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AN ANTHOLOGY
OF VERSE, PROSE

by
the Composition
for Honours Class,
Howard University,
2002-2003

  Contents
  Authors & Artists
  Home

E. R. BRAITHWAITE
Professor

Faces & Voices 4
Faces & Voices 5

Faces & Voices 6

 

Tiffani JeTaun Jones
Editor-in-Chief
 
Roniesha L. Copeland
Co-Editor-in-Chief
 
Editorial Staff
Michelle Jamese Boyd
Sherry-Ann de Coteau
Ebony De Leon
David Overton
Crystal Ramdial
Trenile N. Tillman
Kristen J. Wilson

Cover Design
International Creative
Bobby Broughton

Photographer
Trenile N. Tillman

Accountant
Charlene M. Brown

Web Production
Noel Rose Mekkawi




 




 

An Anthology of Verse and Prose
By the Composition for Honours Class
Howard University (2002-2003)
 

Tiffani JeTaun Jones
Editor-in-Chief
 
Roniesha Lajoi Copeland
Co-Editor-in-Chief
 
Editorial Staff
Michelle Jamese Boyd
Sherry-Ann de Coteau
Ebony De Leon
David Overton
Crystal Ramdial
Trenile N. Tillman
Kristen J. Wilson

Cover Design
International Creative, INC
Bobby Broughton

Photographer
Trenile N. Tillman

Accountant
Charlene M. Brown

Web Production
Noel Rose Mekkawi


Contents

Forward

E.R. Braithwaite
The Red Tie
Conversation Piece

Akinseye Akinola
The Fog of War
Trilogy of a Journey to Higher Manhood
The Good Man
Flow

Marsha Alexander
Journeys
Who am I?

Jamila R. Blake
The Long Wait 
The Welcome Party

Michelle Jamese Boyd
Eternal Love
The Wedding Gift
The Land
Childhood Memories
Reflections
Mahogany Pleasure

Randi L. Bridges
Smile
An Unheard Song 
When Innocence Says Goodbye
A Kiss Goodnight

Charlene M. Brown
Me and Howard
Some Songs Aren’t meant to be Sung
When Love Becomes a Rose

Lauren D. Chisholm
Table for Two
Me

Roniesha Lajoi Copeland
One Last Time
A New World
Farewell
So This Is the End

Sherry-Ann de Coteau
Me
Soucouyant in de C
Free to Be
For Gwendolyn
Savage and the Savages
Some Songs Aren’t meant to be Sung

Ebony De Leon
Thinking of You
The End
The Coin’s Two Faces

LaKrishna Shacquel Freeman
A Friend Like You
That Boy Is You

Kyree Nicole Holmes
An Ill Wind
Good Luck, Not Goodbye

Tiffani JeTaun Jones
Before and After
Forced to Serve
God Bless America (And Nowhere Else)
Me
Renaissance

Patrice A. Mitchell
A Broken Family
A New Life

Nubia Regina Murray
“Screen It Out” Commentary
Best Friends?

David Overton
A Dance with the Devil
How Much Did You Say?

Loren Edward Perkins-Johnson
When I Think of Her

Crystal Ramdial
Edward
Who Am I?
The End?
What is Love?

Faith Rogers
Pinky Promise
Love

Trenile N. Tillman
Goodbye, Mom
You

Gabriel Tuck
Bombs Over Baghdad
You Are My Everything

Kristen J. Wilson
Murder 1
Happiness


Foreword

Using our language well is the benchmark of the Composition for Honors class headed by Mr. E.R. Braithwaite. At the commencement of the school year, we showed the potential to write well. However, since potential is-as described by one of my classmates-the promise of future actions, it is worth nothing if the action is never accomplished. Now, at the culmination of the academic school year, we have produced a collection of work to fulfill our promise, bringing our potential to fruition.

As Editor-in-Chief of Faces and Voices 7: An Anthology of Verse and Prose, I would like to extend a special thank you to the following persons: Mr. Mohamed Mekkawi, Director of the Howard University Libraries, who has been instrumental in the electronic publication of this anthology which can be found in the Creativity Zone on the Howard University Libraries’ website; Ms. Roniesha Copeland, Co-Editor-in-Chief; Ms. Trenile Tillman, photographer; Ms. Charlene Brown, accountant; Ms. Randi Bridges and Ms. Michelle Boyd, for their tireless aid in final editing; and the entire editing staff.

Finally, to Mr. E.R. Braithwaite, I extend my deepest gratitude, for surely none of this would have been possible without your tutelage, wisdom, and ever-prodding punctilious eye for the highest standard possible.  
 
 Tiffani JeTaun Jones


The Red Tie
E. R. Braithwaite

Fragment of scarlet silk
Mom’s birthday gift to me so long ago
Colour of blood and courage
She’d said it suits me.
Insisted I wear it, even though
She had to know
T’was not my cup of tea
Safe, snug around my neck
Fragile, jaunty trapping
Edges and ends age frayed
Yet softly tapping
A minuet against my cheek with every errant wind
Reminding of things past
The times, the tides, the dark
The sorrowing
It bids me raise a cheer
Reach upward.
Towering.


Conversation Piece
E. R. Braithwaite

At the end of that day’s writing workshop, several students and I repaired to my office for further discussion of a matter which had been raised during the session – the relationship between reading and writing.  I had asked some of them to read aloud from the text we were using as a reference and it soon became clear to me that most of them, though Juniors or Seniors, read in a way which would have made it very difficult for anyone without a copy of the text to follow the unfolding of the story.
Even the better readers exhibited little interest in or appreciation for punctuation and if they encountered an unfamiliar word, were inclined to mumble something unintelligible or skip it entirely; the result was, that in most cases, their efforts failed to translate the words on the page into a recognizable and meaningful picture.
When we were settled, one young man, in a somewhat combative tone, addressed me while glancing around at his peers as if to suggest that they shared the same view.
“Professor, I didn’t like that you sort of like asked me to read aloud in class.  I mean like in front of everybody.  It’s like, I’m a Junior, you know what I’m saying, and I haven’t done anything like that in years.  Made me feel like a grade school kid, you know?”  Looking around as he spoke, for the supportive nodding heads of the others.
“Yeah” another agreed “I could ha’ like read much better, like when I’m reading to meself.  You know what I’m saying, but I was not expecting to like read in front of everybody.”
Now several attempted to speak all at the same time, but I insisted that each take a turn.  A young woman with petulant voice said,
“I don’t see the point of it anyway.  The workshop is like for writing, right?  It’s not about reading.  If I’d known I’d be reading I wouldn’t be there.  I didn’t join the class to learn about reading.”
I waited for anyone else to comment, and when no one did, I said,
“I agree that the workshop is, as you succinctly put it, about writing, just as a dressmaker’s workshop is about dressmaking, or a carpenter’s workshop is about building things.  May I suggest that the first requirement in any workshop is familiarity with the tools and materials associated with the activity.   The dressmaker’s apprentice must learn about fabrics, the natural ones, such as silk, linen, wool, cotton and the various blends which result from mixing them together, and the even wider variety of synthetic fabrics now available.  Then there are the tools of the trade and even those tricky necessities called needles and pins, all each of which have their places in the overall scheme of things.  Similarly with the carpenter’s apprentice.  He too must quickly become familiar with the tools and the raw materials used in the trade, such as wood, steel, brick, glass, nails, screws, all those things, large or small without which not much building can be done.”
They were watching me, guardedly, as if waiting to see where it was leading.  I continued,
“A dressmaker needs to be familiar with a wide variety of fabrics, the better to produce those amazing creations his customers wear with such casual elegance; a carpenter must know a great deal about his raw materials, that he might design and produce structures which are as aesthetically pleasing as they are attractively functional.
A writer’s raw materials are words.  He or she must learn about them to the point or comfortable familiarity.  He must know them so well that he is able to arrange them to best effect for joy or sorrow, pleasure or pain and all the multitudes of emotions which unceasingly clamour for his attention.  A writer needs words.  Lots and lots of words.  So, where are they to be found?”
I waited, and one young man offered, nearly inaudibly,
“Books.”
“Yes” I said, “They’re to be found in books.  That’s why we must read.  If we don’t read, we won’t have the words we need when we wish to give expression to all those wonderful ideas running around in our heads, seeking a way out.  We need words, lots of words, so that we can pick and choose from among them to give what we say or write the exact taste or flavour which the circumstances dictate.”
“When I read your written assignments and observe how you attempt to make the same very limited vocabulary serve every need, it becomes quite clear that you do not read enough.  If you want to write, you must read.  Anything and everything.  Newspapers, magazines, novels, comics, fairy tales, anything.  If it’s in your language, read it.  Anything that’s written represent that author’s attempt to convey something to us; when we read it, we discover how he has used words to present his story, and we are thus instructed in many ways in which words may be arranged or re-arranged at the writer’s discretion.”
“Behind you on the top of the bookshelf you can see a very large, old book.  It weighs about thirty pounds and is somewhat worse for wear, for, as Shakespeare might have said, it has been slave to thousands.  It is an English dictionary and contains hundreds of thousands of words.  The simple, wonderful truth is that each word in that book belongs to you; any of you.  All of you.  All that you need to do is claim them.  With your first breath of life you became heir to every word in that book, because it represents the compilation of the bricks of your language.”
‘I wouldn’t expect you to try to get something as large as that; a pocket – sized edition will do just as well to help with your reading.  You say you want to write; then read.”  Still no sound from any of them, so, for a change of pace I asked,
“How many of you can correctly drive a nail with a hammer through a piece of wood?”
They looked at me and at each other, then one young woman, smilingly, said
            “That’s not easy.  I know.  I tried.”
            “Exactly, “ I replied.  “but, with practice, it can be done.  After a short period of trial and error, the carpenter’s apprentice becomes adept at it.  So it is with words.  The more you read, the more varied your reading, the more familiar you become with words.  Another thing.  You wonder why I asked you to read aloud in class.  It was that you too would hear the words as you read them, and recognize the importance of giving each one its correct sound, so that together they recreate a recognizable picture.  You should each try it in the privacy of your room.  The more you hear the words as you read, the more comfortable you will become with each sound and the more confident in your ability to reproduce that sound, so that the confluence of sounds will recreate the right pictures.”
            A hand was raised, hesitantly.  It belonged to a young woman who had, as yet, said nothing.  I nodded to her and she said,
            “I always thought writing would be fun.  That’s why is signed up for your class, but you make it sound like a lot of work, hard work.”
            “Writing is indeed hard work, hard work, especially for a beginner.  Learning anything requires work.  Has anyone of you a young sibling?  Have you noticed the total concentration he or she gives to any new toy or game or puzzle?  That’s learning and it’s work.  The fun comes later, with knowing how the puzzle or game works.  Do you remember when you were learning to ride a bicycle?  The total concentration necessary to maintain your balance while pedaling, the falls, the bruises on elbows and knees.  All work.  Then came the day when, unassisted, you could pedal along, balancing easily, comfortably.  That was fun, and the fun came from knowing how to do it.  Reading to acquire a varied and effective vocabulary is work, the fun comes with the ability comfortably to express yourself, vocally or on the page.”
            “Professor, I’m graduating next year.  You make it sound like it’s already too late for me.”  That from the young man of the earlier combative posture. 
            “It’s never too late to begin using your language well; it’s never too late to insist on using words to make sense, comic sense, poetic sense, dramatic sense, casually descriptive sense, it’s entirely up to you.  You say you want to write, then continue to read and write after you graduate.”
            “I thought this class would be, like, easy, you know what I’m saying, sort of like an easy grade.  I should have taken something else” someone said.
            “I thought you joined the class because you wanted to write” I told him.  “Are you so easily discouraged?  If the wish is there, give it a chance.  I am here to help, but don’t expect it to be fun.”
            He stood, retrieved his bookpack and made ready to leave.  As if on cue, the others stood, said their goodbyes and were soon gone.


The “Fog of War”
Akinseye Akinola

     "It is forbidden to kill; therefore all murderers are punished unless they kill in large numbers and to the sound of trumpets." - Voltaire.
     "War is delightful to those who have had no experience of it." - Desiderius Erasmus.
   .  .  .
How weird is it that during Vice President Dick Cheney’s tenure as chairman of Halliburton this same company sold more equipment to Iraq than any other company? From 1998 to 1999, Halliburton subsidiaries had submitted $23.8 million worth of contracts with Iraq to the United Nations for approval by its sanctions committee. Halliburton also has had dealings with Iran and Libya, both on the State Department’s list of terrorist states. Of this same Halliburton, two of it’s subsidiaries were fined millions for re-exporting goods to Libya in violation of U.S. sanctions.
     Just a couple of years back, Vice President Dick Cheney, then chief executive of  Halliburton, was engaged in secret business dealings with Saddam's regime, selling equipment and spare parts to make Iraqi oil fields more productive, according to United Nations records. Yet during the 2000 presidential, on an ABC-TV news program, Cheney adamantly denied such dealings. A wonder his nose didn’t immediately grow longer on national TV!  Indeed the ‘Father of Greek Tragedy’, dramatist Aeschylus, once said that in case of war, truth was always the first casualty. 
     It’s also ironic that the Bush administration continues to heap insults on France for not supporting Bush’s decision to embark on a questionable pre-emptive war against Iraq, but behind the closed doors of corporate boardrooms these same hawks use French subsidiaries of their American companies as cover-ups for their transactions with Saddam. The US can be likened to a spoiled child, happily conceited when everyone showers him with attention and caters to his every whim but throwing tantrums the instant someone voices a contrary opinion.
     Even if sharing the financial spoils from reconstructing a post-war Iraq isn’t the primary reason for waging war against Saddam Hussein, the very thought of someone profiting from such an evil venture as war is sickening. Any person who could already contrive victory plans with personal profits in mind, whether primary or secondary, is nothing short of cold and heartless. The lives of thousands of innocent Iraqi civilians and American and British troops are really not worth sacrificing in order that, with the sweat and blood of these people, you could be able to repay some rich friends who gave away a couple of dollar bills to help put you in office.
     Despite the president’s seemingly limited inclination to logical and ethical reasoning, I still believe he is aware of the fact that the establishment of a connection between the war on Iraq and its benefit to some of his cronies could prove unforgivably disastrous for his administration, even in the eyes of the American people, who seem to be more and more accepting towards whatever new brash decisions he carries out in the name of ‘patriotism’. 
     It now seems that although Halliburton might be out of the contest for rebuilding Iraq- they still get to extinguish oilfield fires in Iraq- I can’t help wondering whether they withdrew their reconstruction bids of their volition or the government decided to rethink its previous decision. But alas, Halliburton isn’t the only company in the race with political connections and we can only wait and see who the government decides gets the chunk of that bittersweet pie.


Trilogy of a Journey to Higher Manhood
Akinseye Akinola

As I put together my tempestuous emotions,
Trying all so hard to hold back the deluge of tears
So determined in their bid to break loose,
And flood bank, watering my parched orotund countenance
And break the primal rule governing masculine goodbyes,
All I feel now is a loneliness emptiness cannot describe,
Sadness the doomed opponent of the Nadir alone understands,
Miles from the airport yet homesickness wells strong inside,
Already losing the domiciliary warmth I have so felt all the time,
What turned my home into a house?
The malignancy of my selfish pain intensifies,
As this sadness will take weeks to subside,
The little prophylactic I am willing to accept,
Presumptuous of course but still helpful,
Is for someone to empathize with and listen to my song of tears.

II.
Sitting by my airplane window,
Stoically disallowing my thoughts to roam home,
Ignoring the cirrus mists of nostalgic feeling,
Which gather in the midsummer dome,
With great pain I attempt to alienate reason and sentiment,
Dismembering the appendages binding me to the ones I love,
Smelting the golden amalgam of family union
Which I had once grappled to my soul with hooks of steel,
Once again gritty tears threaten to expose my unfair treachery,
To undo the hara-kiri knot I have so shoddily made,
To untie the noose that tightens round my neck with every passing day,
But chauvinistic adamancy again seizes the day,
Life in the Fool’s Paradise commences…

III.
Trying ever so hard to forget the “past”,
And embrace my prosperous “future”,
Knowing well that behind every future lies a past,
The past will always be the definite constant
Embedded in the constantly changing integral of future;
Future having been engraved eternally in the calculus equation of life,
Having given myself this advice,
Heeded or unheeded,
I proceed to become the Kafkaesque bystander,
Staring and observing the cars go by
On the American roads of time,
I shall wait and see.


“The Good Man”
Akinseye Akinola

     “NOOOOOOO!!!”
     He woke up in a cold sweat, and tears in his eyes. He always had these dreams- or nightmares- when it was about to happen. Images of his mother being pummeled furiously by his dad, taking care not to hit her face, and him being continuously sodomized by this same man, with bestial intensity, still flashed in his head.
     His name was Sam and as you can see, his dad was a wife-beater and violent pedophile. Unfortunately no one would believe anything he said- his mum was too weak to stand up for herself, let alone anyone else- because his dad so happened to be the present President of the United States. Sam’s dad was none other than the personable 23rd U.S President John Goodman, popularly known as ‘The Good Man’ for he could do no wrong in the public’s eye. He was definitely the most morally upright president ever, with a special no-nonsense stance towards domestic violence and sexual molesters of any kind. Plus, the First Lady always happened to look nothing short of angelic in public, there were surely no bruises on her perfect face!
     Sam actually couldn’t remember when he started getting sexually molested by his dad, though he could faintly recollect his dad always fondling his tiny male organ during his apparently infant years. It was as constant as breakfast with them and he grew up thinking that it was actually a normal thing and an expression of deep love from his dad- till he got to junior high! That was when he discovered the very sickness of this action and on that fateful night of his reading the true-life book “The Molesters” he became violently sick and threw up everywhere. From that day onward he had tried his best to not hate his father but always rejected his advances, which sometimes landed him the sort of beating usually reserved for his mum, but at least his father had learned to keep his distance, or so he believed.
     In the wee hours of Friday morning Sam, now a very reclusive 17- year old at the prestigious Georgetown Prep, woke up from his nightmare. He knew exactly what it meant- his father was coming to ‘visit’ him tonight- and, funnily enough, this time he knew what to do. He called his dad’s protocol officer in the Oval Office and told him to inform him that he wasn’t going to school today; he had a migraine. Normally he would have communicated this to dad directly but it was election year and President Goodman had his hands full at the moment. Sam went to the kitchen to make breakfast- it was an off day so hopefully the chefs wouldn’t be milling annoyingly about. He was lucky; there were only 2 people in the kitchen today. He dismissed them and was searching for bread in the drawers when a glint of something caught his eye.

.  .  .

     Sam had hardly settled into bed when someone barged into the room- his stomach turned instinctively. It was his father, naked. He was obviously under the influence of alcohol for he ambled clumsily towards the bed, mouthing obscure obscenities. Sam was perfectly still as his father climbed under the sheets.
     “Well you’re certainly being a good boy tonight Sam, if you’ll just turn over and let Mr. President do…”
     The knife went through his heart in no time. Sam then withdrew the 9-inch ultra sharp kitchen knife from his dad’s chest. He had seen it in the kitchen and it cut through his rubber slippers like butter when he tested it, all he had to do was hide it under the pillow and wait. He then proceeded to dismember his dad. The poor pervert won’t need that where he’s going, Sam thought, laughing bitterly to himself. He sensed another presence and turned around to see his mother at the door, wearing her usual expressionless face- though he did seem to notice the ghost of a smile. They both agreed that he needed to turn himself in to the cops and she would testify that it was manslaughter.

 .  .  .

