Heartbreak Hotel

Heartbreak Hotel


ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes



They want us in space / for murders & robberies

let’s talk about responsibility / & faith in government




Heartbreak Hotel

               —from the Village Voice


                                          By Rudolph Lewis


New York is a half a continent

away for Katrina 480

As evacuees we navigate a cutthroat

market with no money,

bunk in hotels around the boroughs.


FEMA’s deadlining to stop footing

the bill. We’re in the clutches

of propaganda from Homeless Services.

Stray dogs earn more sympathy than

Spartan accommodations at the Apollo Hotel—


no closets, drawers, no telephones . . .

People go hungry with candy bars & Red

Cross addicted to denial. Desperation numbs

Outrage criminalizes—files pile up in cases

on desks how New Orleans people are


different in their way of life—it’s a trick

question no matter how you try to explain

the pain. The caseworker doesn’t come 

She’s at home with her money



I talked to a nice lady. I felt really happy


that day for the first time in a long

long time since the hurricane. And then

there’re times when it’s been really, really

rough. I really miss my home. I miss

my friends. I miss the way of life I had.


I don’t know what I’d do without it

Then there’re ultimatums. If they don’t

have funding, get the hell out of Iraq

get the hell out of Iraq, take care

of your own people. If a man has a family


and he’s off with somebody else’s family,

paying their bills, his own family’s suffering—

you gotta take care of your own people

first and your own country. They want us

in spacefor murders & robberies.


Let’s talk about responsibility & faith

in government. I fucking hate them. I was

stuck down there, the police did not know

what to do—too dangerous for FEMA

to come in. How do you think


that made us feel stuck down there—

the mayor shooting at people, making them

turn around? He gave orders to the police

force to do it. We heard the announcement,

twin span completely out, we were told


there was no way out of the city. You

expected someone to come in & help

I feel claustrophobic in my room. You

can’t keep anything organized. There isn’t

a drawer to keep anything in. You can’t eat


anything here, there’s no phone.They’re

treating you like you’re a welfare addict, like

someone who’s never worked a day in her life.

You spend your whole day filling out forms

like what you put poor people through.


I don’t even bother anymore. It’s such a comic

thing—food stamps: you want a full-time job.

They got you at a work center eight hours

a day for food stamps. I don’t have a legitimate

1040 & they kicking me out, telling me


to bounce. I don’t enjoy this kind of public

assistance—just getting by to get on my feet.

It’s too long, too much. My dad passed away

in the hurricane in Chalmette in a tidal wave.

He got to the attic with medicines, died


with a full gallon of water unopened. I hope it

was quick—a heart attack, not a snakebite—

how you deal with that? I’ve never been treated

in this manner but they don’t care. I have money

to pay but they don’t want to hear that.


We been here almost three months.

They wait for the deadline to help us.

*   *   *   *   *


Miriam: That situation makes me wanta holler . . . and kill somebody.  What I hope is that people don’t forget, don’t just move on with their little lives and not think about the hell that the evacuees are still going through.  The t. v. cameras are off, the media is focusing on the 12 miners in West Virginia, Linda Lohan (or whatever in the hell her name is) is getting her 15 minutes of drug/bulimia fame, and folks are wondering how they’re gonna pay their taxes or get a refund . . . and Katrina is put on the back burner.

I talked to a friend who’s making the journey back.  Her husband was diagnosed with cancer three days before Katrina.  She saw a sign on their last trip back “Enter the city at your own risk,” yet Nagin in going around the country telling folk to come back:  “We’re making plans for Mardi Gras.”  She said a friend of hers knows the N. O. coroner, who says, “We ordered 10,000 body bags but ran out a long time ago.”  More lies.  But 600 to 800 children still haven’t been reunited with their families, and FEMA is putting folks out, come February one.  Does anyone care?

Rudy: I don’t know, I don’t know. People want to return to old routines. But it will never be the same. Maybe it’s gonna take time for all of that. We been operating for decades under sterile myths and stereotypes. We’re getting a more poignant sense now what it was like in post-Reconstruction for our fathers and mothers, much more poignant than Du Bois’ Black Reconstruction. We can now feel that kind of situation on the pulse. It is no longer an intellectual exercise. It’s here upon us and all around us, ready to engulf us. I will do as much as I can for as long as I can. There is no rest for the wary, not even in dreams.

Miriam: You have a line of poetry there in “sterile myths and stereotypes” with its rhythm, cadence, and alliterations.

Rudy: Yes, it seems, I’m running on all cylinders. But I ain’t afraid of burnt out. Let come what may. I think there are others out there who ain’t going for the okey-doke of the Bushites. Who are just as hard at work to turn back the tide.


Kam: Nice, although I have a personal aversion to profanity.

Mona Lisa: Thanks Rudy,  It’s a great one. 

posted 6 January 2006   

*   *   *   *   *

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.

*   *   *   *   *


Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

This book explodes several myths: that selling sex is completely different from any other kind of work, that migrants who sell sex are passive victims and that the multitude of people out to save them are without self-interest. Laura Agustín makes a passionate case against these stereotypes, arguing that the label ‘trafficked’ does not accurately describe migrants’ lives and that the ‘rescue industry’ serves to disempower them. Based on extensive research amongst both migrants who sell sex and social helpers, Sex at the Margins provides a radically different analysis. Frequently, says Agustin, migrants make rational choices to travel and work in the sex industry, and although they are treated like a marginalised group they form part of the dynamic global economy. Both powerful and controversial, this book is essential reading for all those who want to understand the increasingly important relationship between sex markets, migration and the desire for social justice. “Sex at the Margins rips apart distinctions between migrants, service work and sexual labour and reveals the utter complexity of the contemporary sex industry. This book is set to be a trailblazer in the study of sexuality.”—Lisa Adkins, University of London

*   *   *   *   *

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)

*   *   *   *   *

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        


*   *   *   *   *

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 21 October 2011




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Related File:  Heartbreak Hotel   No Mardi Gras Without Soul   Postcard from Hell  Ode to Bowling Balls   Naked in the Outer Darkness   Music That Heals   That Which Hurts  In a Time of Chaos    Down by the Riverside     

I Aint No Alarmist  Wintertime in America  

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