed her physical features more than the European side. She was more black than white. It was so much so that the only evidence that she had come from her mothers womb was her small nose, the fact that she looked like an Africanized version of her mother and the touch of burly wood-brown colour which was lighter than most of her black friends, but only by an nth degree. Her family was an interesting rainbow of browns with each of her sibling’s skins getting lighter and lighter as they were born and their hair getting curlier. None of them were the same colour but their facial features were as identical as peas. There was never any doubt that they were related.

Olenka’s hair was the wildest, thickest and nappiest in her family. Its knotty lion-like quality was an inheritance from her Ugandan grandmother who according to many stories had been a stunning beauty in her days. All Olenka remembered of her was a cute, tiny, old woman who wore colourful busuti’s – one of the traditional clothes in Uganda. Olenka had triple the amount of hair on her scalp than most people had on their heads. Her hair had been a source of frustration for her East European mother who had no idea what to do with long African hair, but with time Olenka had learnt how to take care of it herself after poring through tones of African American natural hair magazines once they had moved to Canada from Uganda as political refugees. She was known to sport crazy traffic-stopping Afrocentric hairstyles; anything from a huge flaming afro to unique cornrows, to china bumps to threaded hairstyles. At some point in her teens, to the horror of her conservative parents, she had dreadlocked her hair. But she had cut her locks off after two years because she had grown bored with them and she was tired of her father harping on the subject of her controversial hairstyle.

Their family had fled from Uganda during the Idi Amin era in the late 1970’s when it was clear that her father’s fancy political ideas, tempered with a few socialist ideologies, were hitting a sour note with the very dangerous political system and politicians in the country at that time. He was the type of African who had been groomed and educated to survive and excel in Europe and not in a corrupt African society. So he had found work as a civil servant in Canada and had abandoned his political dreams. No longer was he interested in being killed or harassed for his philosophies.

That was how she had come to be more Canadianized than Ugandan or Russian. But at her parents’ insistence she and her siblings spoke both Russian and Luganda-her father’s dialect. She had gone to high school in Toronto and graduated from the University of Toronto. Once she had left university, finding a job in her field had been hard and so she had done the easiest thing she could find and started working in the corporate world. However, in the process of getting her education, she had discovered her artistic tendencies and had started pursuing them on the side.

The streetcar slowly hurtled northbound past old over-priced, fern-covered brick houses and numerous catholic schools towards Bloor Street. Finally she spotted A Different Booklist, a black book store which she frequented and the Honest Ed’s store’s flashing neon sign. The streetcar got to Bathurst Station and like bees after fresh honey, all the people in the bus rushed towards the doors, bumping into each other rudely and a few pushing others out of the way. She did not understand Toronto people and their ice-cold rudeness to each other. On all the buses and streetcars they sat in absolute silence, giving each other stoic stares, avoiding sitting near each other and were always in a rush to escape each other once the bus got to its stop. It was rare to see a smiling friendly person and often times, when friendly people graced the buses with their sunny dispositions, they were given furtive, suspicious looks by the rest.

Olenka remained in her seat, tired after all her grocery and clothes shopping. She was not interested in wrestling with anyone for the door. Finally once the stampeding had slowed down she got up and headed towards the back door. That was when she realized that he was still there watching her with the corner of his lip lifted in a slight smile. He noticed her struggling with her plastic bags and walked up to her. He looked like he was about 5 feet 9.

Forbidden love.

“Need help?” he smiled with a hand offering to carry the bags.  She noticed that one tooth was slightly crooked, giving him an even more boyish look. There was a tug at her heart and she felt breathless as his eyes rested on her, but she forced herself to remain calm.

“Is it that obvious?” She grinned back.

“If there was ever a damsel in distress, it would be you with those bags.” His eyes looked amused behind the daunting sunglasses. 

“Thanks.” She gave him half of her bags as her back and shoulders were starting to hurt. Who was she to refuse help when it was offered freely? “I am going West bound though.”

“That’s ok.”