     He watched the TV in his prison cell, expectantly. He was waiting for CNN to resume with his mother the special guest in an exclusive Larry King Live interview on what was already being dubbed the ‘mother of all scandals’. Soon his mum would expose his father’s evils to the whole world and defend Sam’s actions as self-defense.
     “Now, did late President John Goodman have sexual relations with his, and your, son?” Larry King had just dropped the long-awaited question with trademark seriousness.
     “Never…,” was all she said, her head bent in seeming guilt.
     He froze. Oh my gosh! Too weak to truthfully support her son even in the wake of her antagonist’s demise! Hot tears cascaded down his cheeks, it didn’t matter anymore. He didn’t bother to watch anymore and he switched off the TV. It was a done deal.
     Meanwhile, the whole world watched on as the First Lady of the United States calmly continued.
     “…ever ask me if that evil man molested my son again! Ask me how many times during the week he did it! My son did nothing but protect himself and thank God I have it on tape…,” she was sobbing now.
     “….What John didn’t know is that I installed hidden cameras in Sam’s room- and for a situation like this I have hard evidence!” The tears were flowing freely now and they had to take a commercial break because she was crying so hard.
     What a poor kid, thought the guard as he made his way to Sam’s cell to congratulate him. He deserves to be out of here, he’s really gone through a lot. There was no need. The body of Sam Goodman was already hanging from one of the top bars.


“Flow”
Akinseye Akinola

"Is it possible I could feel this cool,
I could really love you the way I do?"

 
I feel the same way about you
When last did I even see your face or talk to you?
But this abstinence does engender even more fondness
I love you so much, I wonder is it surreal or really
real?
Is this an obsession or are you really my most prized
Possession?
At least if not possession, doppelganger
I feel our hearts beat together,
Systolic spike, diastolic spike
In harmony, mellifluous melody
You tantalize me, your memory
Single handedly draws me out of my agony and brings on
my face a smile again
You know not how I appreciate you
I thank God I met you, for in that instant of our
introduction
The heavens sang in choral rendition
For they knew the course of my destiny had been
altered forever
A rare nightingale had come to me, to sing me a love
song
Making my spirit soar out of the doldrums
I am depressed and maybe even obsessed but I know what
I write
And mean every single word, I love you
Maybe I don’t even understand love
I mean great thinkers have written volumes on it and
yet only succeeded in wasting ink and parchment
And why then me, a young blood? audaciously telling
you, an angel, that I love you
Is love some cheap word one can use in meaningless
flow?
I don’t know but I love you and that’s all that
matters
And know that I write this not for the sake of poetry
and prose
For it flows from the very depth of my being
My love is an unending stream into the sea of You

 
"I feel a love light rush over me…
and then your love just creeps over me"
 
flow
like light particles in a world of glow,
water molecules in a field of snow,
love in the air, intermingling with nature's forces
holding its own, yet insinuating
tantalizing, yet withholding
flow
like sunflowers in a field of gold
or the panorama of skyscrapers in New York, and behold
softly, smooth and undulating
slowly, blithe and pulsating
riding off the waves, the whites foaming
as the undercurrent hits the sand, a rush of saline
mixes with the grits, drawing them in
flow
for such is my love and I trust it to be
a magnet you can’t resist for it’s purely me
pulling at the strings of your soul
gently but soon you resonate with it
strum, strum, strum
and finally out of the humdrum
the vibrations increase and in tension I hold your
soul
my intentions are clear I want to give you all my
attention
and the only way to do such is to keep you heart at
tension…
what else can I say, I have rambled more than enough
I am not great a poet for even at the end of such a
verbose poem
My expression of love remains inept
Maybe I never will, but just know…
And let the rhythm of love in you too flow,
Flow.


Journeys
Marsha Alexander

Just as one door closed, another one opened, especially at times when I was in a quandary.  Moreover, as all these opportunities appeared, it meant that I was moving away from home.  Due to these travels, I was able to experience a whole range of emotions: fondness, disillusionment, despairs, shame, and last but not least, fear.  These trips enabled me to mature in ways that allowed me to see the world realistically even though I have been reluctant to confront these experiences.  Through these trips, I was able to not only experience the life at a level that only a few know, but also to open myself to different individuals that I would never meet under normal circumstances.
For instance, when I moved to Houston, Texas, it was sort of a culture shock.  I had attended an American school overseas, but it was nothing like what I encountered in Houston.  It took me a while to properly adjust to life in the United States without the support of peers helping me along.  As soon as I had a handle on life in the US and middle school, I started attending high school; it was even more terrifying, to say the least.  It was a period in my life where I felt adrift in a sea of chaos.  For that reason, during freshman year of high school, I didn’t get too involved in any extracurricular activities and concentrated mostly on my schoolwork.  The next three years, however, experienced my emergence from the stacks of books.  Throughout this period, I joined the Army Junior Reserves Officer Training Corps, or AJROTC.  I also tried my hand at soccer, but it would prove to be an experience that I would never forget.  At first, it was physically draining and my whole body seemed to be one raw nerve.  I was sore almost every day for two weeks straight.  If that wasn’t enough, it was during soccer season where I encountered my first serious injury; I tore my ACL, a ligament that allows an individual to sit and walk properly.  Physical recovery involved sacrificing my summer and exerting myself to my capacity.  I eventually recovered; however, when tryouts for soccer started again in the fall, I decided not to participate.  Nevertheless, that did not stop me from getting involved in more extracurricular activities.  In fact, my senior year was probably my most involved ever.  Regardless of the fact that all these organization were time-consuming, they all showed me where my interests lie and how much commitment would be needed to succeed.  They also taught one last lesson: I was ready to leave high school and attend college.  I was ready for new experiences that would open my eyes to new sights and for varying challenges that would mold me into a stronger person.
Arriving at Howard University illustrated another transition.  In my eyes, it was a matter of Providence having a hand in my life, as I like to call it.  It was the sum of different factors coming together: the ambience, the people, and the locality.  At first, it didn’t strike me as eye-catching.  However, after several visits to this institution, a sense of it frequently lingered in my mind.  I saw this institution as a sort of stepping-stone, a stepping-stone enabling me to grow into a self-reliant, experienced woman.  Moreover, since it was so far from Texas, I would be able to start my new life with a clean slate.  I was ready for whatever presented itself at Howard.  In the end, I felt that I had made the right decision in attending the right institution.
Throughout my college stay at Howard, I hope to have the opportunity to join organizations that serve the purpose of educating, challenging and supporting my principles on life.  By excelling academically and taking advantage of the different programs that Howard offers, I intend to make my stay at Howard a worthwhile experience.  Regarding my career goals, I aim to secure an internship in the area of finance and to learn as much as I can about succeeding in my field.  Likewise upon graduating, I would like to have the opportunity of having a full-time position available to me that tests the skills I learned in college. 
Overall, I would like to be able to find out more about my strengths and use them to the best of my knowledge.  As for my weaknesses, I hope I can continue to work on them so that in the end they become more of an asset than a liability.  Thus at the end of my four years at Howard, I would have become more mature, independent, and self-reliant individual ready to take on the world.


Who Am I?
Marsha Alexander

From provincial cities to urban kingdoms
From the threshold between whimsical imagination to callous reality
From Doctor Doolittle’s voyages to Gatsby’s remoteness
I am.
 
From sweat-slicked skin to mottled bruises
From vague malaises to acerbic agues
From taxing nauseas to debilitating ills
I feel.
 
From the sensuous taste of black Hindu tea sliding smoothly down my throat
         to the pungent aroma of sizzling chocolate
From the never ending appeal of hojaldres
         to the daily richness of Latin rice with legumes
I taste.
 
From virgin oceans to toxic streams
From buttery potatoes to horrid malts
From ripe plantains to spicy beef patties
I rebel.
 
From weekly trips to communal beaches
        to exciting Sunday Schools filled with vigor
From gazing at deafening school parades
        to being mesmerized by the silvery notes of Sade
I adapt.
 
From mindless clutter to Spartan discipline
From crowded minds to senseless silence
From politically correct notions to biased truths
I become.
 
From vapid tongues to undulating bodies
From impressive pasts to enigmatic futures
From chronic laziness to habitual zest
I see.
 
From the crazed ranting of a few
         to the thoughtful attacks of the wise
From full-blown dispute over war
         to passive battles of morality
I hear.
 
From juvenile bliss to adult gravity
From childish ignorance to mature confusion
From wistful nonchalance to growing uncertainty
I conform.


The Long Wait
Jamila Blake

                        More than thirty minutes had passed since the waiter had shown me to my table. I was becoming more and more impatient with each passing second, and my frustration manifested itself with the rapid tapping motion of my heel. The couple next to me had arrived shortly after I did, and were now starting on their main course. Every once in awhile, I looked up to see the older woman in royal blue glance over at me with a questioning look on her face. At first, her staring intimidated me and I was too ashamed to look her in the eye. Here I was, an elegantly dressed young lady, waiting for the arrival of my prince charming, who was now forty five minutes late. I felt as though her eyes had penetrated my mind, and she thought much less of me for my girlish belief that my guest would eventually come.
As the night went on, I tried to appear as though perfectly comfortable with waiting in the crowded restaurant. I ordered a bottle of wine and asked for a vase of water to place my rose in. My treasured flower was a gift from the young man who had invited me to dinner that night. The day before, I came home from work to find an envelope with my name written in calligraphy and a rose beside it waiting for me at my door. I entered my apartment and eagerly tore open the envelope to see who had left such a thoughtful gift. Inside, I found a note that read:
I’m in town for a few days and I would love to see you. Your mother gave me your new address. I’ll be waiting for you at Rembrandt’s tomorrow night at 7pm. Don’t forget to bring that beautiful smile. Love, Andre.
After reading the note, I fell to the floor in a state of confusion. After all this man had put me through, I still had a desire to see him. A few month’s ago, I had promised myself that I wouldn’t have anything else to do with him after my sister told me she ran into him at the airport and he didn’t even ask about me. Despite the shortcomings that I had endured in eight years with Andre, yet again I found myself willing to heed to his every beck and call.
When my bottle of wine was half empty, I pulled out a pack of cigarettes and puffed them one behind the other. By now, the woman in royal blue had left with her companion and two sisters were sitting at their table. I devoured the bread in my basket, staving off hunger pangs that were made worse by the aroma of lobster, roasted chicken and sirloin steaks. There were many times when I begged myself to get up, but I just couldn’t do it. I was convinced that Andre would walk through the door just as my cab pulled off, or that somehow I had arrived for dinner much earlier than he expected.
As each hour passed, I sank into a deeper sadness. I felt defeated. He had managed to make me look like a fool once again, only this time 200 of my close friends and family were not there to watch.  At 11:30, I dug into my purse and threw a wad of bills on the table. As I tried to stand up, I realized that I had drunk more wine than I thought. My napkin fell from my lap, but I felt too sick to crouch and pick it up. With tears of disappointment streaming down my face, I shuffled to the exit and hailed a cab.


The Welcome Party
Jamila Blake

            It was nearly a week before I met any of my neighbors in the dormitory. Last Saturday morning I returned from shopping at the local supermarket to find a folded note stuck to the door of my dorm room. It read: Some of us who live on the top two floors are having a get together on Sunday to welcome the “freshies”. You are invited. 2PM. Casual dress. Call Anita at 359-2608…
I grabbed the note from my door with a sigh of frustration as I tried to juggle the shopping bags in my left arm as well as ramble through my purse for my keys, which I finally recovered with my right hand. Upon entering my room, I found yet another note, this one placed on my pillow. It could not have been from anyone except, Mecca, my simple minded roommate. She had an annoying habit of wasting both paper and ink by leaving various notes for me around our room. This frustrated me because they were always questions or comments that one would say in a casual conversation, not take the time to write them down. For example, I might find a note on my mirror reading, “What are you doing in class today?” or “Did you see how hard it was raining today? I had to change into some warmer clothes!” The last one was especially enraging not because of the terrible handwriting, but because she had dotted all of the “I’s” with hearts and I found the exclamation point to be unnecessary. It was for these reasons and many more that early on, I unwillingly concluded that Mecca was just another ditzy girl on campus. I tried my best to ignore her wardrobe composed of tight jeans and mid-drift shirts, the look of bewilderment that took over her face whenever I used “big” words, or that God-awful laugh she performed in the company of men. Hers was the same laugh that a friend of mine back home had labeled “The Valley Girl Giggle”.
            During a rare moment of solitude, I realized that I avoided Mecca not because I found her to be so annoying, but because of the mean comments that her mere presence could manifest in my thoughts. Seeing no option, I stayed out of my room as much as possible.
            I ignored the note on my pillow when I saw Mecca’s name scrawled at the bottom. All of the time I had spent thinking of my roommate made me doubt whether I would attend Sunday afternoon’s soiree. The invitation read “casual dress” but I still had no idea what to wear. The people on this campus have such various styles of dress that the word casual could mean any number of things. I valued the diversity here at school, but sometimes it could be a bit overwhelming. On my first day of classes, I looked around the room and wondered where I might fit in among all these other students. I even found myself comparing what I had on, my physical features, the way that I talked, my hairstyle, how my skin tone contrasts that of others, and most importantly, how my personality might assimilate or differ from the behaviors of the strangers that I sat among. I worried that this party might do more harm than good. I had seen Anita around campus, and she seemed cordial enough to have a conversation with, but I envisioned her hanging out with girls like Mecca. Then it occurred to me that the note might not have been intended for me. Maybe Anita or some of her cronies had anticipated Mecca coming home before me to find the note. Should I take the risk of embarrassing myself by showing up to a party uninvited, or offend someone by not attending?
 
            After getting myself settled in for a long night of contemplation, I decided to take a nap and enjoy the unusually quiet halls of my dormitory. During my slumber, memories of my first overnight stay here at the university took over my dreams. I was at one of the pre-orientation sessions with a few high school friends. During the day, I enjoyed myself, maybe even a bit more than I should have. I was enraptured by the experience of being on my own and found a new sense of independence. Little did I know that this new sense of self would come with a very big problem. How could I take advantage of my newfound freedom to get to know myself (and others) in this environment?
            I looked for an answer to this question in the image of others. I could not stand to be around girls like Mecca. They made me feel like an elitist, and I did not know where I had obtained such feelings of superiority. My suitemate, Rubye, intimidated me. She dressed in African garb, told me stories of her five trips to the “Motherland”, showed me her books of black empowerment, kept meticulous eating habits and worst of all, made me feel inferior. I feared that I could never live up to her sense of awareness, her pride, her determination, and her self-assuredness. She scared the living daylights out me. Rubye represented all that I wished to be in some way or another, and I was not sure if I would ever achieve that. In my eyes, my suitemates were at two different ends of the spectrum. One side (Rubye’s empowerment), I ran toward; the other (Mecca’s naivety), I shied away from.
            All of these thoughts running through my head had put me into a deep sleep, and I awoke the next morning to the sound of Mecca opening and closing her closet door. I glanced over at the clock. It read 11:37. Before I got a chance to ask Mecca about this afternoon, she had grabbed her purse and left. A few minutes later, I dragged myself out of the bed and walked over to the note with Anita’s number. I laughed out-loud, tickled by the fact that such a simple note had preoccupied so much of my time. I picked up the phone and proceeded to call Anita.


Eternal Love
Michelle Boyd

Your touch is like that of a million dreams,
Your voice is an enchanting sound that whispers through my ear,
When you find comfort in my presence, my soul beams,
When you are far, I long that you are near,
Your smile is brighter than that of the morning’s first ray,
Your eyes glimmer with zeal,
I listen with respect to the words you say,
I refuse to let any break our seal,
I have met others, but none compare,
For you are not selfish and vain,
In all that I’ve done, I have found that your love is rare
My vow is that I will love you long after Death takes its reign.
            For all eternity you will ignite my fire,
            And always challenge my desire. 


The Wedding Gift
Michelle Boyd

A week before my June wedding, I received a petite letter in the mail bearing a return address failing to indicate the sender’s name.  I anxiously opened the envelope to expose elegant cream colored paper with a brief note jotted down in black ink which said:                
            Meet me at The Peppercorn Duck Club.  Friday.  8:30 p.m.  I have a wedding gift for you. 
                                                                                    Michael 
I was surprised to be receiving a letter from him since we had not spoken in a year.  Michael was my first love whom I had met in my sophomore year at the University of Southern California-Berkeley.  We had dated for two years before our devastating split.  Michael desired to get married soon after graduation and begin a family while I wanted to at least complete law school and possibly begin experiencing the corporate world before committing to such a situation.  Our conflicting views concerning the matter eventually led to our separation.  Though we were not dating, I always had concern for Michael whether we were miles or minutes apart; therefore, a correspondence from him was welcomed.  Upon my graduation from Columbia Law School I began working at a New York based law firm, Gray and McClintock.  Two years into the position I began dating Steven Gray, a colleague of mine who happened to be the son of one of the partners.  He and his family were aristocrats, members of an elite sector of society who represented a legacy of prestige and wealth, an idea I had grown to understand and embrace.
            I arrived at the restaurant at 8:25 p.m. and walked through the chandelier lit foyer and corridor to be greeted by the hostess.
“May I help you, ma’am?” she asked with a slight foreign accent.
“Yes, I am meeting a Mr. Michael Hall tonight.”
“Yes ma’am, Mr. Hall has already arrived and has been seated.”  I followed a young, sleek brunette through the dimly lit main dining area to a private dining chamber where I was warmly embraced by my dear friend before being seated in the cushioned chair.  On the table was a slim vase with a single crimson rose, a wine bucket where a 1945 bottle of Mouton Rothschild rested upon the ice and an ashtray partially filled with cigarette butts, indicating Michael still had not overcome his addiction.
“How have you been?” he began the conversation.
“Wonderful, absolutely wonderful,” I chirped in reply.  After two hours of dialogue, reminiscing on past memories and present successes, a four course meal and two bottles of wine, Michael casually reached into a tan leather briefcase I had failed to notice and delicately delivered an envelope to my hand.
“Before we must part, here is the gift I promised you.”
“Oh, why thank you Michael,” I responded.  I carefully opened the unsealed flap of the envelope to uncover a note which read: 
            I know that your wedding is only several days away, but I feel as though I must express my thoughts.  I am convinced that we were and are meant to be     together.  I have loved you since the moment I met you, and I still love you.  It is a devotion that will not die, no matter the distance or the span of time.  In my heart    I know you feel the same way.  Please be bold enough to admit that every time you close your eyes to fall asleep, every time you awake to a new day and throughout your      day, you think about whether or not you are making the right decision for your life.  And in the core of your being, you know that marrying Steven is not truly your destiny.       All that I ask of you is that you follow your heart. 
                                                                                    Michael 
As I looked up, Michael was standing next to me placing a ring box upon the neatly draped table.  Without hesitation, I sloppily pushed my chair back, grabbed my belongings and began to briskly walk through the main area of the restaurant.  As I glanced back towards the private area, I saw Michael throw a wad of bills on the table before he began to chase after me, continually calling my name.  As I jogged out the front door into a clear summer night, I extended my arm to catch the attention of a taxi driver.  Michael had reached the front door when I was closing the door of the taxi cab.
“Where are you going in a hurry ma’am?” the taxi driver asked politely.
“38 East First Street, please.”  In a lighthearted manner, the driver then asked,
“If you don’t mind me asking, what were you running from in such a hurry, ma’am?” 
I simply replied, “The truth.”


