Lauren Elena White
Cell: 510.575.7454
Residence: 510.266.6226
Project: Swing Your Sing Down Low
Part I: Short Fiction
 this was not a place we had glimpsed or could have imagined.
We knew the time had come.
Our daughter, Zenzie, was having nightmares of a small boy,
a boy of liquid eyes, brown and mischievous.
In her dreams, he followed her around, 
So sure and steady an adoration, so magnetic,
 it affected the way her feet hit the ground. 
This was odd, she was stooped over, as if trying to hear,
feet splayed, listening to the soil.
"Zenzie, Zenzie!!' Paula calls to her, wildness in her voice,
"That was then baby, this is now!" 
I am not allowed in this circle: The Dreams of Mother and Daughter. 
I am on the sidelines, though my eyes are wide open and my heart
flows from this place too.
You must understand, Zenzie and I have our space and it is bountiful.
We had two children, Zenzie and Jamal.
Paula says Zenzie is my double. 
I spit her out and gave her form.
A pint sized version of me.
Jamal and Zenzie were every parent's dream. 
It's true! Then he was diagnosed with cancer. 
But, if the writing had been on the wall,
we were ignorant of it's message. 
When Jamal passed on, Paula and I fell into an ancient society. 
 This was not a place we had ever glimpsed or could have imagined.
 Jamal was five .
Somehow, over time, Zenzie forgot.
It happened, I tell you, and in our grief; which seeped through the years
in a consistent, colorful flow, bearing different names and incomprehensible reactions,
we did nothing to stem the tide of this mighty forgetting.
We did nothing.  Our mouths fell silent.
In a quiet moment last night I thought, does she call his name:
Oh my Brother? 
What have Paula and I done?
Oh yes, trouble is afoot, nipping at our heels,
It’s fragrance aloft in the sunlight.
Before Jamal died I used to call Paula, Mother,
my voice lifted and full, my hands on her behind. 
Do you remember the scent of promise?  
You are young and in love and your body just sings.     
I bet she doesn't remember that. 
 I looked at Paula, below my lashes, have loved her my whole life. 
She is one of those women whose presence don't know why. 
No one told me how safe you can feel, how good that is.  
Daniel, I uttered softly to myself, that piece of me the elders so stridently shout: soul! 
She is the sweet smell of hope. 
"Look Paula," I began, in a tender moment of ambiguity, not knowing what I might say. 
I needed to be careful.
sadness rips at us. 
forever we are finding bits and pieces, strewn here, thrown there.
"We have to give her the words.  This is what is missing.  Do you hear me baby?"
She turned to face me. 
Her eyes knocked me from a wide berth I could not begin to describe.
I fell into the quiet memory of our son's death. 
Quickly, I was on my knees, fate pulling from me the ugly cry, 
you know, those drenched, bloody ropes. 
Now, the wildness is in me.
You must know this: secrets are effervescent.
You can run, but you won't get very far.
They are everywhere.
I was not puffed up and filled with myself.
I was respectful.
Zenzie was a child who loved the flow and smoke of summer days.
She was a water baby and lived in it damn near all summer.
Jamal would play close by, watching her, while delighting in his own particular skill.
These were moments when I knew myself and my manhood as
this heart swelling, joyful sound, very much like the music
of children playing on a hot day or that of Paula, cooking up a special meal.
Life was at my fingers and I was taking it by the hand. 
I was not puffed up and filled with myself. I was respectful.
But scared, scared it might disappear.`
I can hear Paula's 24 year old voice fussing at me. 
"Negro please!   Loosen up!"
She would say these things to me. 
I had not hardened my heart and that drew me to her.
This was good because I had been witness to much of this life. 
Lord knows I sought faith above all else. 
I don't think she minded too much, because well, here she is, 18 years later.
memories are rambunctious and have this way of
imposing themselves upon you.
Listening to my wife tell her side of the story
I interrupted her to ask, "What is the lineage of heartbreak Paula. 
Does it begin in the small breath of infancy? 
When my father died, was it’s oppression his last escape?"
She sighed heavily and the room became hot.
It was a long sound, deeply warm.
"Daniel!"  as if I am five. I am 5 and hard of hearing,
 her pitiful gaze rife with patience
"I didn't say much to anybody.
It was like a fanatical mythology you all demanded I learn and recite.
My son was dead and you wanted truth!? 
What in hell was that? What was it's shape, it's form?"
"I did not demand...!"  I spat back at her.
"Don't you preach to me Daniel!  Where was your voice?  Where?"
All the while I had felt myself climbing.
I had become really good at climbing these mountains. 
I could claim a kind of measured, heightened understanding.
But this time, looking down at Paula, I knew I would be there soon.
"Silence is an agreement, Daniel, it binds like none other."
Well, memories are rambunctious and have this way of imposing
 themselves upon you.  They are voracious, possessed of great strength. 
I'm telling you these things so you will understand.
Paula used to say to me, "Baby, do you remember...?"
And before I could get my bearings, something cold
and angry would shake my body.  My chest would seize up. 
Jamal's small, round face was enough to send me into spasms.
 Do you see? 
I had begrudged my wife the fullness of memory, denied this
 in myself, and refused to view the two things as consistent. 
Jamal was dead. 
He is dead. 
Paula and I have not left his room.