They both walked off the streetcar and down the stairs into the subway system. Across on the other side of the ramp was a long multicultural line of people waiting for the Bathurst North bus; a woman wearing a beautiful violet Indian sari with two little rambunctious boys who were chasing each other much to her obvious distress, two elderly Portuguese men who were checking out three young black girls in skin-tight jeans, t-shirts and weaves, a group of Chinese students in short skirts, colourful schoolbags with Japanese cartoon prints on them and pigtails, an older West Indian couple – the man wearing an elegant 1940’s hat and the women decked out glamorously as if she was going to church, two bearded Arab men who were chatting, a gang of white boys in baggy hip-hop gear and an angry-looking pale as chalk white girl with black lipstick and enough eyeliner above and under her eyes for the entire country.

Olenka and the handsome stranger walked past the drycleaner’s shop and the Ethiopian-owned subway bakery where she sometimes bought samosas and muffins. She caught whiffs of freshly baked cakes and felt a small pang of hunger. There was a blind, middle-aged white man playing the violin in one of the corners. The music he played sounded so harmonious and out of place in the not so glamorous subway station. He had a tin on the floor where people were dropping whatever money they had. As she walked past him, she noticed that she was getting a lot of stares; curious stares, confused stares, angry stares and admiring stares. At first she did not understand but when she saw a reflection of them together in a glass window, it suddenly hit her how different they were.

She was wearing an all-blown out Afro which circled her head like an angel’s halo, immaculate Mac makeup and a beautiful, colourful flowered summer dress which revealed her well-shaped shoulders, part of her back and pronounced her breasts sensuously. At 5 feet 7 she was all curves with cello-shaped hips and a considerable Africa-blessed behind. Her pretty feet were in flat brown Aldo sandals and her toes were perfectly manicured with silver nail polish. She wore a toe-ring on each second toe. She did not quite look like those high-maintenance girls who men tried to avoid in an effort to control their wallet strings, but it was clear that she took care of herself. She looked beautiful with her small nose, thick lips, trimmed eyebrows, long lashes, high cheekbones and her large sepia-coloured eyes.

But next to him she clashed.

They got to the West end platform and he faced her somewhat awkwardly. Since they were standing in the way, people skirted around them and walked to the other end of the platform, occasionally stealing inquisitive looks back at them. They were a rarity. An aggressive wind came from the subterranean black hole from which the silver train would emerge, blowing both their hair. Leaves swirled and a few people started running down the stairs with a sense of urgency.

Her train was coming.

“Well I am going to the East end. So I guess this is it.” His eyes stared into hers with lots of unasked questions. They were masked pools of turbulent emotions.

“Oh! I thought you were going to the West end too.” She failed to hide the inflection of distress in her voice.

“Sorry to disappoint, but I am going to practice with my band in the East end.”

“So you’re a musician?” She asked stupidly trying to prolong the conversation and spend a few more stolen moments with him.

“I thought the guitar gave me away.” He said with tongue in cheek precision.


“Sorry. That was a stupid question. So what kind of music do you guys play?”

“Anything from jazz to soft rock.” He responded.

Why did she think that it was heavy metal, techno or acid? She was shocked, then she realized that it was ignorant of her to make such assumptions. She of all people should know. Some of the black people at her university had thought she was stuck up because she loved classical music, Shakespearean poetry and the opera. Forget Beethoven, Pushkin and Measha Brueggergosman, there was some weird unwritten rule that black people were not supposed to listen to and read the finer things in life. They were supposed to be glued to only hip hop, R&B and slapstick African American novels with the same ghetto formula of broken homes, broken relationships, broken marriages and illegitimate babies. She preferred the Maya Angelous, Isabelle Allendes, Nino Riccis, Austin Clarkes, Langston Hughes and Wole Soyinkas of the world. Besides she only shared the same interests as her father, a romantic at heart who had raised her up by taking her and the rest of the family to watch the theatre and opera.

People could bite her if they thought she was too bourgeois for them.

“So where do you perform?”

“Anywhere we can get a gig, like the Indian Motorcycle, Soular or Revival….”

“I see.” She said, calculating in her mind how she could see him again. She wondered which nights they performed but she did not want to come across as too forward.

“You’re an artist too aren’t you?” He asked catching her off her guard. He was very perceptive. She liked that.

“Yes. How did you know?”

“Artists can always tell. There is a certain flamboyant flair about artists. It’s in our self-expression, how we dress and our energy. ” He grinned again and she noticed for the millionth time that he had dimples. She wanted to touch them.