The Land
Michelle Boyd

            Her lined face and the stringy gray hair attested to many years of struggle and poverty, yet she seemed resolute, though frail, beside the young man as they stood together in the narrow storefront doorway.  The crippled umbrella provided inadequate shelter against the slanting rain.  Together they waited with rigid body posture, in an effort to avoid looking at each other, miles apart.
            “So, you’ve decided?” he asked, his gaze directed towards the nearby playground where a group of youngsters bare-chested in the rain were engaged in a noisy game of soccer.
            “I’ve decided,” she answered, the words barely audible, her narrow chin thrust forward aggressively.
            “Yeah.  Right.  So, what about me?  Don’t I have a say in any of this?”  Now she turned to face him.
            “That land belongs to me and nobody else.  Not you or anybody,” she responded in a harsh tone while she fixed a piece of hair that had been displaced during their brisk trot in the rain as they sought shelter.  The rain forcefully hit the pavement in front of them as Geraldine began to silently reflect upon the land she so desperately wanted to keep but knew she had to sell.  She thought about the time when her father gently placed her upon his lap and began to recount the property’s history within their family.  He narrated the story to the young girl about when his father bought the five acre plot in rural Greenwood, Mississippi when he was a young boy.  As his father would proudly display the deed to his possession he would say,
            “If I die with nothin’ today but this land to my name, that’s fine, because I know that my children, grandchildren, great-grandchildren and so on will have something they can benefit from.” 
            Young Geraldine sat upon her father’s lap listening intently as he told her one day the land would be hers and then she would be able to pass it on to her children.  Into her adolescence and early adulthood, her father periodically showed her the document to reinforce the importance of ensuring an inheritance for future generations of the family.  Despite the financial turmoil her family endured during her upbringing, her father had refused to sell the lot.  But now the elderly woman was faced with the dilemma of paying for the expenses of her grandson’s college education or maintaining ownership of her land. 
            After the untimely death of her husband and daughter due to illness she became responsible for the well being of her grandson and due to her limited education, she was forced to work as a caregiver and cleaning woman for a wealthy white family in order to support her infant grandchild and herself.  During his childhood, Michael would spend his days with his grandmother as she toiled in Judge and Mrs. Baugh’s home, meticulously cleaning the spacious residence and caring for their two daughters.  Though she also worked part time as a waitress at a local diner, she earned a minimal salary forcing the two to live meagerly.  Despite their financial strain and lack, Geraldine would sacrifice her last dime to ensure that Michael received the best she was able to provide.  Throughout his years of schooling and upon his graduation from high school, she recognized his intellectual potential and aspirations to succeed and thus wanted him to further his education by attending an African-American university.  She continually witnessed that the opposition against young, Black men in 1930’s America, especially in the South, was intense.  Consequently, she wanted him to have an advantage and leverage in society; therefore, she decided to sell the five acres of land that was deeply rooted in the legacy of her family to pay for his education at Fisk University.  With influential African-Americans including W.E.B. Du Bois as alums of the university, she felt an education at the Black institution would be beneficial to Michael.
            They stood outside the entrance of the Lewis County Bank as the noise from the playing children carried across the street and the rhythm of the rain intensified.
            “You don’t have to do this.  I can get a job and help you out.  Help us get out of debt and then worry about college down the road.  Ma Dear, just don’t sell the land,” Michael pleaded while he placed his firm hands on her forearms.  She sternly replied, while gripping in her petite, wrinkled hand the manila envelope that held the deed to the plot of land,
            “Child, let me tell you somethin’.  This land mean nothin’ if our family continues to live in poverty, lack of education and ignorance.  It mean absolutely nothin’ if you have this deed after I die and you have no food to feed yo’ babies.  You are too gifted to labor all your life like me and like my daddy and his daddy and then die with nothin’.  You can do so much more fo yo’self and I guarantee that I am gon’ give you that opportunity.”  Geraldine then stroked the young man’s damp face and wrapped her thin arms around his waist while resting her head against his chest causing her hat to slightly shift out of place.  Tears began to swell in her eyes as she glided her right hand along the middle of his back.  After the brief embrace, she released her grip, straightened her pleated skirt, dress coat and hat.  With her envelope in hand and determination, selflessness and love guiding her, she slowly turned to face the doors of the bank.  With Michael casting a glare of disapproval, Geraldine stepped into the bank ready to complete her business.


Childhood Memories
Michelle Boyd

The stormy,
            Eerie,
                        Late nights,
Filling my tiny mind with scary frights.
 
Making clumpy,
            Icky,
                        Messy mud pies,
                        With rocks, bugs, and sticks inside.
 
The playtime with my
            New Ken and,
                        Barbie dolls and other toys,
                        Listening to poetry and storybooks without a peep of noise.
                       
Dancing to Cameo,
            Prince,
                        And the Bloodstones’ beats,
                        And slow dancing atop my daddy’s size 13 feet,
           
The roughhouse,  
            Wrestling and tumbling
                        Moves in the living room,
                        And getting in trouble when my mother heard that big boom.
 
Eating tasty chicken ‘n dumplings,
            And smooth
                        Reese’s Peanut Butter Cups,
                        And watching Scooby Doo with Sparky when he was a pup.
 
Those imaginative,
            Carefree,
                        And relaxed days,
                        Why am I growing up and changing those ways?


Reflection
Michelle Boyd

            All week long she had pondered what she would wear; now it was Thursday night and tomorrow she’d be making the oral presentation on which would depend the direction of future study.  She was on the verge of completing the last of a series of activities, including interviews and essays, that could result in an award of a renewable full tuition scholarship to a medical school of her choice.  The monetary honor included a monthly stipend to cover the costs of textbooks, course materials, mandatory fees and living expenses.  Such a scholarship would lift a tremendous financial burden from Kelly’s shoulders.  The more she thought about the 45-minute presentation in front of the board of the Medical Scientists Training Program, the more her stomach swelled with nervous tingles. 
            She examined the contents of the small closet, pushing aside the wire hangers with their load of assorted tank tops, jeans and tee shirts and pulled out the only thing which seemed remotely suitable for the occasion, the short-sleeved navy blue Harlena number with the Pelucci lace trim around the collar and the hemline.  She clearly remembered the day she’d bought it, that moment of supreme madness when she’d handed over eighty-five dollars for the mere handful of frothy silk; eighty-five dollars she couldn’t really afford for a Homecoming dress, which had been hanging in the closet ever since, as near forgotten as the face which had occasioned the extravagance.
            Now she held it up to the light, carefully checking for any sign of damage, then slipped it over her head and stood before the mirror, critically surveying herself.  She stared in the mirror eyeing every detail of her appearance, amazed.  Not amazed at how the dress still fit properly after four years of college, but amazed at her achievements.  Who would have thought the young girl from the poverty infested ghetto of West Richard Projects would soon be entering medical school, possibly at no cost?  She reflected upon her upbringing which was the epitome of meager living.  Kelly imagined herself as a small child again lying in a rickety bed upon a bare mattress along with her two younger siblings, disturbed by the high pitched noise of the mice that gathered under the queen sized bed.  The constantly bare pantry and refrigerator inhabited by roaches and other insects only added to the despair of the household.  She remembered childhood Christmases, where the only gifts under the lean, undecorated tree were donations from the neighborhood Mount Calvary Baptist Church. 
            Images of her younger siblings kicking and screaming her name as they were forced into the backseat of a minivan on their way to live with their Aunt Margaret in Ohio after their single mother’s untimely death flooded her thoughts.  She remembered watching the ordeal in the stormy downpour allowing the raindrops to disguise her tears, wanting to intervene, but knowing it would be the best situation for their care.  Kelly was only a sophomore in high school when she was abruptly faced with the responsibility of caring for herself while striving to complete her remaining two years at West Mount High School.  She reflected upon the financial, as well as emotional, hardships she faced during her undergraduate studies at the University of Missouri-Kansas City, yet how she continually persevered through it all.  With an aura of pride and a slight smirk, Kelly audibly said to herself,
            “It’s amazing what I’ve done in life and what’s more amazing is what I’m going to do in life.” 
            She then gave a final evaluation of her outfit for the event, 
            “Well, Missy,” she said to her reflection.  “This is about the best you can do, so, go in there tomorrow and knock’em dead.”  She carefully slid the dress over the sponge rollers in her hair and placed it gently on the paisley print loveseat next to her bed.  Kelly pulled the comforter back exposing sage green sheets and lied down, gently placing her head upon the down pillows.  While closing her eyes, she exhaled softly, eagerly anticipating the next day knowing that her journey was complete, yet only beginning.


Mahogany Pleasure
Michelle Boyd

 
Mahogany Pleasure.
Unveiling rare beauty and knowledge,
Beating with force and vitality,
Yearning genuine freedom and equality.
 
            Mahogany Pleasure.
            Equality lost upon distant, ancient soil,
            Equality that drifts on waves of the Atlantic,
            Equality that sank with their bodies.
 
Mahogany Pleasure.
My misused ancestors,
My silenced ancestors,
My disrespected ancestors.
 
            Mahogany Pleasure.
            Your hands stained with royal blood,
            Your attempts to control my mind,
            Your cages bind me, but my spirit soars.
 
Mahogany Pleasure.
You have cursed me, painted my image with lies,
You have recognized my power and hate it,
You have cast your disdainful stares, partnered with ignorant words.
 
            Mahogany Pleasure.
            Certainly not Nigger,
            Neither ‘coon,
            Mistakenly called Bitch.
 
Mahogany Pleasure.
I admire your pride and indelible creativity that flows through me,
I cherish your sacrifice, which produced fruit you did not taste,
I honor your hunger and perseverance that even now guides me towards the prize.
 
            Mahogany Pleasure.
            Honor bestowed upon you,
            Flowers placed at your feet,
            Praise sang in your ear.
 
Mahogany Pleasure.
Courage,
Wisdom,
Passion,
Heritage,
Unity,
Life.


Smile
Randi Bridges

            A smile given or received helps the people of this world move positively throughout their lives.  No matter what situation I must face in life finding something to smile about eases the tension, and helps me get through the most difficult of times. A smile makes your mind see the beauty of a butterfly, a great piece of art, or the treasure of happiness in the face of a child or the elderly.  A smile is the worldwide response to everything because along with happiness it can also mask sadness. If we greeted and judged people by their smile alone problems of difference would not exist, because the inner beauty would be all that we knew.  It is the one thing that all mankind has in common and if it were used on a regular basis a smile could unite us as one people instead of separately as individuals.  Many believe that beauty is imperfect and vanishes through the years; however, a smile proves these thoughts wrong because it is the perfection of beauty for eternity. I will always be able to look towards my future as long as my smile holds strong, it will get me through the good times and the bad. It is never known when a smile will allow another individual to finally think everything is going to be ok and that they can live at least for another day. Smiles help everyone move through this world, it is the silence of the world that speaks clearly.
            A smile is golden because it represents perfection in this imperfect world.  Everyone at any age can show emotion through a smile, a baby can smile when he sees his mother and knows that he will be taken care of, a teenager can smile when she thinks she is in love, and an older person can smile when he knows that he has had a life well spent.  This simple gesture speaks a thousand words without shedding a single noise.  You smile when you are happy, to mask pain, to greet someone, to give hope, etc. The simple gesture of a smile can save someone from his or her pain, stop a tear, or slowly make some of the pain go away. A smile is the gateway to one’s heart where joy and forever live.  All people go back to their youth when they smile because a smile is our innocence.  When people get their picture taken they are asked to smile so that their character will shine as bright as the sun in their thousand words.  If you think a nice thought, dream a great dream, accomplish a major goal, or hear from an old friend, a smile can say exactly how you feel without uttering a word.  The actions towards a smile can be very simple or complex, however once a smile is started it will never stop.  From one person to the next a smile will move and everyone knows what it is saying without saying a word.
            No matter what has affected me in my past it will all melt away with a smile.  Any pain or joy I hold is behind this smile because the world deserves to know what they see in me, what they see in my smile.  As I said before this is my beauty, my truth, my individuality, the choice is yours to read into what I openly show you through my smile. Just as the sun rises in all its glory at the beginning of a new day, a smile will be the beginning of anything I face and it will also be the end.  Remember that pain and joy live together, one cannot be defined without the other, but pain will always be overcome by the joy in a smile.  I will greet the world with my smile, my unbreakable strength, and let them know that this is the best gesture anyone can give anybody.  So whether it is for me, the world, or simply your own satisfaction remember to always SMILE.


An Unheard Song
Randi Bridges

            “…sure it was a song, but some songs were not meant for singing, that people spoiled the music of the words when they tried to sing them.”  As the week progressed I thought about this idea of a song not meant to be sung, a song that had deeper meaning when someone just said or read the words instead of singing them.  Everyday on the news the leading story was related to the latest terror threats and Americans were scared.  The idea of a new attack had people buying plastic, duck tape, gas mask, and all the essentials for survival in a safe room.  America was panicked this week and no amount of American history or pride could change that.  No American stopped to find comfort in the National Anthem, an anthem that tells the tale of America surviving under attack.  Could it be that as an anthem the power of the words do not hit the heart of Americans as hard as someone just reading the poem it came from?
            This anthem that we sing at many events, the anthem that most people assume will be followed by a prayer, an anthem that comforts the safety of festive times, an anthem for the people of America to sing in honor of their land.  The National Anthem did not comfort America this week; it did not put the people’s minds and hearts at ease that no matter what others do to us we will persevere.  This song that we sing so carefreely at times was never thought of as a savior to the feelings of fear America has.
            The song that most of America can say the words to as long as the music is playing along does not soothe the mind of the American because the words have lost some of their meaning as a song.  When I sing our National Anthem I stand and sing, I focus on remaining on key and observing the people around me who are or aren’t on key as well; my focus while singing has never been on the words and what they should do to my feelings towards America.  Many Americans want to sound good for their country and in sounding good they overlook what America was trying to do by making this poem the National Anthem, they over look the hope and comfort of the words.
            The National Anthem the song that Americans sing to pay tribute to the country that will always protect us, a song that lacks the feeling of protection itself.  The words protect, the song does not; the words secure, the song does not; the words touch America’s heart, the song does not.  Yes, this poem should be honored by holding some national rank in America’s history but the form of a song is not serving it justice.


When Innocence Says Goodbye
Randi Bridges

She lost her innocence at five
            Someone told her she was ugly.
He lost his innocence at six
            The parents of the other boys said he could not come over and play.
She lost her innocence at seven
            Her mother died at the hands of a boyfriend.
He lost his innocence at eight
            His father left with no good-byes.
She lost her innocence at nine
            The only gift she wanted for her birthday never came… nothing came.
He lost his innocence at ten
            His peers teased him for not understanding what was taught as fast as they did.
She lost her innocence at eleven
            The teacher told her that she had the wrong body type to be a ballerina.
He lost his innocence at twelve
            Drugs gave him the happiness his home no longer had.
They lost their innocence at thirteen
            Society no longer considers teenagers children.
 
Being an adult is ageless because the innocence of a child is being lost everyday.


A Kiss Goodnight
Randi Bridges

A gesture from parent to child, husband to wife, loved one to loved one.
 
A signal that all will be well in the world when the sun returns.
 
A guarantee those sweet dreams will always come with sleep.
 
A moment in time where serenity, peace, and love dwell.
 
A simple goodnight kiss…


Me and Howard
Charlene M. Brown

Currently, I am an undergraduate student at Howard University, in Washington, DC.  It is no secret that I am not fond of Howard, ask anyone in this class or anyone who knows me fairly well, or even someone who has only made my acquaintance and asked me the question: “So . . . How do you like Howard?”  My response is usually the same: “It’s here” or “It’s okay.”  Most people then give me that “I pity you” look because most of them think Howard is the greatest place on earth.  I beg to differ, however.
            The love affair Howard and I have been having for the past seven and a half months has left much to be desired on my end.  I don’t like the way Howard does things nor do I care for most of the people here.  It seems to me to physically be a walking fashion show.  And there are far too many people who make me question whether college is an institution of higher education rather than a place where Mommy or Daddy got them into either by alumni or monetary status.  Some of the people are just another one of those “things that make you go hmmm.”
Overall, Howard has not been good to me.  Howard has lied to me, been mean to me, and generally mistreated me.  And if not me, then far too many of the folks I know.  Howard’s arm does not communicate with it’s foot, and neither have access to the brain.  Every part works independently of the others, none conveying anything to each other.  Despite all of this, I continue to stay in this abusive, yet strangely educational, relationship.  With the exception of the above discrepancies, Howard treats me individually well.  But, you see, I was deceived.  When I came to visit Howard in the Spring of 2001, my Junior year in high school, there was so much going on that I apparently got sucked in.  No, this is not quite true.  At the time, I recall my comment being that I loved the atmosphere but not necessarily for myself.  But the day I visited, the Q’s, Omega Psi Phi Fraternity, Incorporated Brothers, were coming out, so there was a lot of excitement in the air.  It was also springtime, which generally takes away the lethargy of the winter, and usually makes things all around nicer.  But I understand that life is a give and take.
            This alone gets me to thinking about both what I give to and what I take from Howard.  Howard gives me things I don’t care for and refuses those things that I would like, those things that I want.  My impression of Howard has just not been very good.  Howard seems extremely self-serving and condescending.  Howard has a bad relationship with the community and many of its constituents despise its leadership.  This is definitely a problem that continues to be addressed without coming up with adequate solutions.  However, during my short relationship, I believe I have found my life’s calling, which makes it necessary to endure this acrimonious bondage for at least a little while longer.
            Of myself, I have been told by many that they have never met anyone like me.  Whether or not this is a true statement depends on whose opinion is asked.  I do, however, pride myself on being myself and greatly enjoy my “uniqueness.”  If this is what I enhance Howard with, then so be it.  On the contrary, I also believe that I will not truly know what it is that I have left Howard until we break up.  But leaving something heavily relies on what others take from my having been present.


Some Songs Aren’t Meant to be Sung
Charlene M. Brown

“And I asked what he was getting all excited about, it was only a song, wasn’t it?  And he said sure it was a song, but some songs were not meant for singing, that people spoiled the music of the words when they tried to sing them.”
-Excerpt from Choice of Straws by E. R. Braithwaite
 
That’s right some songs aren’t meant to be sung
Like the song in your bones that tells you you're free
And the song in your footsteps
That signals your arrival
And the song in your heart
God knows you can’t tell
And the everything of anything that lets your soul sing
And heart skip
And head bow
Cuz you know everything just ain't right
And the eyes inside your soul weep and weep
For the loves lost and the souls never found
And the wind takes the willows
And buries them deep in your heart
So your tin box stays glued shut
And your eyes stay nailed open
Allowing the debris to fall
In circles around your head
As if in a halo
With angelic serenity
And customized audacity
Fit just right for you
But no some songs aren’t meant for the singing
When your clouds disappear
And the sands swirl
The waves rush and the thunder booms
And your life is shattered
Into 3 million pieces of whole glass
Each one reflecting every moment ever bore
And every pain ever taken
And every hurt ever brought surface
No matter how deep you thought you had forgotten it
And how far you thought you had traveled away from it
Every shattered glass brought the initial sensation roaring back
Singing a song you knew you had forgotten but couldn’t remember the words to sing
Nor the harmonies or the melodies that you only knew because they reverberated in your soul
Not because you could recall a time when you ever knew the words
yet the song echoed deep
As if it had been with you for ancient centuries
From your daddys tree
Through your mamas apple
And into your inner dwellings
The song you cried out when the excruciating pain came
And exalted loudly when only peace remained
That song that raised you up without ever knowing any words
And kept you alive when the cord was around your neck closing your airways and haunting your dreams
Making your eyes pop out and your throat swell
Making your heart leap with relief when you finally passed out only to be met with the warm salty taste of blood all over
And you wonder whose father was pronounced DOA this time
And you wonder whose mother got raped this time
Or whose brothers and sisters lay massacred in the street this time
And damn why can’t you remember the words of the song this time
When the inside of your bones ache
And the outside of your skin crawls
And your blood tissues start to curl and wind
Until you explode and your whole life is shattered
So you take inventory of the missing pieces this time
And wonder who stole them from you this time
Looking for all of them one more time
And you think about that song
The one you could never sing cuz you never knew the words
Then you look up and watch the sad stars reflecting on the dim moon
Envious of even their sadness
For they can probably remember the words
Even if they are sad
But at least they can remember the words
And no
Some songs aren’t meant for singing.


