That's what threw my Pa, my lover, over the line, so he finally found some of himself in me and mine. That's why I saved this here picture of everybody. Cause everybody didn't last till the next harvest. That's a sad thing to say. It's a sad thing for me to remember, but it's the truth. Buried my ma and took her place for the next white man with black cloth over his head and flashes like bits of God's wrath come to capture our souls. Pa-lover said wasn't true, was darkie legend that souls end up in these here pictures. But if that's so, why am I cryin' now?
Gotta go on ahead and find myself somethin' else to do. Get tired visitin' the way back times, I do. Yet I cain't get to the nowadays less I go way back. Sides, I done enough for one woman in two or three lives of anybody. I guess I got me a right to set here and look at what I come fr om and what I beget to this world.
Now look at that stirrin' young gal! That ain't no show turkey vaud eville somebody. No. That ain't nobody's outside woman, either! That's me in my calico matchin' with my girls. Didn't mean to look over em so at first, just I surprised myself, so good-lookin' I forgot, anyway all three of those lil beauties is mine. Mayfields to the bone, I say. They all look so different I worry sometimes that a body might not put em all together as one. And that there hurts a woman's feelin's. I know. I seen folks peekin' to check if they all favor Julius Mayfield or not, or even if they favor me! I swear for glory I take for a wonderment a child God's done let out the heavens. Got no time to be creepin' bout the Devil's doorway, seein' if he been up to mischief or not. Besides, a Mayfield's a Mayfield however they turn out. Can spot em a mile away if you close to the right circle and got any idea of what blue-bloods is.
Look at how that rose from the sleeve of her dress bring out the red in Elma's lips, look to be painted but they not. I got me a mind to get me a brush or an embroidery needle so I can show all the colors them dresses bring out in my daughters' hair, they cheeks, even they eyes take on different kinds of lavender if they wearin' rose at dusk. There's always been more to my girls than black n white, else they faces wouldn't look chiseled like a Ethiop one day and flat like a Cherokee the next. They changin' constant, sorta how no one day come out jus' like some other day, but more like one day slips into another with a slower rhythm or a brighter sound to it. I live some muffled days now, when I barely hear anybody even when I listen close. Then I got days I could hear a stranger's dreams like they was my own. My girls are like that. One day Blanche the whitest niggah wench I ever set eyes on. Next day I find myself callin her "missie," cause I ain't sure if she French or Irish or what ever else kinda white done took to these parts. Now, Elma can look tawny, her eyes blue or purple dependin' on the time of day. And Juliet is a deep bronze with a set of veins all different colors pulsin', filled up with the spirit of her blood so she look like one of them twirlin' mirrors at the travelin' medicine show. But don't none of that matter cause I getta swellin' in my heart which is what the ol' folks say is truly a African heart if I hear any one of my chirren a-callin' for me. Ma, Mawmaw, Mama, I answer to everythin'.
Girls gotta way of callin' for they mother let you know if they happy, in trouble, in love, or foolin' with the haints or a wish they done felt crawl fr om they toes to they mouth and out comes the call for me. Ma, Mawmaw, Mama, and off I go without even turnin' my head round to see who might be about. Slave or free, my girls got the best of me. If somebody don't like that they can whup me later, if they dare. And sometimes, one of them evil niggahs or a white trash beyond they station might very well go on ahead and do that very thing. All I got to say is nigh everythin' close to God can be beat out a soul, but they cain't whip the Ma outcha. I know that.
Excerpted from Some Sing, Some Cry by Ntozake Shange and Ifa Bayeza. Copyright © 2010 by Ntozake Shange and Ifa Bayeza. Excerpted by permission of St. Martin's Press. All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.
Blood at the Root
"A gripping, timely, and important examination of American racism."
- PW Starred Review
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