She wanted to touch his ponytail. She wanted to wrap herself around him and hold him forever. She felt the strong forces of lust begin to flood her breasts and her groin area. But before she could say anything, the train had stopped behind her with a screeching sound and people had started flowing in and out of it. For some reason she did not take her bags from him, nor did he offer them to her. A speck of dust landed in her hair. He removed his sunglasses for the first time and his sparking candy eyes soaked into hers seductively as he removed the speck from her hair. It felt like he did it in slow motion and time stood still. It was such a sensual, intimate move that she felt a lurch in her ribcage. She felt helpless as she was sucked into his universe through the pool of his eyes. She almost felt as if she had known him all her life. They just started at each other, their eyes locked in a magical dance. They both felt each others scents of sensuality.

The train left.

Then he blinked and tried to shake off the sorcery of her gaze. But the moment was much too poetic and he stumbled with his words. They rushed out of his mouth in a bedazzled stutter.

“Well. I am running late so I will have to go then.” There was regret in his eyes.

“Wait.” She opened her purse and pulled out a pen. She had never done this in her entire 24 years, but something deep in her veins and nerves told her to do it. She pulled out a piece of paper. It was her bus pass but she no longer needed it. “If you do not mind, I would love to keep in touch.”

“Sure. I would like that too. ” He said excitedly and took the paper from her. He wrote down his name – Chris – and a telephone number. From the number she could tell that he lived in the Dufferin and St. Clair area. It was not such a stretch from her apartment at Dundas West Station. When he gave her back the jagged piece of paper, their skins touched and they both recoiled as if they had been scorched.

Forbidden love.

“I am Olenka.” She introduced herself and they shook hands while ignoring the electric sparks which they both felt. Then she tore off a piece of paper and scribbled her name and telephone number on it. She held out her hand and gave it to him. His fingers curled around it as if it were a national treasure.

Forbidden love.

“I am Chris. I was not going to ask you for your number, because I was not sure how you would react, but thanks. I shall be the gentleman and call you first.”

An attractive black guy in a gray suit walked past them and looked Chris up and down with as much disrespect and disdain as he could muster, his eyes not believing that this white dude would have the audacity to talk to a black sister. Then he gave Olenka the most lustful, sexual look he could conjure up. It was a look of masculine ownership. She noticed him from the corner of her eye and ignored him. His lust then turned to icy, accusatory glares.

“Well it will be nice if you call. I just want to be friends.” She lied.

“Me too.” He lied back and smiled as a second train heading West bound hurtled towards them They both knew that it was a lie but they understood their secret code language. This time he handed her back her bags and kissed her very softly on the cheek, just a few millimeters shy of her lips, igniting the flames of her lust even more. His magnetic eyes said everything. They wanted to make love to her. But instead he watched as she was swallowed up by the train, waving at him until she disappeared.

When she found her seat in the train, she told her heart not to expect too much and convinced her body not to sit by the phone and wait for his call.  Men and women operated differently and the last thing she wanted was to get hurt. Already she had crossed the boundaries and made the first move, something that she had never thought herself capable of doing. She had hit on a guy and a white one for that matter! So she went to her apartment which she shared with two of her siblings and as she put her groceries in her fridge and cupboards, she tried to forget him.

She failed. She was too feminine to do that. She was all hormones and emotions. She was all heart and feelings like a typical woman and so getting him out of her mind was an impossibility she was going to have to deal with. So she bit her nails and waited for the call as if her life depended on it.

Chris was true to his word. He called her that night.

Forbidden love.

The fifth time they had made love his fingers had explored her long lion’s mane in awe, exploring the wool texture which identified her as a black woman. Her fingers had also explored the slippery, silky softness of his hair, appreciating the difference but feeling a slight kink in them. His hair smelt of Head and Shoulders shampoo which she inhaled as if it were a perfume. She liked all of his different scents.

“I love your hair you know.” He murmured in her ears seductively. “It’s so beautiful.”

“For real?” She was shocked.

“Of course. It’s so amazing, so different.” He kissed her forehead and massaged her scalp with the tips of his warm fingers. She closed her eyes and relaxed against him. He was so loving. She loved the fact that he was expressive and was not caught up with the whole being too-macho-to-show-his-sensitive-side revolution. She had had enough of that.

“My last boyfriend hated it. He was always trying to get me to perm it.”