When Love Becomes a Rose
Charlene M. Brown

There is a table
Ever gleaming is the napery
Silverware glassware
The clear blue crystal vase encompasses
The Rose
Electrifying the entire restaurant
Screaming at the overflowing ashtray
Dancing with the empty wine goblet
Caressing the bucket from whence it came
Devouring the crumpled wad of bills carelessly waiting for the maitre’D
The Rose
Staring at the napkin effortlessly forgotten on the floor beside
Gently reaching for the disarranged chair
But oh, it is beyond the short grasp of the distraught napkin
And the napkin must settle for the neatly compiled chair instead
And reminisce of the love that was lost just moments before
When the she and the he decided it was no longer
And love was no lover
When the she decided that he no longer loved
And the he decided that she loved no longer
“Some say love it is a river”
And the she said that the water had already run dry
And the patient Rose admired disdainfully
Remembered painfully
And cried softly for the he she love that lost
When quieted was the vulnerable flower a more intent listen was surely to follow
At best the beautiful bud breathed beautiful breaths
But alas the brokenness beset beside the beauty
And the Rose wept once more
For the love had been lost
And the lost unloved
For timeless was the love of the ages
But the she said of love no more
And the he obliged his heart and mind rejoicing
For he no longer loved
And love loved him no more
And his heart leapt with joy as he kissed her goodbye
And said goodnight for one last time
For love no longer loved him
And he no longer loved
She got up from the table
And gracefully walked away
She too rejoiced
For she was indefinitely freed
From the love no longer loved
And the love to be loved no longer
But yet and still
A Rose is still a Rose


Table for Two
Lauren D. Chisholm

            It was Monday, December 13, 1966, a day that Marla would never forget. Though Monday was by no means Marla's favorite day of the week, any day she spent with Lance was considered a blessing. As Marla lay in bed, she silently watched as Lance slightly shifted between the sheets. With deep concentration, Marla listened to Lance, and tried to syncopate her heartbeat to his breathing.
            As the sun rose over the Hudson, Marla reluctantly raised herself from their bed and proceeded to dress for work. Today would be a long day, and though it was tempting to steal a few more minutes of solitude with her chocolate angel, she knew that it was time to leave. For the past six months, Lance had been out of work, and it was up to Marla to put in extra hours at the factory to make ends meet. Though they weren't formally married, Lance had promised her that as soon as he got back on his feet, they would have the big church wedding that she dreamed of.
            At any cost, Marla loved Lance. She simply adored him. They had been courting since her "sweet 16th" birthday. In those days Lance was considered a "great catch" and at the time he knew it. Lance had made it perfectly clear that he was a bachelor, and was in no hurry to go steady with anyone. That is, until he met Marla. Marla was a looker. Her hair was long and silky--with the aid of a good straightening comb, her back held a regal arch, and her hips swayed just right when she walked. Lance knew that he had to have her, and he did. Though, when he got her, he couldn’t quite commit to her.
            Marla knew that Lance was a womanizer; to be honest, that is how they ended up together. As the sweet sounds of the Temptations blared on the record player in the hot sweaty basement of the local YMCA, Lance asked Marla to dance. From the first spin, Marla was hooked. The heat of his body pressed close to hers, the smell of his sweat as it gently careened down her neck, the firmness of his body between her arms, all intertwined in a slow grind, seduced Marla to the point of pure ecstasy.
            As time went on, it was the very recollection of that steamy night that made Marla cling to Lance each time she thought he’d leave. She also thought about all of the nights that they had spent together holding each other in the rain, or taking long walks in the park; even those nights when Lance would occasionally try to cook for her. Those memories made her smile in the middle of the day, and caused her to work faster, so that she could rush home to attend to his every need.
            Lately, things had begun to change. Lance would leave the apartment after Marla, supposedly looking for work, only to come home smelling of cheap cologne and even cheaper liquor. Some nights he would not return at all, but leave a note or some paltry trinket on her pillow to be found when she returned from work. At first these peace offerings pacified Marla, but recently the appearance of these trinkets were few and far in between.
            When Marla returned from work, there was a note taped to the refrigerator door. It read,” Marla, don’t cook tonight. Meet me at the Red Rouge for cocktails at six. Lance.” As Marla carefully read the note, her heart skipped a few beats, but this quickly changed when she noticed that it was not signed with its usual, “Love, Lance.” Marla quickly dismissed this minor error, reasoning that Lance was probably in a hurry when he had written the note. Anyway, it had been ages since they had been out together, and even eons since they had gone anywhere as impressive as the Red Rouge.
            As Marla looked at the clock, she realized that she only had a few minutes to get ready. With great haste, she carefully put on her new makeup, combed her hair into an elegant up-do, and dabbed a few drops of French perfume behind her ear, before she was out the door.
            When Marla arrived, she took a seat at the bar. It was 6:15, she knew that Lance was never on time, so she waited. As she sat, she thought about their relationship. Marla had been keeping a secret from Lance, and soon she would no longer be able to hide it. Contemplating the best way to tell Lance, she decided that it would be more appropriate to tell him in a more intimate setting.
            Marla asked for a table for two in the back of the restaurant. All she could think about was seeing Lance. For an hour she practiced the way in which she would address the matter. After much consideration, she decided that being straightforward was the best way. As she casually glanced at her watch, she noticed that it was 7:15. There was no sign of Lance. Marla began to worry. At first she played with the napkins that were folded into doves, but that did not keep her attention. As her nerves took over, Marla lit a cigarette to calm them. When that didn’t work, she asked the waiter for a bottle  of wine. This worked for a moment, but Marla decided to combine the cigarettes with the drinking. The combination of the two substances began to take the edge off. While admiring the crisp, white napery, she absently missed the ash tray allowing a few ashes to set the tablecloth on fire.
            Noticing the careless mistake, Marla concentrated on the growing hole. It reminded her of her life. For the past five years, it seemed as though Marla had done everything right. Her career decisions, her future, her past, they were all white and pure, like the tablecloth. The only dark spot in her life was her relationship with Lance. It was the hole. At first, it only occupied a small part of her life, but for some time the relationship had begun to mar everything that she did. She would work double shifts at the factory to correct the mistakes that she had made during the first shift, due to her frequent daydreaming. Over the years, she had lost many of her friends due to Lance’s distaste for the company that she kept. She also had begun to lose some of her womanly charms. Her hair had begun to thin because of many nights filled with worry and anxiety. Her shapely figure had begun to droop because she was no longer eating properly, yet she continued to take nerve pills. Despite her failing condition, her devotion to Lance remained strong. Like the growing flames on the table, her love for Lance began to distort her vision, and turn all that was pure into a charred shadow of its former self.  Before the fire grew out of control, Marla curtly put it out by covering the hole with the ash tray and a few napkins. When Marla looked at her watch it was 9:36, she had already finished a bottle of wine and a pack of cigarettes. Marla knew that Lance had a tendency to be tardy, but not late. This was simply ridiculous.
            Just then the maitre’d told Marla that she had a phone call. It was Lance.
            “Hi baby where are you, I’ve been waiting all night?”
            “Uh, I’m not coming anymore.”
            “Lance what do you mean you’re not coming?”
            “I’m not coming because I am leaving you, I don’t love you anymore.”
            “But Lance, baby, what do you mean...baby we can work this out...besides I have something to tell you...Lance, I am pregnant.”
            The phone went dead. The deafening sound of the dial tone drove Marla mad. As Marla rushed back to her table, the tears began to run down her face like Niagara Falls. By the time she made it to the table, her face was covered in a mix of salty tears and cheap mascara. She reached in her purse, threw out a wad of bills, and clumsily bumped into a waiter. Blinded by her tears and heartache, Marla ran out onto the street. Suddenly, she realized that she was enveloped in the headlights of an oncoming truck. She did not move. She stood still. 


Me
Lauren Chisholm

            It is 4:06AM. In exactly one hour I will be 40 years of age. As I sit in solitude, I can’t help but wonder where the time went. I am comfortably positioned on my leather couch in cozy pajamas with a piping hot mug of cocoa, extra marshmallows, on the coffee table in front of me. My memory box is placed adjacent to the mug on the coffee table. As I look out of my big bay window, the sky is the color of shoe polish.
            Some years ago, I created a memory box to hold all of things that were dear to me or that reminded me of an important part of my life. I was inspired by one of those old Oprah clips, you know, “Remembering your Spirit”, or whatever they were called. At any rate, every year, exactly one hour before the time that I was born, I open the box and rehash old memories. In a way, it reminds me of my past, but also helps me to focus on creating new memories and new challenges for the year.
            As I go through the box, I can’t believe that I have kept old ticket stubs, my husband’s phone number from the night that we first met, bubbles from my wedding, my oldest daughter’s first lost tooth, and a some other odd items. There are also a number of old photographs. There are a few pictures, that I can’t help but to stare. The one that always catches me is of a girl that I once knew.
            In the picture she is laughing and smiling, with a group of other friends. It seems as if she doesn’t have a care in the world. If  I can remember correctly, it was taken around the time that she went off to college. At that time, life was fun, new, fresh, and exciting. Her motives were pure and it was exemplified throughout everything she did.
            In her former years, there seemed to be nothing that she set her mind to that she couldn’t accomplish. She held various leadership positions in high school ranging from Vice-President of  the Sophomore Class Board to Director and Co-Writer of the Black History and Women’s Month Assemblies. She volunteered with various organizations, and made it her business to remain on the honor roll for all four years of her high school career.      
            As I look into her eyes, though smiling, she looks determined, yet optimistic. I think of how outspoken and fun-loving she was, but never had a problem with working hard. As a matter of fact, when life presented challenges to her, she simply adapted to the situation, and ultimately came out on top. In addition, she tried to remain positive. She encouraged me, when I felt like I couldn’t make it, or when I didn’t have enough confidence in my abilities. When I was afraid to make changes in life, she told me that it was okay to try it. She told me that the worst thing that could happen is just that, the worst. She always made me think about the best thing that could happen. But most importantly, to never forget the power of prayer; God never fails, nor gives you more than you can bear. I must say, when I get the chance to see her again, I will surely thank her for it.
            It is now 5:00AM. The sun is slowly beginning to wake up the earth. I quietly put the items back into the memory box and proceed to place it on the top shelf of my closet. I then tiptoe to my private bathroom, so as not to wake my husband. As I stand in front of the floor length mirror, I have decided to cherish the last few minutes of age 39. In exactly three minutes, I will be 40 years old. In exactly three minutes, I will begin the fourth installment of the saga that is my life. In this installment, I plan to strive to connect with the past in order to provide further insight for my future. My first order of business is to reunite with that girl. It is now 5:05AM with thirty seconds and counting... 27, 26, 25... It has now occurred to me that there is a young girl standing beside me in the mirror. 19, 18, 17... As I peer deeper into the mirror, I recognize who it is...3, 2, 1... It is me, at 18.


One Last Time
Roniesha L. Copeland

            His smooth, flawless milk chocolate skin glistened as he stepped out of the steaming shower. Small beads of water clung to his gorgeous, well-toned body, accentuating the glorious definition that made him comparable to a Greek god. He wiped the foggy bathroom mirror and smiled, thinking of his girlfriend, Italia, who would, hopefully, be more than that after tonight’s dinner. As he proceeded to get dressed, he picked up the phone and dialed The Highrise.
            “Good evening and thank you for calling The Highrise, Collin speaking.”
            “Hello, Collin. Please tell Tali that I’m running late and I’ll be there shortly,” the man spoke quietly, careful not to awaken inquiry from the party that was noisily banging pots in the adjoining kitchen, the same party that had joined him in bed less than an hour ago.
            “Of course, Mr. Addison. And shall I give her the usual?” he asked slyly, implying his full understanding of the situation.
            “Yes, the Don Perignon will do.”
            Just as he hung up the phone, a purring female voice summoned him to the kitchen. “Oh Jaaaaames, Jamesie dear. Come here for a sec, will you?”
Usually, he answered the tempting call but he had something more important on his mind. James promised himself that this was the last time he’d do something scandalous like this to his girlfriend. He couldn’t bear to hurt her anymore; he loved her too much.
Tonight, he was putting an end to his inconsiderate and deceitful pleasures. This little rendezvous with Alicia would provide closure to the final chapter of his life of gaming females. It was necessary. “Besides,” he figured, “Tali would never find out.”
            Reminded of the night’s importance, he pulled out a small Tiffany & Co. box and beamed with satisfaction and anticipation. Staring at the glorious token of affection that lie resting in his sweaty hand, a nervous tingle crept over his tense body, overwhelming him with anxiety. Breathing deeply to calm his nervousness, he squeezed the distinctive bluish-green packaging containing a four carat platinum engagement ring and offered a silent prayer to God, the friend he always turned to in times of distress and uncertainty. While carefully reinserting the box into the inside pocket of his black four-button Giorgio Armani suit, he heard Alicia call him for the last time.
Calmly, he stepped into the kitchen and said, “Goodbye, Leesh. It’s over.” The sound of his words fell densely on Alicia’s ears. Her head snapped around to face him, and the expression on her face caused James to back up defensively guarding his face, as if Lenox Lewis had cornered him in a boxing ring. Attempting to depart her presence, he quickly headed towards the door to let himself out.  Ignoring her passionate and deafening yells, he glided out the door somewhat fearful of what Alicia might do but relatively unconcerned considering that tonight was the night.
------------------------------------
James Addison had done this all of his life. He was a “player” in the complete essence of the word, the quintessential male dog. Any characteristic that fit a “player,” whether positive or negative, denoted him. Most described him as suave, debonair, confident, handsome . . . no fiiiiine. Not fine, but fiiiiine. Beginning at a young age, all the ladies wanted James but knew better than to get involved with him. This remained true as time passed; however, many females, way too many females, had fallen for his irresistible game.
            Italia Mason was one of them. For years, she dated scum, worthless men who mentally and physically abused her and depended on her for their livelihood. Then, one day, after a heated argument with an ex-boyfriend, she literally ran into James. Rushing hurriedly out of the revolving lobby door of The Drake hotel on a frigid and windy winter Chicago evening, she walked right into him as he stood amidst a mass of holiday shoppers on the crowded sidewalk. At first glance, she fell head over heels for him. His beaming white Crest commercial smile warmed her frigid body and instantly melted her heart. That night the two conversed for three hours over dinner and drinks at The Highrise, which had now become their favorite restaurant. Everything since then had been heavenly pleasurable and refreshingly satisfying.
Well, not exactly. Of course, Italia couldn’t come across such a wonderful catch without him having a flaw. His flaw had brought her the most frustrating and disheartening pain. James was a “player.” He cheated, not because he didn’t love her but because he could. 
Tonight marked their two-year anniversary, recurring break-ups included. As usual, she sat at their table in The Highrise near the piano, staring at his trademark--a single red rose--waiting for him to join her. He was already half an hour late.
Collin, the maitre’ d, strolled over to the table at which Italia sat impatiently, carrying a bucket of wine containing a bottle of Don Perignon. Immediately Italia’s face flushed with anger and disappointment. She knew what the wine meant—a cheating bastard of a boyfriend.
This had occurred so regularly throughout their relationship that Italia didn’t even have to think twice or question her suspicions. Her boyfriend never put work or his friends before her, and he phoned at the occurrence of an unexpected family emergency. The phrase, “Mr. Addison is running late,” had acquired a particular definition-- “I’m cheating.” And the Don Perignon denoted his apology. 
After downing her first glass of wine, she lit up a cigarette. Last year, she had quit smoking at James’ urging. But she always kept a pack with her in case she ever felt the need to deviate from her newly acquired discipline. Now was that time.
For the next half hour, she chastised herself for being naïve and getting caught up with a guy like James. Despite this self-criticism, the fact that she loved him repeatedly visited her mind.
While sipping on her final glass of wine, she glanced over at the restaurant entrance only to see the man who had stolen her heart. Wearing a brilliant smile that beamed from ear to ear and carrying an enrapturing blend of red, white, and pink roses-- three dozen to be exact, he floated over to her table, his commanding strides attracting the full attention of everyone in the restaurant. James was irresistible. Right now, though, it didn’t matter. Tonight was the last time she would accept his bull. Italia had had enough; tonight she found the strength to resist him. James had struck out.
Before he even opened his mouth, Italia jumped up, knocked her chair over, and threw the napkin she had been crumpling for the last half hour to the floor.
Passionately, she shouted, “It’s over! Don’t ask any questions because you know all the answers. This was your last time. It’s over!”
In attempts to calm her, James enveloped her in his firm grasp. He could see the rage and pain in her eyes as she pounded her fist against his brawny chest. Apologetically, he stared down at her and wiped her tear-stained, mascara-streaked cheek. “Pooh,” he whined softly, “Let me explain. Just please let me explain.”
Infuriated, she shook herself free from his powerful embrace and violently gazed up at him. Calmly, she whispered, “I said it’s over. Goodbye James.”
            Loudly stomping her four-inch Manolo Blahnik stilettos across The Highrise floor, she stormed out of the restaurant leaving James flustered. Awe-struck he stared at the freshly set table with its beaming, untouched silverware, the ashtray full of cigarette butts containing lingering traces of coral-colored lipstick, and an empty wine bottle.
            “Damn, she’s pissed,” he muttered under his breath, as he fought back stinging tears. “I can’t lose her. I just can’t.”
Determined not to lose the love of his life, he grabbed two neatly folded $100 bills from his pocket, and threw them on the table. Glancing toward the door, he whispered to himself, “Italia and James always and forever” and ran after the fuming Tali. There was no way he was letting her get away.


A New World
Roniesha L. Copeland

 
I woke up one morning to a whole new world.
What my eyes expected to see was indiscernible in the ambiguous sky.
Darkness flooded my vision, blinding me from bright days of joy and peace.
My pupils constricted as they became adjusted to the change in light.
I woke up to find that a life I never thought would change was no longer the same.
 
I heard a new song today, one that only an angel could sing.
My ears struggled to hear the voice it was so accustomed to.
But sounds of familiarity drowned in a tumult of boisterously disturbing noise.
My sensitive eardrums pounded at the painful sounds of emptiness and longing.
I opened my ears wide to hear something that will never be heard again.
 
I smelled something different just a few minutes ago.
My nostrils began to widen at the uncanny scents floating in the dense air.
All that was fresh, sweet, and fragrant disappeared in the grotesque stenches of pain and fear.
My sense of smell could only retain the aromas of a new and confusing world.
I opened my nose longing for the fragrances of peace, comfort, and normality.
 
I tasted a new recipe during dinner today.
My tongue expected to enjoy the sweet, mouth-watering taste of peace.
Instead, the raging fires that pierce and destroy tranquility burned it.
My sensitive taste buds longed for the savor of the past, the flavor of times before.
I tasted, sorrowfully, a meal that I wish could be nullified.
 
I reached out to touch a priceless gem just now.
My hand stretched out to caress its gentle features and intricate design.
What I felt was the stark cold and empty air brushing severely against my awaiting palm.
Still my fingers ached for the tangible, the concrete, the physical presence of this beautiful antique.
I reached out only to feel what is now an ethereal memory.
 
I woke up this morning to a whole new world.