"Oh yes Paula, I hear you, I surely do."
I am tired and want to sleep.
Paula tells me its o.k.
She sees how I wear myself out.
Why vigilance? If not, penance.
Paula says a measure of this is deep, deep sadness,
the part that oozes tears and lives
in the plush room of melancholy, alone, unable to move.
you aren't talking voodoo are you daddy?
Zenzie moved through the covers as if she were swimming.
The night swirled around her and she saw the boy running
along a white corridor painted with bright balloons.
"Come Zenzie, come play!
She tried to follow but the woman stopped her at the white door,
clowns dancing on its corners. 
The boy was gone and her heart was breaking. 
She awakened shaking and crying, trying to find the floor with her hands. 
Then she phoned me.
"Zenzie, I am coming to get you right now. Pack your bag."
"O.K. Daddy."
As far as my children were concerned,
my arms had always been palatial.
Zenzie on the right side, Jamal on my left. 
The arm of a father whose child dies withers slightly. 
At first the difference in strength is marked, but then gets better. 
If Zenzie noticed my weakness,
she was gracious enough not to mention it. 
She sat me down and told me this,
"Daddy, I sleep shrouded. My room, so cold. 
There are the wails of those who mourn. 
Most often, he is there, singing, playing, calling to me."
"The ancestors have no regard for our deep sensitivity, baby."
I chuckled softly and shook my head thinking Jamal would
have liked being thought of as an ancestor.
Yeah, he would have liked that.
Her eyes got wide, "You aren't talking Voodoo are you Daddy?"
No, but let me get your mother. We need to talk. Paula, Paula! Zenzie is here."
"I'm coming Daniel, hey Zenzie!"
"Hey Mama.'
Paula, shouting over the dishwasher, brought the neighbor's
dog Harold over to our kitchen door, barking like robbers had taken the place. 
"Oh Harold! You old one eyed coot! You need to hush now,"
Paula chided, "You ain't so big & bad!"
she knows all about the unspoken things, how they gain
momentum and develop their own sound.
My bother Rayno used to say Jamal was a runt.
Later, he felt so bad about this. 
I would have been crazy to take a thing uttered in jest and hold it against him.
Jamal was small.
I tell you this, when the night stretches before me,
an endless, murky expanse that I must travel and survive,
 I consider the genesis of his illness. 
Was he born with it? 
This is a question that does not exist in time. 
It is unanswerable and is sometimes profoundly relinquished.
Jamal was fast on his feet.
He could sing like a ...well, you know. 
What child isn't prodigious to his parents?
"Daddy, I'ma be an astronaut and I'm taking you to Mars with me."
"Can Zenzie go Jamal?"
"How about Mom?"
"Uh-huh! She will cook dinner for us and read us a bedtime story."
Rayno comes to sit with me and look through photographs.
Like Paula, he knows all about the unspoken things,
how they gain momentum and develop their own sound. 
It is a cacophony, collecting in the corners of our eyes,
dripping down onto the pages. 
"Daddy, where's Uncle Ray?  I love him!"
"I'll call him Jamal."
"When is he coming to see me?"
"He'll be here day after tomorrow"
"Gee, I wonder if he'll bring toys...?"
Jamal had lost alot of weight. 
Conversation tired him, but I swear to you
his smile was so bright it lit up our dark, dark hearts. 
 Rayno prayed for the courage to look,
even though the dying eyes of a child can slam you into the ground. 
 He would just look at Jamal and smile a lot.
For this, I would have laid down my life. 
Rayno is my proof God moves in the world.
truth had not prevailed.
Zenzie was damned angry. 
Truth had not prevailed and wasn't it we, with our hypocritical mouths,
responsible for guiding her through these years?  
 We are both cowards. 
She had been cheated.  
 The memory of him had contained the full quantity. 
How dare we decide she should be deprived of this!
She had needed this.   To live. To breathe.
She caught my eye when she said this and bared her teeth.
Paula looked like stone; like Lot 's wife, having turned back. 
Zenzie got up and left, slamming the door behind her.
` XI
It was such a spectacle, each in our hidden room.
She thought of his voice,
a single candle tossing shadows into her sparse apartment;
shapes alive and available,
though she was not feeling sentimental.
She took to calling the nightmares scarlet dreams.
I listened to her as carefully as I could,
even as Paula and I were exiled. 
Zenzie had withdrawn. 
She would call me on the phone, her conversation, singleminded. 
“In one dream, there are many rooms.” 
I imagine she is looking at me with great suspicion,
an eyebrow raised, smirking. 
“Each room is musty, his images all over the walls. 
It seems a petty desecration.”
I heard her sniff in the anger.
We had all grown to covet scarcity. 
Yet, I'd wager the origin of a scarlet dream is this meager land.  
It was such a spectacle, each, in our hidden room.
I remember the overture; A Raven’s Soliloquy, fierce,
riotous in my mind.
The day Jamal died, lightening struck beneath the clouds. 
As his breath slipped, a rain fell,
so gentle, it seemed blasphemous.
Yet, I remember the overture;
A Raven’s Soliloquy, fierce, riotous in my mind,
not unlike David’s Psalms: ...
Yea, though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death...
You must know when Jamal left this place
I was nowhere silent or unmarked.
That was the bottom of my grief.



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