“He was insane, drunk or high.”

She giggled.

“You know Chris, you hair feels like a biracial person’s hair. If it were not for your white skin I would wonder what’s in your past.”

“Appearances are deceiving aren’t they?” He mused with an amused tone. “You are biracial but if anyone looked at you, one would never know. I am not as lily white as you think, you know.”

“No?” She raised an arched eyebrow.

“No Olenka. My family is the United Nations. I am part Native Indian, Jewish, Irish, and my grandmother is a beautiful black woman from Nova Scotia. You should come to our family meetings and barbeques. You’d think you were at a United Nations Convention.”

“Wow! I had no idea.”

“That’s what makes things interesting in this country. Things are not what they seem. Canada is more multicultural than it seems. Canadians are more mixed than it appears.” His eyes met hers. “So according to the one drop rule…”

He rolled over her, his masculinity covering her soft felineness and started kissing her again. She permitted herself to be caressed by his expert touch. One thing she had to hand to him, because it was the fourth time they were making love that night, was that when it came to making love, he knew what he was doing. He brought out a wild side of her that shocked her. She did not recognize the wild nymphomaniac who had no regard for his neighbours as she cried out loudly with passion in response to his loving thrusts, but nobody had ever moved her in that way.

Forbidden love.

He stroked her body slowly, his fingers and tongue traveling over her mountains and valleys and exploring every single inch, crevice and hollow of her body. He discovered even more of her secret spots as he licked, kissed, sucked and fondled her so that she opened up to him willingly. Her entire body was filled with a universe of love. Gazing deep into his eyes, into the vulnerability of his soul, she could see that his love matched hers. When he finally claimed her she was a trembling, hungry mass of love and desire. She responded with an explosive energy which she had never known she possessed. Female and male, black and white. Now their bodies merged, thrilling, throbbing, and she was black woman, welling up inside, knowing for certain that no color could overcome human emotion.

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Edited by Bruce Cook of AuthorMe All rights reserved. No portion of this work may be duplicated or copied without written permission of the author Copyright JMN Jane Musoke-Nteyafasã2006

posted  31 March 2006

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Jane Musoke-Nteyafas, poet/author/artist and playwright, was born in Moscow, Russia and currently resides in Toronto, Canada.  She is the daughter of retired diplomats. By the time she was 19, she spoke French, English, Spanish, Danish, Luganda, some Russian and had lived in Russia, Uganda, France, Denmark, Cuba and Canada. She won the Miss Africanada beauty pageant 2000 in Toronto where she was also named ‘one of the new voices of Africa’ after reciting one of her poems. In 2004 she was published in T-Dot Griots-An Anthology of Toronto’s Black storytellers and in February 2005 her art piece Namyenya was featured as the poster piece for the Human Rights through Art-Black History Month Exhibit. 

She is the recipient of numerous awards for her poetry, art, and playwriting and is becoming a household name in Toronto circles. She is a columnist for Bahiyah Woman Magazine and is also a fellow for the Crossing Borders-British Council Writers Programme.

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Jane Musoke-Nteyafas, poet/author/artist and playwright, was born in Moscow, Russia and currently resides in Toronto, Canada.  She is the daughter of retired diplomats. By the time she was 19, she spoke French, English, Spanish, Danish, Luganda, some Russian and had lived in Russia, Uganda, France, Denmark, Cuba and Canada. She won the Miss Africanada beauty pageant 2000 in Toronto where she was also named ‘one of the new voices of Africa’ after reciting one of her poems. In 2004 she was published in T-Dot Griots-An Anthology of Toronto’s Black storytellers and in February 2005 her art piece Namyenya was featured as the poster piece for the Human Rights through Art-Black History Month Exhibit. 

She is the recipient of numerous awards for her poetry, art, and playwriting and is becoming a household name in Toronto circles. She is a columnist for Bahiyah Woman Magazine and is also a fellow for the Crossing Borders-British Council Writers Programme. Nteyafas

*   *   *   *   *’s 25 Best Selling Books



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#10 – Covenant: A Thriller  by Brandon Massey

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#16 – The Future Has a Past: Stories by J. California Cooper

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Salvage the Bones

A Novel by Jesmyn Ward

On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s 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 Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s 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 family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “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 isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s 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, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—


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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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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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update 3 March 2012




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