Farewell . . .
Roniesha L. Copeland

 
Dear Friend,
            I never meant to hurt you, disappoint you, or destroy anything that we had. I suppose that I was naïve and blind to certain things-things that were innately obvious to you and to others as well. As much as it pains me to accept the hand that you have just dealt, I know that I have to. What makes it even more painful is that I am to blame.
That night when you called me, I thought I knew what to expect-the typical “you upset me, but let’s talk this out” conversation. How wrong was I! Never would I have imagined you’d tell me that we needed to take a break from our friendship. If only you could’ve seen my face as I listened to those words. My eyes widened in disbelief and my mouth gaped open. At the same time, I felt as if my heart had just been brutally mutilated into deformation. As you continued to express your feelings and frustrations, you left me dumbfounded. It hurt to hear what you said because I was clueless as to what provoked your comments and the feelings they expressed. I racked my brain, thoroughly probing for something I had done or said that would incite such a drastic response.
Truthfully, I’m hurt, lost, and confused. This situation has compelled me to look deep within myself to discover the true problem because I know there must be one. Friendship after friendship, I keep messing up. I care about all my friends, honestly, I do, but for some freaking’ reason I just can’t seem to get it right. But, for you, I will. I promise, I will. You have been my shoulder to lean on, my confidant, my laugh in times of frustration, and my solace in times of despair, the ear to listen, and the voice to console. When I was at my lowest, you walked beside me, holding my hand until I was strong enough to stand on my own. I am asking, actually I’m begging, that you give me another chance. Give me the chance to get right, to work out my own problems. Just don’t end it here, not now.
            You see, I’ve started working on the problem already. Right after our conversation ended, I called Dr. Greene. She agreed to see me immediately so I went to her office the next morning. I talked to her for hours; she had to cancel the rest of her appointments for the day. As I sat there and told her about the situation, she cried with me. She knows how our friendship has gotten me through many of the issues I have come to see her about. It hurt her, and she promised me that she would do anything to make sure I didn’t lose you or what we had. One thing she said, that I promise I’ll never forget, is that you are a vital link in the chain that has been my life. Your presence represents history, change, support, endurance, and attachment. She emphasized our past and how, without that, I might not even be there to talk to her. But then she reminded me that I am an individual and that I don’t have to depend on anyone but myself. This really encouraged me to fix myself because that may be the only way to fix us.
As I left her office, I thought about the time you attended a session with me after Drake and I broke up. Remember how I almost chopped off my hair and, even worse, refused to eat. Emotional breakdown....... Precisely. Through all that, you never left my side; you took care of me, making sure I went to class and giving me a “girl’s night out” every weekend despite how much Tre complained about him never seeing you anymore. No one ever knew what I went through because of you. You shielded my reputation and guarded my life. Now that I think about it, you were my angel here on earth. No, you still are. I believe that God placed you in my life for a reason, and I am not going to be the one to mess that up.
Maybe it’s a part of his plan to put some distance between us, to possibly make me depend upon myself. I guess it’s about time that I grow up some, learn to be independent and make decisions on my own. Perhaps, this is exactly what we both need. When we truly know ourselves better, the glory of our friendship will only blossom.
With this in mind, I’ve just decided to take everything in stride. I plan to spend some time with me, to get to know myself-my individual needs, desires, talents, and goals. During this separation, I plan to become self-sufficient, self-satisfied, and self-reliant. Then, I can be more considerate of you, your feelings, and you personal desires for space. I realize that it’s not your responsibility to be my mother, even though you have sometimes acted as both my parents ever since the accident. I see how that could take a toll on you and our relationship, and I am slowly beginning to understand what you said on the phone the other night. It’s time for me to find me. But know, that when I do, I want to find our friendship all over again, too.  I miss you and love you with all my heart.

Love,
A Torn Friend


So This Is the End
Roniesha L. Copeland

See, you don’t know the pain I feel.
The troubles I’ve had, the mistakes I’ve made.
You wouldn’t understand my naiveté or my ignorance,
My blindness to things that to you seem so apparent.
Never would you guess that I thought everything was fine,
Only to find that you definitely thought otherwise.
 
So maybe things can’t be the same,
Though that hurts and even makes me cry.
I messed up so you say.
I guess I’ll have to accept it and live with the consequences.
It’s insane for me to wish I could rewind time,
To correct my mistakes or take back my inconsiderate acts.
 
But now I must suffer.
I’m the one that must endure the pain.
It’s my fault, my bad.
Whatever happens,
Even if we must go separate ways,
I want you to know
That I care, that I regret the bad.
 
My only wish is that we could’ve fixed this,
Before it got out of hand,
Repaired the torn and tattered thread
That mended us together.
Now there’s no reunion or chance to repair.
I can only hope that you still love me, the way I do you.


Me 2
Sherry-Ann de Coteau

Handful of African
A pinch of Amerindian
A dash of East Indian
All mixed up with some o’ massa blood
You don’t see it
Neither do I
 
Hypodescent allowed him to ignore me
Deny what I represent
The blood wasn’t thicker than the cane juice
But it is still there
 
The blood of the Native and Conqueror
Slave and the Slavemaster
Indentured Labourer and Overseer
Passé muen ah sutur yo
Igbesi aiye mi lati eyin wa si ojo iwaju tiwon
Mere bhut kal se un ke bhavishya tak
My past to their future
Me


Soucouyant in de C
Sherry-Ann de Coteau

 
Like vampires dat travel by night
Dey shed dey skin and turn into a ball o’ fire
Sucking out de life-force o’ victims while dey slumber
Dey make a pact with de devil
 So dey could have longevity and assume any form dey will
Dey live in de oldest houses
Along de outskirts o’ small towns and villages
But dis soucouyant had blue blood
And he had he eye on de city o’ de eagle
So he take de form o’ an elephant
And he move out o’ he board house into a Big White one
On top o’ de Hill with de capital C
Dig up a corpse and cut out de liver, cause
Is plenty oil dis soucouyant need
To ease out o’ he skin
When he ready to feed
 
He turn into a ball o’ fire and take to de sky
He don’t need no wings, or no wind when he ready to fly
Dis soucouyant doh have to suck you for you to know he was there
He just pinch yuh here
And cuff yuh there
Yuh ain’t even realize when yuh black skin turn blue
And is then crapaud smoke yuh pipe
Is then yuh too weak and frail to fight
Cause is who in de kitchen does feel de heat
And none of dat 674 billion is for you, cause
Is plenty oil dis soucouyant need
To ease out o’ he skin
When he ready to feed
 
Cause dis politricking soucouyant now ready to start he sucking
And he right hand partner all of a sudden stop talking
All de time playing dead to ketch corbeau alive
But now,
Is more water than flour
And monkey know what tree to climb
And is trouble that make monkey eat de hot pepper
And he does never see he own tail
So de elephant choose de three green stars
And try to ignore de lone red one, cause
Is plenty oil dis soucouyant need
To ease out o’ he skin
When he ready to feed
 
But t’ief from t’ief does make God laugh
And dis soucouyant never hear de old people say
Don’t trouble trouble unless trouble trouble you
And who don’t hear does feel
Because Gopaul luck ain’t Seepaul luck
And Do So does never Like So
And how yuh make yuh bed, is so you lie
Is REAL commesse going on in dis place
So throw yuh rice on de ground
And rub some salt on yuh skin
Cause is real oil dis politrickster need
To ease out o’ he skin
When he ready to feed


Free to Be
Sherry-Ann de Coteau

Yes, I am still a girl
Really, I am
Hello Kitty watch, yo-yo, silly putty
Drawers filled with ribbons, baubles, bobby socks
Ludo, Chinese checkers, Snakes and Ladders
All mine
 
Girls don’t worry about breast cancer and fibroids
It concerns us not if our tampons aren’t 100% cotton
Our hearts have never been broken,
So we know not the knell of unrequited love
 
I blush, I smile, I giggle and I laugh
My flip flops announce my arrival
As my zig-zag parted pigtails bounce
Twin symbols of my insouciance


For Gwendolyn
Sherry-Ann de Coteau

Slim band of silver
Fitting snugly on my sylphlike wrist
Jerky movements of this keeper of my time
Regulating the staccato cadence of my radial pulse
Ambulatory tattoo
Applying pressure ever so slightly
Tic tock away
Quietly
Modulating every second
Of every day
Andante movements
Aurulent hands tug at my heart
While they cipher
Hours
Minutes
Seconds
Since and until
My head is pillowed
In the familiar warmth of your bosom


Savage and the Savages
Sherry-Ann de Coteau

An anthropomorphic fallacy, they say
Not possible for you to act those ways
But they never saw the sparkles in your eyes
How can they say that you could never smile
Yet still best friend to all
Man, woman and child
 
You could never say the words
But you always made sure we knew
With a perspicacious look
Or an empathetic nod
You anchored yourself in the flow of our lives
And even after some good licks
Your unwavering loyalty was never disguised
 
A fallacy they say
How could this be
When you’d always keep vigil ever so patiently
Waiting for the last one home to turn the key
In spite of what late hour it happened to be
Though in our world, a baby you still were at three
 
Death – the final awakening came
Summoned by
The jealous
The coward
The wicked
And still we try to forgive them,
Although they know EXACTLY what they do
And paroxysms of grief consume us
And begs of us a séance
For although we put your poisoned shell to rest
A sepulchral spirit, each day presents us with a new test
Because it’s hard to forgive
And even harder to forget
That we are related to those same SAVAGE ANIMALS
That took the life of our pet
 
So just like the Shepherd you were in life
We know you will continue from above
Savage, even though you were just a pet
To overwhelm us with your love


Some Songs Aren't Meant to Be Sung
Sherry-Ann de Coteau

Sometimes you forget the words of a song but you can never forget the melody.  Many a time you find yourself in the position of showing great appreciation for a song, and not able to do anything but hum.  This may be because you cannot remember the lyrics or you have never paid attention the them. Either way, the soothing aria and catchy rhythm of a song may act as distractions to the meaning of the words screaming at you.  To speak these words would demand that you listen and know and feel.  Naked of instruments, beats and melodies, these words can tug to your very heart and appeal to your soul. 
Because my mouth
Is wide with laughter
And my throat
Is deep with song
You do not think
 I suffer after
 I have held my pain
So long.
 
by Langston Hughes
 
Some songs can take you back to a time when all you could do was sing.  Sing because of the pain and degradation.  Sing of the injustices.  Sing for the strength to
withstand all attempts to break your spirit.  These songs were not meant to be sung.  When we should have been humbled by the atrocious actions committed against us, we were strengthened by a will renewed and confirmed by song.  Humans were not meant to survive such incivilities.  How could we still have the strength to sing?  We had to ‘play dead to catch corbeau alive.’  These songs were not meant to be sung.
Oh, my Lord!
Oh, my good Lord!
Keep me from sinkin' down.
I tell you what I mean to do
(Keep me from sinkin' down)
I mean to go to heaven too
(Keep me from sinkin' down)
I look up yonder and what do I see?
(Keep me from sinkin' down)
I see the angels beckonin' me
(Keep me from sinkin' down)
Sometimes a song is nothing more than a cacophony of sound that allows us to practice chicanery.  The music acts as a disguise of our innermost thoughts and feelings.  We didn’t ‘let crapaud smoke we pipe.’  ‘Heat in we tail’ but we still singing.  Some songs are not meant to be sung, but the music allows us to include the majority while sending an exclusive message to a chosen few.
If you don't believe I've been redeemed
God's gonna trouble the water
I want you to follow him on down to Jordan stream
(I said) My God's gonna trouble the water
You know chilly water is dark and cold
(I know my) God's gonna trouble the water
You know it chills my body but not my soul
(I said my) God's gonna trouble the water
            Indeed, some songs are not meant to be sung, but sometimes singing is all we can do.


Thinking of You
Ebony De Leon

 
You’re an enigma, have I ever told you that?
It’s difficult to explicitly convey my feelings for you.
Is it gratitude or adoration,
Or resentment or frustration?
I can’t say, for those words are too limited in meaning.
 
I reflect on the years gone by,
My life, and your influence on it.
Without your interference would I have been the same?
Am I better off because of it?
Most times I think yes, occasionally no.
We have had it hard, surely you can agree to that.
Why is it that we could only find solace in arguments?
Maybe because we’re both so much alike,
Maybe because we’re both deaf to the inner cries of the other.
 
I guess you knew all along that it was adolescence.
A condition that keeps the young captive while they reside there,
Renders blindness to the state of the world around.
Like a drug, it gives that invincible feeling, where no wrong can occur.
Back on earth you knew different,
You waited for me to be released from the sweet hold of ignorance
And face life with the courage and confidence you said I possessed.
 
It was your devotion to the cause; the cause that was me.
Even after I drained you of your energies, you still pushed me further.
You fought against the hateful utterances and arrogant attitude,
Have I ever given anything in return?
I’m ashamed to admit some of the things I have done,
You might love me less.
Wait, that’s impossible isn’t it?
Even after all I have said and all I have done?
 
I sit here thinking of you,
My eyes are captured by your image
Your smile looks back at me from the picture we took years ago.
Your hair is a little longer now, a few more lines added to your face,
But the genuine beauty remains -
The radiance of your smile, the glistening white teeth, the intense, soulful brown eyes.
 
How is it that I have been so blessed to be born and bred by such a remarkable woman?
You have given untiringly of yourself even when I didn’t deserve it.
I sought to make loving me a difficult task,
Yet you persevered, chipping away at the walls I had constructed to keep you out.
I wonder if you ever felt my love reciprocated through the many unspoken words,
Or sensed my admiration as I boasted of your numerous accomplishments.
I strive to become the person you want me to be,
And yet I fail for I can only be myself.
Maybe one day that will suffice
And the person I have become is the same person you saw in me.
That day, I might be able to give justice to the truly wonderful person that you are,
As you look at me and say with pride, “That’s my daughter”.


The End
Ebony De Leon

            Her lined face and stringy gray hair attested to many years of struggle and poverty, yet she seemed resolute, though frail, beside the young man as they stood together in the narrow store front doorway, the crippled umbrella providing inadequate shelter against the slanting rain; together, yet from the rigid posture of their bodies and the way in which they avoided looking at each other, miles apart.
            “So, you’ve decided?” he asked, his gaze directed towards the nearby playground where a group of youngsters, bare-chested in the rain, were engaged in a noisy game of soccer.
            “I’ve decided.” She answered, the words barely audible, her narrow chin thrust forward aggressively.
            “Yeah. Right. So, what about me? Don’t I have a say in any of this?”
Now she turned to face him. Her anger unmasked, the revulsion oozing out of her voice.
            “Why must everything in this world revolve around you? I have devoted my life to you and no matter how much I have given of myself, it has never been enough. Well, my son, today that all changes.”
            Stella’s mind drifted back to the day when she first agreed to sneak out of her house against her husband’s wishes, and secretly meet her son Steven. Her husband, John, realized that Steven was a drug user when he found a crack pipe and empty vials hidden in their basement. John warned Steven that he would not tolerate drugs in his home and life returned to normal for some time. One morning John was awakened by the sound of breaking glass. He ran downstairs to the kitchen to find Steven lying on his stomach in front of the open refrigerator door, completely stoned. His hair was wet and matted to his head and splinters of glass were showered on his back, drawing small spots of blood from his skin. The glass juice mug lay in several pieces on the floor beside him.
            The sight of her semi-conscious, bleeding son, petrified Stella and she immediately sought avenues to get help. They took him to counseling sessions, church meetings, everything they could think of, but the situation got progressively worse, and Steven refused their help. One day John found a large quantity of cocaine wrapped in brown paper under Steven’s bedroom dresser. He flew into a rage, threw all Steven’s clothes into a bag and banished him from their home. He said that he refused to have his life and his wife’s life put in danger by Steven’s reckless behavior.
            Stella had not seen or heard from Steven in months, until one day, when he unexpectedly called and began crying over the phone. He claimed that he was sorry for the pain he caused and begged for her forgiveness. He said he had enrolled himself in a rehabilitation center but had lost his job and had absolutely no money for food. Steven  asked his mother to lend him some money until he got back on his feet. Stella was overjoyed to hear that her son was getting help and readily agreed to loan him some of the money from their meager pension checks. Since that day, she had been meeting him regularly to give him money.
            By the fourth occasion, Stella knew her son was lying to her. Each time they met, his eyes were bloodshot and he was fidgety. His speech was slurred and his sentences, incomprehensible. Stella knew that by giving him the money she essentially helped to support his bad habit, but she felt partially responsible for his state. She and Steven’s father divorced when Steven was a teenager and, shortly after, she met and married John. Her son never accepted John and voiced his disapproval of their marriage. From then on, he became increasingly disruptive and rebellious. He accused his mother of neglecting him and being consumed with her own life and problems. Stella blamed herself for Steven’s actions thinking that she had been selfish when she married John. Her son’s condition pained her greatly and as a result she continued financing him.
            John discovered that his wife was meeting Steven regularly to give him money and   threatened to go to the police to report Steven’s drug usage if she went to see him again. Stella resented John for giving her such an ultimatum, but realized that he was right. She was doing her son more harm than good by giving him the money, which he used only to maintain his drug habit. She also realized that she had to stop blaming herself for Steven’s misfortune. To Stella this meeting marked the end of her relationship with her son. She felt like she was abandoning him in his time of need but knew that her decision was right and prayed that he would be able to overcome this obstacle.
            “Mom, I need you.” Steven’s voice drew Stella back to reality. She gazed up at him, waiting for her sight to focus through the rain. She raised her hand to his face and gently trailed her fingers down, along his cheekbones, over his lips, as if trying to commit the feel of him to memory.
            “I love you baby…and I always will, but I can’t do this anymore.” Stella withdrew her hand and tiptoed to kiss her son’s cheek. She discarded the mangled umbrella and stepped out into the rain. She took one last look at Steven, turned and began walking away from him, her body upright, her shoulders refusing to yield under the weight of the raindrops which struck her frail figure incessantly.  Tears streamed down Stella’s face clouding her vision but she dared not look back because she knew if she did, she would not have the heart to walk away.


The Coin’s Two Faces
Ebony De Leon

            “Operation Iraqi Freedom”. The President of the United States speaks very persuasively when he insists that America plans to defend Iraqi citizens by intervening in the politics of their nation, and liberating them from the current rule of the infamous Saddam Hussein - a tyrant, a murderer, an unstable dictator. President Bush declared war against this man and  vowed that the fight will not cease until the country is rid of this oppressor who has no business whatsoever ruling a nation and furthermore needs to be removed for possessing weapons of mass destruction.
            This so-called altruistic mission, however, is torn to shreds when the President seems more concerned with the precious oil fields in Iraq, rather than the citizens whose rights he claims he is fighting to protect. The first day the war officially commenced,  Bush issued a warning to Iraqis stating that any citizens caught setting oil wells on fire would be dealt with severely.  The President certainly didn’t play his cards right, because he showed his hand too soon and revealed his ulterior motive - to gain control of the extremely valuable oilfields. His declaration that every attempt would be made to spare innocent life was also a tired song, as the daily news featured the total disregard that the American soldiers have for Iraqi nationals. One particular officer after accidentally gunning down a young woman in front of her home whilst engaged in a shoot out with an Iraqi soldier, stated tactlessly, “The chic got in the way!” One would hope that greater care would be taken as the goal is essentially to “free Iraqis”, not brutally kill them and take possession of their land.
            The American public seems confident of their eventual victory in this war. However, the reports from Iraq telling of the American soldiers losing their lives daily seem to come as a shock to many American citizens. The Bush administration never suspected that their attempts to take control of Iraq would be met with such strong opposition and are now facing the consequences of their myopic view with the death of many American and Iraqi citizens and soldiers on their hands. Did they not realize that this was a war, a real war with bombs, tanks and guns? Or was death envisioned only for the Iraqis? Men, women and children lose their lives senselessly over the dispute of two men, both of whom are noticeably absent from the frontlines, and yet are quite content to send innocent people to settle their rivalry in a deluge of blood and tears.
            My heart goes out to the people of Iraq who are obviously the ones suffering the most through each and every ordeal. They originally lived in fear, paralyzed under the rule of Saddam Hussein; now the United States has invaded their country destroying their homes, workplaces and killing their family members. Eventually, they will have to pick up the shambles and rebuild their nation. But these unsuspecting people are in for a final surprise. Plans for the reconstruction of Iraq are supposedly currently underway with American companies tendering for billion dollar contracts to move into the country after the war’s conclusion and rebuild the structures which now lie in a pile of rubble.
            The results of the war are uncertain; however, American companies are already conversing about sharing the spoils of war. This superpower called the United States has the audacity to believe that it is a God. It tries to control other countries, either by moral suasion or cold blooded murder, with no concern or remorse for its actions. It has the power to deem who is trustworthy and who is not, and can violate the agreement of the United Nations and wage war without substantial evidence. Sounds like the characteristics of a dictator to me! I hope this current situation will awaken the American public and they will shed their passive natures and take a determined stand against the dishonorable actions of their government whose greed for money and power has totally consumed them.


A Friend Like You
LaKrishna Freeman

There's lots of things
With which I'm blessed,
My problems have been few,
But of all, this one's the best:
To have a friend like you.
 
Friends for life is what we are
Through thick and thin.
Leaning on you, you gave me support
The strength to get up and go again.
 
In times of trouble
Friends will say,
"Just ask, I'll help you through it."
But you don't wait for me to ask,
You just get up and do it!
 
The world is full of many people, its true;
But there is only one of you.
You fill my heart with love;
You’re a God-sent gift from above.
If I didn’t have you, where would I be?
An angel is what you are to me.
 
And I can think
of nothing more
That I could wisely do,
Than know a friend,
And be a friend,
And have a friend like you.


That Boy Is You
LaKrishna Freeman

I look at the sky so blue
And suddenly I think of you
Walking together side-by-side
We open up to each other and
No longer hide, I tell you about the boy who makes my head spin and whirl,
I tell you about the hand I long to touch
I tell you I've never loved someone that much,
Sadly, you start to pull away
Farther and farther, day by day.
You was healing from the hole in your heart
When I came back with a brand new start.
I asked what happened and why, but you refused to talk, to be hurt again
You told me to go back to the boy who makes my head spin and whirl,
I touch your face so lovingly and true,
And whispered softly, " That boy is you... "


An Ill Wind
Kyree Nicole Holmes

The buzzing in the air made up of war chants and rants has developed into a deafening drone of uncertainty and disorder. Both supporters and opponents of the war on Iraq have been spouting out arguments trying to justify their beliefs and views on the actions of our government, which has become the eye of this storm. Brought on by the Bush administration’s lies and half truths, the general public has been deliberately misinformed and getting the runaround so that the government may go on with its scheme uninterrupted and unquestioned. Although right now it may only seem as if we are just a tad bit above breezy, a great deal of strong gusts can be expected in the near future. 
This war is an ill wind, which blows no man any good- however, there will be a few exceptions. The wind may blow much good in a few directions; and some parties will come out of this war doing a lot better than good. For starters, the current Vice-President, Dick Cheney, and the Halliburton Company, which was at one time overseen by Cheney as its CEO, are likely to capitalize off of post-war operations. Halliburton, one of the world's largest providers of products and services to the oil and gas industries, is closely connected with the Bush family as well. This company was one of the investors which funded the Florida recount in the 2000 Presidential Election between George W. Bush and Al Gore. Halliburton’s predecessor, Brown & Root Services, also subsidized former Texan president, Lyndon B. Johnson's, stolen election. Riding on this good current, the war’s beneficiaries will be making money not only from rebuilding Iraq, but in addition, will be given the opportunity to exploit new oil resources.
If all of this information was made publicly available, perhaps more Americans would be on the same page- in opposition of a fight with no cause with the exception of making a large profit. Although the government may argue that somebody has to clean up the mess left behind from the war and why not let it be a company with some experience, one must question the all too close relationship shared by this company and our country’s leaders. Why shouldn’t we question why so much money is being invested in a potentially threatening country when our economy is still not stable enough to support one? And why should we not be curious as to Dick Cheney’s whereabouts during these critical times? Everyone appears to be protecting one another and the answers to these questions and the real facts are as lost as whispers in the wind.
Much planning has gone into this war, which promises to defend our country and prove we will no longer be intimidated by terrorists. Iraq is the bully on the playground called the world and the supposed hidden weapons are its slingshots tucked away in its back pocket. Bush’s cabinet can continue to keep quiet and lie on the behalf of Halliburton and themselves, but they should reconsider what other things we will lose such as our reputation among other countries, which are beginning to see the United States as tyrants looking to gain power over the entire world. Bush obviously has called this war with the intention of gaining popularity and has succeeded by winning over some, but not even one soldier’s life is worth all the money and fame that will be gained from this war. So, as this ill wind blows across our nation and Iraq, we must stand our ground and refuse to bend like the willows.


Good Luck, Not Goodbye
Kyree Nicole Holmes

She came into my room that day, needing to borrow some tape. A simple and innocent request, I thought, as I feverishly rummaged through my cluttered desk drawers. Aha! I finally found it.  When I turned around, expecting to see her still sitting in the chair where she had first positioned herself, I saw that she had walked to the center of the room. She stood there silently looking around and admiring every little thing in my room- the two windows that allowed a good breeze to flow in from opposing directions, the larger beds, decorations, and even things I considered to be junk. The room was no more than 20 x 10, but the manner in which she walked around made my humble abode seem as spacious as an open field.
“I’ve never been in your room before. It’s really nice,” she said.
I laughed thinking she was making a joke, because my room resembled a larger version of my desk drawers.
 “No, I’m serious,” she continued. “I wish I would have spent more time in here.”
“You can stop by anytime,” I assured her. “I don’t mind. The door is always open.”
“No,” she took a deep breath. “It’s too late for that now. I wont be hanging out in Wheatley anymore.”
“No it’s not!” I protested. “What are you talking about?”
“I’m moving out,” she said.
I handed her the tape and intuitively followed her down the hall and into her room where three young men were holding large cardboard boxes. I took in the full scope of the room, panning from one side to the other. The right section of the room looked like a normal dorm with clothes and books scattered about while the other half was nearly bare, just as it was when I first moved into the dorm. 
Initially, I figured she was only relocating to another room, or perhaps even a different dorm. So many girls had been complaining about the facilities of Wheatley Hall that I couldn’t blame her for wanting to move; but no matter how much animosity she held towards Wheatley, I couldn’t see how she would never want to step foot in here again, even to visit me.
“Kyree, I’m going back home. . . for good.”
She tried her best keep her beautiful smile on when she told me; but I could still hear the pain in her voice and she was unable to mask the sadness in her normally bright and lively eyes, which now seemed much dimmer. I knew she did not want to leave. She loved Howard. She wore the t-shirts, the hats, and all of the Howard paraphernalia with so much pride. She used my tape to seal the remaining open boxes as she explained her situation to me. Apparently, her family was not able to finance her education as they originally thought they would be able to do, so she had no choice but to leave.
I could not think of anything to say to her. We didn’t have too many conversations, but I had formed some type of connection with her over the past few months and could see that she was genuinely a good person. I wanted so badly to find a solution to her problem so that she could stay, but I couldn’t. There was nothing I could do for her. We both stood there silently and I believe she and I were thinking the same thing.
Some of the other girls who lived on our floor entered the room a few moments later with a cake which read: GOOD LUCK
                                                                   NOT GOODBYE!
She left shortly after the cake was served, but promised to come back to visit. Hopefully by then, we will have figured out a way.


Before and After
Tiffani Jones

Before,
We were criticized for having no struggle.
We were X, Y, and Z
Whining and carrying on without burden.
The unruly, undefined, unconcerned, lost
In a sea of portfolios, investments
The information generation on crack and x,
Free love, free sex, freedom
After,
We’ll never see.
I, II, Cold, Gulf,
Nothing before prepared us
For this phantom war
Ne’er to be declared
Killing our friends, loved ones
Clouded by a Bush of hot air
Shooting with bullets but hitting with blanks
Talk North Korea not with Hussein
Axis of Evil, Homeland secure,
Color-coded warning system,
Cartoon or Real World?
Chem, Nuke, Bio war
Without struggle, we are no more.


Forced to Serve
Tiffani Jones

            During the Vietnam era, hundreds of young men across the country received letters requesting their service in the armed forces of the United States of America. Some were wealthy or bold enough to dodge or refuse this compulsory service, while many others proudly gave their lives for their country in a war that many of their fellow countrymen despised. Memories of this time period undoubtedly surfaced Wednesday, January 7, 2003, when House Representative Charles Rangel (D-N.Y.) introduced a controversial bill to re-implement the military draft. While the bill is not expected to pass in Congress, Rangel’s main goal was to raise the issue of the disproportionate number of the poor and minorities serving in the military. As there is only one member of Congress with an enlisted child and a few others with children who are officers in the military, concern is growing that the people with the power to declare war are too far removed from the immediate effects of that war.
Currently, the American armed forces are voluntary. There is no conscription as there is in countries such as Israel (where men must serve three years and women two). So how is it that the number of poor people and minorities in the military exceeds that of whites? It’s all about options. Over the past few decades, the military has heavily recruited minorities and the poor through incentives such as payment for college and travel. Many people see service in the military as their only way to accomplish these things. Many also use the military as a way out of their current situation (gangs, living on the street, etc). With the steadily increasing cost of a college education, many cannot afford to finance school any other way. Therefore, we end up with a “voluntary” military of those who don’t necessarily want to be in the armed forces, but those who see it as their only opportunity to better their lives.
While in theory the reinstitution of the draft would close the disparity within the armed forces, it is much more likely that the rich and famous will dodge a new draft just as they did during the Vietnam era. A new draft would most likely affect middle and working class America, those of us who were able to make it to college without military funds, but are too poor or unwilling to leave the country if the draft is implemented. Obviously, drafting from this lot will not greatly affect the socioeconomic imbalance in the military ranks.
When looking at the possible reinstatement of the draft, one must also decipher if there is a need for it at all. While war does look nearly inevitable with Iraq and possibly North Korea, it will not be like any war we have ever fought to this day. With the invention of nuclear weapons, unmanned drones, cruise missiles, biological and chemical weapons, a contemporary war will no longer be won or lost strictly on the availability of manpower. Man has created enough weapons of mass destruction to completely destroy the earth and everything on it, including himself. I truly doubt two platoons will go head to head in battle ever again. Therefore, it is not necessary for us to rush to meet North Korea’s enormous manpower.
Senator Rangel caused a big stir by introducing his bill; however, he did it not to reinstitute the draft, but to get America talking. He wanted to wake up his fellow congressmen to the fact that declaring war would be sending America’s youth to die. Many mothers, fathers, sons, and daughters will die if war is declared. The people who make the decisions must never lose sight of the people they serve.


God Bless America (and Nowhere Else)
Tiffani Jones

           
Big business and oil, that has been the agenda of the Bush Administration since day one. It is no coincidence that this drummed up conflict in Iraq will benefit American business and industry much more than it will liberate the Iraqi people, who will, in a sense, trade one maniacal dictator for another, the United States. Though it is claimed by our government that occupation of Iraq will be as short as possible, the reality is it will take years to stabilize Iraq and ensure the success of a democracy suitable to the tastes of the American Executive, preferably an American-friendly one willing to hand over oil for a minimal fee. Therein lies the problem with this entire war.
The assertion that we are conducting war in Iraq to liberate the Iraqi people from an oppressive regime is a bold-faced lie. We are conducting war in Iraq to unseat the present government and put in place a puppet government indebted to the United States. We obviously expect favors from those countries we’ve aided and there seems to be no statute of limitations as is seen from the discontentment and scorn shown towards France for having the gall to stand against war in Iraq after we liberated them from the Nazis! I maintain that the only entity that can liberate the people of Iraq is the people of Iraq.
Bondage and oppression is not only a physical state, but also a mental state. If the Iraqi people have not organized to liberate themselves, then we have no right to do it for them. Contrary to popular belief, Iraq is a democracy. It may be based on fear and oppression, but it is still a democracy. Saddam Hussein won the election with over 90% of the popular vote. This cannot be said of George W. Bush; it has become very clear that he did not win the popular vote, yet he is still the rightful President of the United States. Oh, the wonders of democracy!
For those who say the Iraqis are too afraid of Saddam Hussein to voice their opinions, I say so are we. Most Americans do not agree with this war, however, most are too afraid of being labeled un-American to admit it. Even the United States Congress is afraid to speak out, for once troops are committed to conflict, any anti-war talk could be hazardous to one’s political health, especially if one is seeking re-election. The majority of Americans did not even know where Iraq was before the start of the war and most still do not have enough information about the history of the region and its people to entertain any type of informed opinion on America’s role in this conflict.
Over the past few years, Americans have been brainwashed into thinking the world begins and ends here. We have not been forced to think and analyze critically our surroundings and our place in the world. We have been told that we are invincible, a superpower. No one can defeat us. We are the world leader, the example of how all countries should be governed. We are at the pinnacle of freedom. Yet, there are many in our population who do not have enough food to eat, whose education is still substandard, whose living conditions are deplorable, and who are still fighting for basic rights and privileges that are to this day denied them. 


Me 3
Tiffani Jones

 
You ask me,
Am I afraid for people to see me?
Not the image presented in atoms
Whether covered with thread or bare as in creation,
But me.
The me that I see when I look into a mirror
And gaze past my pupil, through my mind, and into my soul
Where I keep my most precious beauty
My love, my inner secret, my poetry,
My me.
Should I just let everyone and anyone stare at my intimacy?
I think not.
For there are just some things that I need
That should be and forever will be kept
Sacred.
And my me,
That’s one of them.
So, you ask me,
Am I afraid for people to see me?
No, not really
Just you.


Renaissance
Tiffani Jones

Walking the paths of Titans past
Thinking of my legacy
What will I leave?
Will the world be better because of me?
How is it that I, only one
Born early, humble, in my small town home
Can come to know such greatness as to be listed among
The esteemed, prestigious ranks of Howard alums?
As I listen to the clock on Founder’s call
It beckons to me, as I stare in awe
“Little Black child, come to me
Come to me and set your people’s soul free!”
But I call back
I am just one, the task is too hard, I’ll ne’er be done!
“Little one,” it said, “we are all in you”
I heard Marshall, Johnson, Wyatt, Drew
Morrison, Hurston, Truth, and Bethune
They reached out to me and I felt their warmth
I felt their pride, I felt my worth
All my life I have waited for it to begin
For my purpose revealed
For my preparation to end
For this, my first step
On the journey of life
I bring to it me
Courageous, bold, believer in Christ
So here I stand ready
Willing to work
At the Capstone, the Mecca
The place of my rebirth.


A Broken Family
Patrice A. Mitchell

Phyllis pulled the door to her small home shut before she began the short walk to the park.  In her small hands were an umbrella, an envelope with pictures, and a small plastic bag which contained a blue baby’s blanket.  By the time she arrived at her destination, a light drizzle had begun.  She took shelter under the doorway of a closed pharmacy.  In the distance, she could see her son Brian watching his own son play in the grass.  She called him over and he began to approach her.
            Although he was less than a block away, Phyllis felt as if he was miles away.  She gripped her umbrella tighter because she knew what would happen in a few minutes.  Earlier that day, after years of her being absent in his life, she called him and asked that he accept her into his home, into his life, and care for her.  Unknown to Brian, the cancer Phyllis had chosen to treat with herbs and other natural remedies had plagued her body until the doctors could only suggest she go home and die.  But Phyllis didn’t want her son to accept her out of pity.  She knew she didn’t deserve Brian’s acceptance or forgiveness.  She had hurt him deeply over the years with her constant rejection, but she wanted to spend her final days near her only child.
            “So you’ve decided,” she asked when he arrived, her gaze directed toward the nearby playground where a group of youngsters were engaged in a noisy game of soccer.  She didn’t really have to ask, she already knew.
“I forgive you Phyllis, but there’s really no place in my life for you right now.”
“No room for your mother?”  She let the umbrella fall to her side as she gave him a crooked smile and looked toward him expectantly. 
His face twisted into a scowl.  “Don’t do that.  I’m not going to let you manipulate me.  I’ve never met anyone more selfish than you are.  You can’t come back out of the blue and expect everything to be all right.”  He stomped out of the doorway and into the pouring rain, stopping first at the playground to collect his son, and then hurrying into a nearby car.
“Don’t walk away from me,” she called after him.  “I’m sorry.  I thought what I was doing was best, but I was wrong.” She broke down crying as she began to walk in the opposite direction from her son.  As an after thought, she wearily brought her umbrella over her head to shield herself from the rain.  She arrived at home and took out her keys.  The key made a sharp “click” in the lock and she pushed the heavy door forward.  A gust of wind blew the curtains into the air and brought her a sense of déjà vu. 
Thirty-three years ago Phyllis had not been sick.  Thirty-three years ago she had been a healthy twenty-five year old who was involved in a promising relationship with her boyfriend, Mark.  But what was supposed to be the best years of her life turned into a depressing existence.  A shooting one night in Mark’s neighborhood left him dead, and Phyllis close to death.  The doctors were able to save Phyllis’ life and the life of her baby, but losing Mark took a toll on her physically and emotionally.  Three years later, a month after her son, Brian, turned three, Phyllis, on one rainy and windy day, left Brian in the care of her sister.
Phyllis knew that her sister would be a better mother than she could be, but what had really hurt Brian was her coming in and out of his life as she pleased.  Each time she came, he had hoped that she would take him with her when she left, but she always left in the middle of the night, without saying good-bye and without taking him with her. Realizing how much pain she was causing by her arrivals and departures, her sister told Phyllis not to come back if she wasn’t planning on staying.  So she didn’t come back, but she didn’t call either.  She abandoned her son until a year ago, when she realized that her home remedies would not be enough to cure her cancer.
She weakly walked over to the table and sat down.  She took the pictures out of the envelope she had been holding and closely examined them.  They were the only pictures she had of her and her son.  They showed the few happy times they had shared together.  Tears came into her eyes as she realized that she had so few happy memories.  A knock came at her door and she opened her purse to get the rent money before she went to open it.  Standing at the door was a young boy around the age of five.  She immediately knew who he was.
“Daddy said that if you still wanted to come you could,” he told her.  Phyllis just smiled and picked him up. 
“Of course, I would love to come.”   She closed the door behind her and walked toward the car.  She understood that she didn’t deserve this second chance, but she was grateful that her son was willing to give it to her.


A New Life
Patrice A. Mitchell

Monica walked towards her closet and opened it.  All week long she had pondered what she would wear, now it was Thursday night and tomorrow she’d be making the oral presentation on which would depend the direction of future study.
She examined the contents of the small closet, pushing aside the wire hangers with their load of assorted tank tops, jeans and tee shirts and pulled out the only thing that seemed remotely suitable for the occasion, the short-sleeved navy blue Harlena number with the Pelucci lace trim around the collar and the hemline.
She clearly remembered the day she’d bought it, that moment of supreme madness when she’d handed over eighty five dollars for the mere handful of frothy silk;  eighty five dollars she couldn’t really afford for a Homecoming dress which had been hanging in the closet ever since, as near forgotten as the face which had occasioned the extravagance.
Now she held it up to the light, carefully checking for any sign of damage, then slipped it over her head and stood before the mirror, critically surveying herself.
“Well, Missy,” she said to her reflection.  “This is about the best you can do, so, go in there tomorrow and knock’em dead.” 
She twirled around and the dress flowed with her.  She couldn’t help but experience guilt when she remembered how much trouble the dress had caused.  She rarely disobeyed her mother, but she couldn’t bear the thought of going to her first, last, and only Homecoming ball in the shabby dress her mother had made for the occasion. So Monica had left the rundown apartment one day in search of the perfect inexpensive, but not “cheap” dress.  Her eyes had watered at the sight of the blue dress and even though it was expensive and way beyond her budget, she refused to leave the store without it.
Her mother had said nothing.  Monica had expected to be reprimanded for spending money she knew they didn’t have, but her mother had only looked sadly at the dress and returned to her room.  She didn’t even come outside when Monica was ready to leave for the ball.  It was obvious that Monica had hurt her, but she decided to ignore this fact and have her moment of glory.
Monica’s life was characterized by poverty and there wasn’t a day that passed that she didn’t feel ashamed about her financial situation.  Monica had always known that hand-me-downs and cutting coupons weren’t for her and tomorrow was her day to prove it.  She had worked hard in high school and was awarded a full scholarship to a university near home.  But now she was ready to be on her own, far away from her present life.  She was making a speech in front of the committee for the International Graduate Studies Program.  If they liked her oral presentation, she would get a full scholarship and a stipend to study abroad for her Masters degree.  She would be able to study in Spain and make her life over.  She fully intended to leave her current life behind and never look back.
There was a knock on her door and Monica struggled to remove her dress, but her mother entered before she was successful. 
“I just wanted to say good luck tomorrow.”  She smiled weakly and looked Monica over. 
“I could never understand why you were so ashamed of us.  I couldn’t help that we didn’t have money.  I tried my hardest to make you happy.  But if you want to leave and go to Spain, I can’t stop you.  Just remember you can’t change who you are and where you come from.”
She went to give Monica a hug but stopped herself.  She choked back tears as she left the room.
“Mommy,” Monica called out weakly, her tears burning her eyes, but she didn’t follow her mother.  She took off the dress, placed it on the hanger, and returned it to the closet.  The guilt she had experienced at Homecoming came rushing back to her but she had no doubts about her decision.  She was twenty-two years old and it was time she lived the life she wanted, even if it meant leaving the continent to get it.  Monica looked at herself in the mirror.
“Goodbye,” she said out loud.  She took one last glance at the dress and prepared for bed.


“Screen It Out” Commentary
Nubia Regina Murray

            Until the age of five, the rhythmic tune of random keys being pushed on the family typewriter, by my mother, was my lullaby of choice. I had been hearing these typing taps since the womb, when my mother and I spent many sleepless nights, writing papers, trying to earn a Masters Degree in Education. I can clearly recall the joy I received when the loud “bing” notified me that she had finished a line, and being intrigued by the backspace key’s ability to make letters disappear, and reappear like magic. Now, the memory of these synchronized clicks and bell-like sounds are being thrust out of my brain and replaced with echoes of “You have mail”, “Welcome”, and “Your document is now printing.”
Computers have taken over, located everywhere from cafeteria lobbies, to the headrests of cars, to people’s pockets, but the ancient typewriter, once gracing my dining room table, seems to be hidden in bottom basement backrooms of the local library.  Computers, initially developed for simple word processing, are now tools for global communication, international exchange of information, and the backbone of many innovative businesses. With the power to pose negative, as well as, positive effects on society, computers have the ability to not only warn obstetricians of human birth-defects months before a child’s birth, but can also allow an international terrorist access to confidential government documents.
            The simple pleasure I took in watching the components of the historic typewriter operate, would be similar to “watching paint dry” for today’s youth. Contrary to my early encounter with, what back then was considered technology, children are now learning essential aspects of their educational foundation from computers. This technological impact is not only identified by hormonal teens and interactive video games, but by young children and computer screens that sing nursery rhymes. For example, my niece, did not receive many dolls and toys for her birthday, but a surplus of CD’s with such names as “Alphabet Bingo” and “Sesame Street: Learn to Count.” With the click of a mouse, this four year old child, fresh from potty training and in my opinion too young to operate any electronic instrument, learned not only her numbers and letters, but used these skills to identify the screen icons that would allow her to gain access to the internet, to visit the Sesame Street website. 
The computer has also been transformed from a tool of convenience to an instrument of dependence. The encouraged frequent use of computers, by government officials, is not only making students technologically advanced, but educationally and socially sluggish. Many students in today’s society cannot add, subtract, multiply, or divide certain numbers without the aid of their TI-80-something calculators. So-called young scholars also depend on the programmed computer to thoroughly review their essays and compositions, expecting them to catch any grammatically incorrect sentence and misspelled word, with the expertise of a teacher’s eye. These new age adolescents consider face-to-face interaction obsolete, opting to communicate with family and friends through “instant messenger”, “e-mail”, and cellular phone “text messaging.” Overall, the computer, originally developed as a tool to promote learning, is now promoting laziness.
To achieve a balance between computer instruction and the traditional teacher student learning environment, it is crucial that teachers are allowed to prepare for the soon to come, rapid technological change. With the evolution including increased access to information, more than the teacher can possibly provide for the student, teachers have to redefine their role in the classroom. Successful technological improvement will not be achieved by applying technology on top of traditional teaching practices, but by forming teaching practices around the capacity of technology. 
I strongly support the continued integration of computers in the classroom and various components of society, but advise officials to proceed with caution. With the rapid growth of technology it is essential that the computer becomes a staple in a student’s life and is used everyday for either educational or recreational activities. It is crucial that officials realize that computers need to be considered useful tools, not toys. They will never replace the need for teacher-student interaction and should only be used to supplement and not supplant the role of the teacher in the classroom.


Best Friends?
Nubia Regina Murray

            She sat at her computer carefully reviewing, for what she hoped was the last time, the assignment on which she had been working all weekend; with each revision she had discovered a phrase or two which could be restated to better advantage.  From time to time her attention drifted off-screen to Nancy Jean, her best friend since high school and now her roommate at college; Nancy Jean, whose closely observed personal habits were imposing unexpected stresses and strains; Nancy Jean, who now seemed unable to say ‘no’ to an invitation to a late-night party, and who always needed help in last minute rushes to meet assignment deadlines.
            At midnight she closed down her computer, switched off the lights and crawled into bed, feigning sleep when she heard Nancy Jean’s key in the lock. Christen raised her head slightly from her pillow, anticipating Nancy Jean’s excited entrance. This scene, playing like a broken record in Christen’s head, was the same day after day. Nancy Jean would noisily run into the room, disrespectful of Christen’s sleep schedule, and flick on every light switch and lamp button in sight. She would change out of one of her many short skirted, ill-fitting club ensembles, put on her leopard pajama set, and push on her computer’s power switch. With a mouth full of Crestâ and a face dripping with Noxzemaâ Nancy Jean would tell Christen about her nightly adventure, new love interest, and important assignment due at 8 a.m., with which she desperately needed Christen’s help. Christen would unhappily succumb to Nancy Jean’s request and assist her well into the early hours of the morning, to ensure that Nancy Jean’s work displayed the same high level of quality as her own.
As Christen watched the chrome doorknob rotate counterclockwise, time seemed to stop. Images of the Nancy Jean she formerly knew popped in her head like moist Pop Rocksâ in a happy child’s mouth. The Nancy Jean that Christen grew to admire was a straight “A” honor student, star athlete, and community activist. Nancy Jean was a positive force in their high school and was popular on every academic, social, and administrative level; in Christen’s eyes, Nancy Jean was the image of perfection, one whom she highly revered, and someone whom she strived to emulate. On the other hand, the new Nancy Jean was someone Christen hated to admit she knew; this new persona, ready, willing, and able to do anything that anyone asked of her, was extremely unfamiliar to Christen; this foreign “Nancy Jean” treated every day as a Saturday, and slept through all of her so called “unimportant classes.” Within the first six weeks of school, Nancy Jean managed to hit every college club, party, and social spot in the D.C. area, and successfully completed her goal of building a personal relationship with a majority of the male athletes on campus. Evidently, Nancy Jean took the term “party hard” literally.
Christen knew that college had the ability to “change” people, but didn’t think that Nancy Jean would be one of them. Nancy Jean, who was known for holding true to her convictions, was now gullible, naïve, and easily impressionable. Christen thought that because she and Nancy Jean shared the same zest for success and overachievement in high school, they would approach their collegiate academic efforts in the same way. She imagined the two of them rallying for student rights, joining honors fraternities, and becoming academic leaders on campus, all within their freshman year. Christen realized that those dreams would never come true. She now hoped for Nancy Jean to simply come home before midnight and attend class on a designated test day. Personally, Christen wished for herself the ability to say “No.” She had put the needs and wants of Nancy Jean before her own since the beginning of their friendship and now longed for the reverse. 
Christen awoke from her daze, and watched Nancy Jean place her purse on her bed while pulling the chair from under her desk. Christen pulled the covers further over her head as the words “You have mail” boomed from Nancy Jean’s laptop. Christen pretended to be asleep, to avoid any of Nancy Jean’s possible requests but listened to the rustle of Nancy Jean changing into her bedclothes and washing her face. Christen heard the soft clicking of Nancy Jean’s nails against the computer keys for ten minutes, and thought she was home free, but still anticipated the words “Can you help me do …” coming out of Nancy Jean’s mouth. Another five minutes passed and Christen’s body started to relax, and her eyelids became very heavy.  At that moment, Nancy got up, walked to Christen’s bed, and said, “Are you sleep, I need help with something.” Christen’s heart started to race and the courage to say “No” formed inside of her.
Christen rolled over, looked Nancy Jean in the eye and said, “Sure, I’ll be up in a minute.”


A Dance with the Devil
David Overton

Last Saturday morning I returned from shopping at the local supermarket to find a folded note stuck to the door of my dorm room.  It read “Some of us who live on the two top floors are having a get-together on Sunday to welcome the ‘freshies’.  You are invited.  2PM.  Casual dress. Call Akilah at 359-2608 (Rm. 513)”
              Before I had time to figure out the note, I dropped my bags on my bed to give myself some relief.  Once again, I had over shopped.  I really need to learn some self-control; I often do things because they just feel good without considering the repercussions.  The consequence for today’s shopping excursion is my empty pocket for the remainder of the month.
            With my muscles recovering from lugging my groceries up Georgia Avenue, I was able to focus on the invitation I had just received.  The note immediately puzzled me.  The invitation was signed by someone, whom I assumed was a female.  As far as I had noticed, the only females who inhabited Drew Hall were of the rodent and insect persuasion.  Also, I was under the impression that my floor, the fourth, was the top floor in the building.  The elevator certainly did not have a button to go to the fifth floor.  For a moment I was very suspicious.  This could be some fraternity trying to play jokes on an innocent freshman.  Maybe my new roommate was some sort of practical joker.  Then I decided that whatever was going on could not be that bad and I might as well play along.  Besides I have always had trouble meeting people, especially girls. 
            I looked at my watch, which read 1:57, and decided that I should get ready so that I could at least be fashionably late.  I put away my groceries and headed to the shower.  I put on the nicest shirt and pants in my closest and left for party.
            I pushed open the huge gray door to the stairwell to find a second set of steps leading to the fifth floor.  The second I reached the fifth floor I could not believe my eyes.  The hallway looked like a segment from “The Lifestyles of the Rich and Famous.”   The floors were made of a freshly buffed and waxed marble.  Chandeliers made of the most exotic crystal lit the hallway.  The walls were adorned with the finest wallpaper unlike the other walls of Drew Hall, which were painted a hideously stained light blue.    The air-conditioned climate was a strong contrast to the miserably humid halls of the lower floors. 
I followed the hallway until I found the room with gold-stenciled numbers reading: 513.  I knocked on the door and waited anxiously.  It did not seem like anybody was inside.  For a moment I thought I was the victim of some elaborate joke.  As I turned to walk away, the door swung open.  A tall, striking, dark chocolate-skinned beauty opened the door.  She possessed an elegance that no other girls on campus could claim.  She was not only one of the most beautiful women I had seen on campus but one of the most beautiful women I had seen in my life.    This black beauty wore a white sequined evening gown that clung to every inch of her figure.  The dress seemed to flow like a river from her full breasts, down her slim figure, to her smooth shapely legs.  I thought the invitation said the dress code was casual but I figured I could live with her outfit.                            
“Hi there.  I am Akilah,” she said with somewhat of a southern drawl.
“I’m D-D-D-Dav.  I mean David, “ I stuttered out.  I always get nervous around girls and do embarrassing things like stuttering and leaving words out of sentences.
“Oh, it’s so nice to meet you.  Welcome to my room.  Come and meet everyone from the fifth floor.”
I could not believe I was talking to this gorgeous girl, let alone going into her room.  I walked in, nearly tripping over the threshold, to see several more astonishing sights.  Akilah’s dorm room was equally as ornate as the hallway that led to it.  It was several times the size of any of the other dorm rooms that I had seen in Drew Hall.  The room also seemed to be only a living room, with a kitchen and a bedroom through other doors.  Akilah’s room was fitted with brown tufted leather couches.  I looked down to see a complementary well-glossed hardwood floor.  The walls were bedecked with oil paintings that appeared to date back a hundred years or more. 
Even more astounding than the ornamentations of the room were the partygoers who filled the room.  The room was filled solely with a dozen unusually attractive women.  Everywhere I looked, I saw a girl who equaled or surpassed Akilah’s beauty.  These women were all shapes and sizes.  Though they were all black, they could easily be traced back to homes in different regions of the globe.  They had skin tones ranging from a light olive to a deep dark mahogany.  The women were all dressed in graceful evening gowns.  Upon looking around the room, I realized that they were all smiling right at me.
“Hi all,” I said as I gave a half-hearted wave.  They enthusiastically greeted me.  
I quickly looked to see if I knew any of the girls in the room.  Just as quickly, I realized that I did not know a single girl.  I was overwhelmed by the presence of these stunning, exotic women.  A rush of nervous energy passed into my body.  I could feel the butterflies in my stomach go wild as I tried not to seem too nervous. I made my way to an empty couch.  I sat bobbing my head back and forth to the music in the background.  I sat by myself on the couch for about five minutes, trying not to look too awkward.  The girls continued to smile and make eye contact with me from time to time.
I looked up to see Akilah making her way toward me.  “Are you enjoying my little party?”
“Yeah, I’m having a good time,” I said. 
A fast Salsa song with deep bass tones and blaring trumpets came on the stereo. “Can I have this dance?” she asked.
“Of course,” I said eagerly. 
Akilah took me by both hands and led me to the middle of the floor and we began to dance.  Since we were the only couple on the dance floor, all eyes were on us.  
“I suppose you want an explanation to all this,” Akilah said softly.
“Yes, that would be nice,” I replied. 
Akilah was a skilled dancer.  We began to move perfectly in unison.  She moved her hips back and forth.  I followed her.  Salsa is a magical dance.  It is the perfect metaphor for the eternal chase that goes on between the sexes.  
“Well, David, sometimes believing that there is an explanation for everything in our lives comforts us because we fear the unknown.  But, as you will find with many things in life, there is no explanation to this floor.  It simply is what it is.”  
We dipped and shared a moment of intense eye contact.    
“I guess I’ll have to live with that explanation,” I said as I smirked, breaking the pause. 
“And as with many things in life there are rules to this floor.  Rules you may not agree with or think are fair.  Well, actually just one.  You may not under any circumstances engage in any sort of physical acts of intimacy with any girl who lives on this floor,” she said in a surprisingly stern tone.
“Not even a kiss?” I questioned.
“Not even a kiss.”
The trumpets came to a full crescendo. Our dancing was at full pace now.  We followed each other step for step.  Akilah swung away from me and then back in.   My arm was full wrapped around her delicate body.
  She continued, “The punishment for breaking this rule will be prompt and without exception.  Consider yourself warned.  This isn’t high school anymore, David.  There are no second chances.  There are no do overs.”
“Okay, but why,” I asked desperately.
“I don’t have an explanation for you. Trust that I know what’s best for you.  But you are free to leave,” she replied.
“No, No. I’ll stay.”
  I was truly crushed.  All of these delightful women, no other men and I was not allowed to touch a single one of them.  I was angry at first.  Next, I was frustrated.  Finally, I decided to make the best of things.  I did not know how I was going to control myself.  I figured I’d let things play out and hope for the best.  
The salsa music slowly faded into a new song.  I finished dancing with Akilah and looked around the room to see a horde of girls standing in front of me. 
“David, can we dance?”
“Come on, let’s dance.”
“Will you dance with me?”
“Let’s dance.”                         
For the next few hours I danced with beauty after beauty.  For the first time in my life, I was the life of the party.  Every girl wanted a dance with me. Of course, I did not mind fulfilling their wishes.  I Cha Cha’d with a honey-skinned girl from Trinidad, named Cecilia.  Later, I tangoed with a beauty from California, named Chanel. 
Despite all these lovely women, one girl caught my eye more than any of the others.  Her name was Ashley.  She wore a slinky red dress that came down to the floor. The evening gown was made to fit a well-formed figure like hers.  Her skin was like that of a model in a fashion magazine, smooth and flawless.  Her deep brown eyes had a hypnotizing affect on me.  I was mesmerized as we first made eye contact.   I waited impatiently for Ashley to ask me for a dance.  Finally, the moment came.  “Can I have this dance,” she asked. I promptly accepted.  As we danced, there was a flow of passion between us that I had never shared with a girl before.  We conversed for hours as we danced the night away.  We shared our opinions on virtually every topic.  Ashley was equally as intelligent as she was gorgeous.  I soon realized that I was falling in love with this girl.  I could tell she was falling in love with me also. 
I looked at my watch to see that it was 2:30 am.  I had been at the party for more than half of the day.  All of the girls at the party had retired to their rooms for the night.  Akilah was in her bedroom changing out of her evening gown.  Ashley and I continued to dance and talk in the room alone.  
Then Ashley said, “David, I am finding myself falling in love with you.  I know it’s early to say this but I am.”
            “I love you too, Ashley” I replied.
            “Kiss me.”
            “I can’t.”
            “Why? I thought you were in love with me.  Oh you’re not worried about that stupid rule of Akilah’s are you?  That’s nonsense.  She doesn’t mean it.  It’s just a bunch of rubbish, besides she isn’t even in the room. How will she find out?  Just kiss me.  You can deal with the repercussions later.  I know you want to.”
            The temptation was too strong.  My will was too week.  I always just do things that feel good.  I closed my eyes, leaned in and kissed Ashley.  Her lips were so soft against mine.  I felt heat where our lips met.  Chills ran up and down my body.  It was like being in heaven.      
            I opened my eyes and I saw Ashley’s pretty face turn red and begin to melt.  Her body started to disintegrate.  The room started to collapse from the inside.  The last thing I remember is Akilah coming out of her bedroom.  She said, “I gave you only one rule and you broke it.  One simple rule.  I warned you. I hope it was worth it.”   
            The next morning I woke up in my dorm room.  I jumped out of bed and ran to the stairwell.  I looked around but all I saw were cobwebs and the ugly painted ceiling that matched the rest of Drew Hall.  The stairway to the fifth floor seemed to have disappeared.  I banged and kicked on the wall but nothing happened.  It was like the fifth floor was never there.  I sat down at the top of the steps and just stared at the ground.  I thought to myself for a while.  I really did love Ashley.  I wish I could tell myself that there was some sort of injustice done, but there was none. I wish the rule said that I could be intimate with girls that I love, but it didn’t.  I wish there was an explanation to all this, but there isn’t.
Do I have regrets? Never. I tasted that forbidden fruit and it was ever so sweet.


How Much Did You Say?
David Overton

“How much did you say?” I asked in total disbelief.
“$350,000.  Of course, you know this doesn’t include profit sharing, a signing bonus and a relocation bonus. Tell me David, what kind of cars do you like?” Jack McKinskey questioned.
            “I like anything German really.  Mercedes, BMW, Porsche.”
            “I can have a bright red M3 convertible sitting in front of your house by Monday morning if you’re ready to sign on tonight.  You like M3s don’t you?”
            “Well, yeah. Who doesn’t?” I said half jokingly due to the obvious answer to Mr. McKinskey’s question.
            There is an explanation to this whole situation.  I was in my last year at Harvard Law School and was considered one of the nation’s top legal prospects. I had already received countless offers from virtually every type of company to use my legal mind to fend off would-be class-action suits and personal injury rewards.  To be honest, I knew I was the best and I expected nothing less.  I graduated with top honors from Howard undergrad, moved on to work in one of the most competitive investment banks on Wall Street and finally, in order with the rest of my accomplishments, I led my law school class at Harvard.
            I could tell Frank McKinskey knew I was the best, too.  I could tell by the way he looked at me and greeted me on the phone.  I reminded him of himself- a competitor.  Frank McKinskey was the founder and CEO of FM Enterprises.  The man screamed success and money.  You could feel his affluence by sitting in a room with him.  He wore a $15,000 watch, designer shoes and a suit that could probably pay my rent for the year. 
            Frank was fabulously wealthy and prepared to make me the same if I came to work for him.  That’s why I was sitting at a table in a fancy restaurant where I could not get a reservation until 2005, which is about how long it would take me to save up for the bill.  That’s why I was finishing off a bottle of wine half as old as I was.  That’s why he was offering me cars, money and anything else he could to convince me to go to work for him.  He definitely had my attention.  I have always had the taste for the finer things in life but never the means to acquire them.  Frank McKinskey was offering me these means. It felt like this day could be the first day of the rest of my life.
            “I think I might be interested Mr. Mckinskey,” I said, “but I have to ask you why I am so valuable to you?” 
            “Garcon, bring me that ashtray.  The one right there,” Mr. Mckinskey motioned to the waiter who promptly complied.  Mr. McKinskey pushed the ashtray past the fresh cut rose to my side of the table.
            “Oh, no thanks. I don’t smoke.”
            “Neither do I son. It’s a filthy habit. But, look at the filters.  There are quite a few cigarettes in this tray, but almost three-quarters are ‘Lucky Brand’.  Many people don’t know that ‘Lucky’ was the first product FM ever made.  We no longer use FM on our cigarettes so as not to be associated with tobacco products.   FM now has several other products but cigarettes are still the mainstay of the business.  However, there are many people who have gotten sick from their own smoking habits and want to take my hard earned money from me in the court system.  I need ingenious legal minds like your own to help me keep every cent I can.  That is why you are so valuable to me.  Now, I have a gift for you,” with that he reached into his suit jacket and slid a stack of large bills across the sparkling napery. 
            “If that’s why you want me, I don’t think I can accept your gift or your offer Mr. Mckinskey.”
            “I know you will son.  Nobody is offering you this kind of money coming fresh out of law,” Mr. McKinskey rebutted with intimidating anger in his voice.
            “Don’t get me wrong.  I love money.  But it isn’t everything.”
            “Okay, I get what you’re after, 400 large.  That should be enough.”
            “Mr. McKinskey, the only way you can compensate me is by erasing the memories of watching my grandfather walk around the house connected to an oxygen canister slowly dying, day by day.  Have a pleasant evening.” I balled several of the hundred dollar bills in my fist and threw them in McKinskey’s face.  As the bills dropped to the table, I stood up, pushed my chair in and walked away from the table.  Mr. McKinskey jumped out of his chair, chasing after me, trying to reason with me, but I no longer needed to hear what he had to say.


When I Think of Her
Loren Perkins-Johnson

When I think of her it hurts so good
She used to tell me about things
That hurt so good.
 
Sitting in my car after work talking about everything that crossed our minds,
I never really understood the concept of something hurting so good,
Pain and pleasure were completely opposite to me at the time,
Now I can see how it hurt good.
 
Even though I know she won’t be mine at least we had the time that we did,
It hurts to think that someone so imperfectly perfect could have been with me,
And to know that she is gone now,
Out of sight out of mind,
But I can’t get her out of my mind and her picture isn’t far from sight,
Wanting to fall in love is so hard,
Finding someone who you would give complete and utter trust to,
Putting yourself out in the open, vulnerable to anything,
 
It’s so frightening:
Love.
 
The conflicts I went through
Hurt so good.
Wishing I knew what she was thinking,
Wishing I knew what to do,
How to tell her how I felt,
Only later to find out the conflict she went through.
First Love not yet gone,
Wondering what’s still there,
Wondering what might be,
Not ready to let go again,
Not sure if that’s what she wants.
On one side joy, pain, commitment, past;
On the other happiness, freedom, uncertainty, future.
 
I should have known what I was getting into.
Soft spot for light complexions,
Pretty smiles, gorgeous eyes, silky skin,
Though beauty’s only skin deep.
But she was more than just beauty.
She made me smile without effort.
We could converse for days if given the chance.
Loved to argue, though never serious,
Little things, pointless really.
 
Thinking that I found the one I would be with,
Never knew how long though,
Didn’t imagine such a fleeting era, such a lifelong moment,
Thankful for what we had.
 
Left Only Vague Emotions.


Goodbye, Mom
Trenile Tillman

 
            Her lined face and stringy grey hair attested to the many years of struggle against illness and poverty, yet she seemed resolute in spite of her frailty.  As she stood beside the young man in the narrow storefront doorway, the crippled umbrella providing inadequate shelter against the slanting rain; together, yet from the rigid posture of their bodies and the way in which they avoided looking at each other, miles apart.
            “So you’ve decided”, she asked.  Her gaze directed towards the nearby playground where a group of youngsters, bare-chested in the rain were engaged in a noisy game of soccer.
            “You know, I can remember when you were that young.  You were so cute, and you definitely weren’t as stubborn as you are now”, she continued with a wry smile.
            Chris smiled slightly as he listened to his Grandmother’s reminiscing.
            “I do wish you would change your mind and decide to come to your mother’s funeral,” she began.
            “Gram, I already told you.  I can’t.  Please let me grieve in my own way.  A formal funeral is just too much for me to bear right now,” Chris pleaded, knowing that he was wearing down her resolution.
            The older woman sighed.  “Well I guess you are old enough to make your own decisions.  There is really nothing I can say or do to make you go”, she stated.  “I don’t like it, but I will try to accept it.”
            “Thank you Gram,” the young man said as he leaned down to kiss his elderly relative on her withered cheek.  “Thank you for trying to understand.”
            “Well the least you can do is walk me to the limo,” Gram said.  Chris willingly obliged her.  As the senior stepped into the car she asked, “Well, will you be home for dinner tonight?”
            “Sure Gram,” Chris answered before firmly shutting the door and waving goodbye to his grandmother before he retreated back into the shelter of the warm store he had previously occupied with his older relative.
            Two months later, Chris finally decided it was time for him to tell his mother goodbye.  He caught the number twelve bus to Laurel Grove Cemetery.  He sat in silence throughout the thirty minute bus ride, silently reflecting upon the nineteen wonderful years he had spent with his beloved mother.  When Chris exited the bus and entered the graveyard, he seemed to know exactly where he was going.  He couldn’t explain it, but somewhere, deep down, he knew where his mother lay.
            Within moments he stood before his mother’s headstone.  Chris carefully knelt before the marble marker and began to speak in a hushed tone. 
“Mom, I know I didn’t say this to you a lot, but thank you.  Thank you for raising me the best way you knew how.  Thank you for loving me, no matter how horrible I was.  But most of all, thank you for being my mother.”
            Overcome with emotion, Chris placed a single rose on the ground in front of him.


You
Trenile Tillman

There is a void within me
That cannot be filled
By flowery words or tempting builds.
 
A void that is massive and deep.
A void that makes me keep
Searching for you.
 
Longing for a fleeting glance from you,
A simple word from you.
Oh how I dream of spending time with you!
 
You and only you.
You, the source of my dreams and desires.
You, who fills my every waking thought
And lights fires
Deep within my soul.
 
You my wonderful prince.
The one whom I long to kiss.
The one whom I truly miss
With all my heart and soul.
The only true love I have ever known.
You.
Simply you.


Pinky Promise
Faith Rogers

When compared to other nations the United States is a baby, or rather a toddler who is still trying to walk on its own two feet.  America is a nation that has only been around long enough to know what it has learned from mimicking other, more established nations.  However, along with this youth come all the characteristics and problems of a normal childhood.  The catch is America holds itself in such high regards, and other nations do not think of America in the same way.  However, instead of receiving the normal sentiment that adult tend to give to young children (They’re young, therefore they don’t know any better), America should be held more responsible for its actions.  America may very well be in its early stages compared to other nations, but current American actions would say otherwise.  President Bush and his administration are making critical decisions about the lives of others across the world.  Such improper actions and irrational behaviors make the United States seem to be a child far from maturity, trying to act as an adult.  Along with current laws that allow juveniles to be tried as an adult in order to be more accountable for their actions, the United States as well should be more responsible for its unreasonable acts and should have less responsibility in matters of other nations.
            Currently, things are as if America is playing childlike games with other nations.  Creating treaties and doctrines and not enforcing them is nothing more than a small child telling his parent he will clean up his room, then later just hiding all his toys under the bed and forgetting about them.  Every time President Bush opens his mouth in order to threaten other nations to cooperate it is as if America is the new bully on the playground taking advantage of everyone else.  This vast manhunt that the current administration has been on sounds less like justice and more and more like the whine, “but they started it."  For the nation to renege on the policies it has made and the allies it has formed is so reminiscent of a pinky promise being made while one or both of the parties involved are crossing their fingers behind their back, that it is scary.  America can not continue to be the playground bully whom is nothing more than a big baby himself, and Bush can not continue to have these presidential temper tantrums.
            Almost every president that has held office has been through some sort of foreign policy turmoil.  The problem is that Bush is so childlike himself that he has no executive leadership qualities which will help the nation to grow out of its toddler stage.  His simple, juvenile actions and reactions have caused more harm than good for both him as politician and for the nation.  Well into the second year of his administration, President Bush has been viewed as a grown man playing the kids’ game of pretend.  He sees himself as the cowboy, or superhero, who will protect the nation from big bad North Korea and Iraq.  Rather he appears as a reckless, rash, out of control leader who is placing this barely walking toddler in the midst of a busy interstate.  How will this nation endure his leadership and more importantly how will we fare once his term is over?
            What is occurring between the U.S. and Iraq, the U.S. and North Korea, and the U.S. and all other countries that Bush decides to go after, is a long-lasting children’s game.  Mature adult politics dictate that once a treaty or agreement is made betwixt countries it becomes the foundation for a cooperative and compromising relationship between those countries.  The nations are supposed to try to come together in efforts to keep peace while keeping their own best interest in mind.  However when it comes to Bush and his dealings with both his constituents and world leaders he makes pinky promises with his hand behind his back and his fingers crossed.


Love
Faith Rogers

Never before have I seen eyes so captivating, uniquely beautiful, slightly promiscuous, yet so powerful that they take whole control of my body and soul with a grip that just won’t let go, not that I want them to, mind you, but the power that those minute things have over me is completely and utterly out of control
I have the need to go everywhere they go, to see everything they see, just how they see it because those eyes are everything to me, and I in turn want it to be me that they see day in and day out, for I am the jewel of those eyes as they are the treasure of mine
Kind, compassionate, and true, playful, innocent, yet-ooh so sexy, they speak to my heart while they daze and amaze every inch of my brain, moist on occasion, but in a perfect world, that would only be the direct result of rain, because any tears which may fall due to pain kills every grain of my being
Imagine a world in which our eyes could rendezvous for all eternity, no interruptions, free of distractions, Love I’m speaking of just you and me,  what are your thoughts on that which sounds so heavenly to me, and maybe just a little to good to be,
The point I’m trying so desperately to make is when I tell you I love you, believe it because I do, listen carefully to my words and take them to heart, especially now being that what I’m about to say is truly the hardest part, yet out of everything I’ve said this is the most essential thought coming straight from my heart, when it comes to your presence in my life it’s heaven sent, if somehow, through all of this you haven’t already gotten the hint, not only do I love you, but I’M IN LOVE WITH YOU, which would truly explain why I’m so infatuated with you and all that you do
Always remember what I just told you, so that when I’m not there to physically hold and console you, you will know that I’m right there with you and although you may not be able to shift those wonderful eyes to the right and see my sight, I will always be with you, like I told you earlier those eyes have such a strong hold over me that I could never break-away and be free, without a doubt love those eyes mean everything to me.


Edward
Crystal Ramdial

“So, you’ve decided?” he asked, his gaze directed towards the nearby playground where a group of youngsters, bare-chested in the rain, were engaged in a noisy game of soccer.
“I’ve decided”. She answered, the words barely audible, her narrow chin thrust forward aggressively. She appeared unwavering but her body language defied her exhibiting her feebleness.
“Yeah. Right. So, what about me. Don’t I have a say in any of this?”
Now she turned to face him. After glaring at each other for a while, she calmly explained to him that Edward’s health was deteriorating and that she would no longer be able to care for him in the way that he needed. Subsequent to saying this, she slowly moved away from the shelter of the storefront towards the edge of the pavement, staring questioningly up at the sky with the rain pouring down her face. The sensation of this feeling soothed her; it washed the pain away and made her feel at peace.
Her son interrupted her peacefulness by pulling her out of the rain and into the shop, chiding her for standing in the rain. She avoided his eyes while she fixed her gaze out the window towards the heavens and quietly sighed as she reflected on the events that had led to this point in her life.
She had been married to Edward for nearly forty years. They had raised their son together and whenever important decisions had to be made Edward would always take charge of the situation because he always knew what to do. However, four years ago he started experiencing persistent sore throats, pains in his ears and he had trouble swallowing. These symptoms worsened and, upon visiting a doctor, he was diagnosed with cancer of the pharynx. The prognosis was grim because when further testing was done it was discovered that the cancer had spread to other tissues.
Edward could not handle this news; and, as a result, he lost all interest in the things that he once enjoyed; and he lost his zeal for life. He became reserved and alienated himself from his family and everyone else who cared about him. In addition, he would do stupid things such as crossing the street without checking to see if the street was clear. On one unfortunate day, Edward was hit by a car driven by an inebriated young man. Fortunately, he survived, but lost movement in his legs, resulting in paraplegia. 
Consequently, Edward was fully dependent on his wife. She already had enough to deal with. She did all the housework, was employed as a full-time housekeeper and also had to support their thirty year-old, unemployed son who still lived at home. All of this was too much for her and, as a result, after six difficult months, she made the painful decision to put her husband into a nursing home, which her employers offered to pay for, despite her son`s disapproval.


Who Am I?
Crystal Ramdial

Who am I?
Daughter, sister, friend, granddaughter
All these words describe me,
But who am I under all of that?
Am I sweet, friendly, amiable?
How about good-natured, considerate and resilient?
 
Or instead am I bitter, disagreeable and wretched?
Introspection should help me here,
But that is what I am afraid of
If I discover my true self will I like what I see?
Will others like me?
What to do?
 
Look, look within myself
Don’t be afraid
See, see who I am.
 
I might like me, but I might not.
That is a risk I have to take.
Must, yes I must see who I am.
 
Deep inside is a girl, who just wants to be loved
Love what is that?
It is a feeling that many long for,
But what exactly is it?
Who knows?
Many try to explain it, but no one seems to know what it is.
 
Alas, I must look again to find qualities that describe me
I see enthusiasm, strength and intelligence
I smile; maybe I am a good person,
But wait I see more characteristics
There is cynicism, connivance and antagonism
Do these traits make me a bad person?
Or am I someone who has developed these qualities to survive?
Terrible, unfeeling and temperamental, no, I am not.
 
I have excellent features and regretful ones, but I am who I am
I must live with my ghastly side
I must love me
I must live, love and laugh
Yes, I must love me
Indeed I can love me.


The End?
Crystal Ramdial

So this is how it ends?
This is the day I have been dreading,
The day I thought would never come,
Well its here I can’t run from it now
Have to deal with it,
But I have one problem
How do I do that?
 
I want our love back,
But I know that that is impossible,
So I must move on.
 
First thing I have to do is stop crying
Then I’ll be able to see things clearly
I’ll be able to smile
I’ll see that our love wasn’t as strong as I thought.
 
“The reason for life is love”
So if this is true then I’ll love again
Everything is going to work out with me and I’ll be fine.
 
After pain comes joy
So soon I’ll be happy again
Because I believe that everything happens for a reason.
 
I refuse to dwell on the “what ifs”
I refuse to ask you to reconsider
I want to but I won’t
I respect myself too much.
 
It will hurt but I’ll bounce back
Things may look bleak right about now,
But I guarantee that the sun shines after it pours.
 
“If you love something let it go
If it comes back to you its yours
If it doesn’t it never was.”
 
At the end of this I’ll be a stronger person,
I’ll look back on this day and smile
Because the lessons I’ll learn from this experience will make me a better person.
I’ll be able to live, love and laugh once again.


Was Is Love?
Crystal Ramdial

So this is the end?
What do I do now?
I loved you
I made you happy
We were happy
 
I tried so hard to make it work.
But now I must go on without you?
Don’t know how,
I can’t live without you.
 
Can’t eat,
Can’t sleep,
Can’t smile,
How can I move on?
 
I don’t want to find someone new.
I want you in my life.
I don’t understand what “goodbye” means.
 
Life is cruel without you
I know one thing,
I’ll never love again.
 
Everything reminds me of you
Can’t forget how much you once loved me,
Can’t forget how you made life worth living.
 
You were my dream that came to life
You were my inspiration
You were my life.
 
I thought this was forever
You told me this was for life
I gave you my life
You gave me pain and loneliness.
 
I guess the only thing left to say is I have to let go
I’ll move on
But I’ll always love you.


Bombs over Baghdad
Gabriel Tuck

Bombs fall over Baghdad
But still nobody fears
Bombs fall over Baghdad
Many eyes filled with tears
Bombs fall over Baghdad
Bastards and widows left behind
Bombs fall over Baghdad
Lost soldiers hard to find
Bombs fall over Baghdad
To the battlefields brave men will go
Bombs fall over Baghdad
Yet, Bush is still the hero
Bombs fall over Baghdad
Many lives lost
Bombs fall over Baghdad
US takes Iraq, but at what cost
Bombs fall over Baghdad
Politicians still get fed
Bombs fall over Baghdad
How many people get misled
How many bombs will fall
Before the people wake up
How many battles will we fight
Before we can make up
How many empires will fall
Looking back at Rome
How many children will cry
When daddy doesn’t come home
How many wars will be fought
How much money will be spent
How many soldiers will come back
How many will be sent
Bombs fall over Baghdad
How many bombs will fall
Bombs fall over Baghdad
Who’s the bad guy after all


You Are My Everything
Gabriel Tuck

I am a flower, you are my roots,
clutching to me, protecting me.
I am the sun, you are my rays,
helping me to shine and  be all that I can be.
I am a stream, you are my river,
filling me with strength, courage, and wisdom
I am a tree, you are my leaves,
with you I feel like we are one
I love to have you in my life .
I am a heart, you are my beat,
one day I want you to be my wife,
my fear, my joy, my excitement.
I am happy to have you here
to share all that I am,
I hope this love will never disappear.


Murder 1
Kristen J. Wilson

She dreamt of a boy
Playing in the dirt
Sneaking mischievous glances at his suspicious father
 
She dreamt of a girl
With a pretty lace dress and rag dolls
Having fun with mother’s make-up
Dreaming of Hollywood
 
She dreamt of the perfect family
Mother, father, son, daughter
 
And then she woke up…
 
She woke up to the reality
That the little boy was never born
With the life literally sucked out of him
He was thrown into a “receptacle”
 
She woke up to the reality
That the little girl never had a chance
With the poison running through
Her underdeveloped system
She too in a “receptacle”
 
She woke up to find the “father” gone
Where? Who knows?
To find another victim
To commit another crime that he will give account for
Only in the End
 
And the mother-
She is left alone with her cancer
Rolling in agony
Crippled in pain
Tortured by regret
That she really thought she would get away with murder


Happiness
Kristen J. Wilson

To be where I am
And not be concerned with tomorrow
To be filled with my joy
Ignoring and overcoming my sorrow
I feel happiness
 
To listen to the words
And be soothed by the melody
To be one with the rhythm
And feel the song inside of me
I hear happiness
 
To let my eyes wander
To the snow on the trees
To thank God for the color purple
On the flowers moving in the breeze
I see happiness
 
To dip strawberries in whipped cream
And scoop ice cream into cones
To eat candy apples, gingerbread
Watermelons and mangoes
I taste happiness
 
To recognize the scent of tulips in my flower bed
To smell the smoke from hickory chips
Roses-white or red
I smell happiness
 
To have music in my blood
And make the rhythms part of me
To be a sight for sore eyes
And touch lives through choreography
I dance in happiness

© 2003 Howard University.t
(First Published in limited print edition, An Anthology of Verse, Prose, by the Composition for Honours Class, Howard University, Spring 2003. Professor E.R. Braithwaite)
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