smiles and writes, 3 of the Temps, Marvin,
and Miles Davis
tune up for a midnight concert.
On earth America wakes up early. In one-hour
and Rose sell out in the hood, rural towns,
the burbs where signs on doors mark places
Obama’s the guest who’s coming to dinner.
All bookies pay off, for once smiling
as money leaves their pockets faster
than the winners can say Barack Hussein
Obama. There’s dancing in the streets,
loud laughing, children dream of being
old enough to vote.
Shouts hesitate for a moment in throats open
with pride. We who’ve lived long enough to
heroes, continue constant prayer. It’s not
hate we’re afraid of, it’s what hate can do
to a moment.
The world is in the world watching. Colors
create one outfit to wear in November.
In his speech, all of his words add up.
He speaks of energy, transformation, and
uplift as if all we have to do is wish and
and the American Dream
will finally come true.
posted 13 June 2008
* * *
Mary E. Weems,
Ph.D. is an accomplished poet, playwright, author,
editor, performer, motivational speaker, and
imagination-intellect theorist. Weems has been widely
published in journals, anthologies, and several books
Public Education and the
Imagination-Intellect: I Speak from the Wound in My
Mouth(Lang, 2003), developed from her dissertation
which argues for imagination-intellectual development as
the primary goal of public education. She won the Wick
Chapbook Award for her collection white in 1996, and in
1997 her play Another Way to Dance won the
Chilcote award for The Most Innovative Play by an Ohio
Playwright. Her most recent chapbook Tampon Class
(Pavement Saw Press, 2005) is in its second printing.
Mary Weems currently teaches in the English and
Education departments at John Carroll University,
and works as a language-artist-scholar in k-12
classrooms, university settings and other venues through
her business Bringing Words to Life.
Contact Professor Weems,
firstname.lastname@example.org, for readings and
Mary Weems is the eldest daughter of
four, the mama of one daughter, Michelle E.
Weems, and the
blessed-to-be-with-him-wife/partner of James
Amie. Proud to have been raised by her mama,
and to be from a poor, working-class
background, Mary started writing poems when
she was thirteen to learn to love herself.
This took a while. Since then, her creative
spirit-eye has turned more and more outward
to include her take on the African-American
experience from a personal and political
perspective as well as the universal
complexities of being a woman and anyone
alive in the world.
Mary E. Weems Table
According to the
author, this society has historically exerted
considerable pressure on black females to fit into one
of a handful of stereotypes, primarily, the Mammy, the
Matriarch or the Jezebel. The selfless
Mammy’s behavior is marked by a slavish devotion to
white folks’ domestic concerns, often at the expense of
those of her own family’s needs. By contrast, the
relatively-hedonistic Jezebel is a sexually-insatiable
temptress. And the Matriarch is generally thought of as
an emasculating figure who denigrates black men, ala the
characters Sapphire and Aunt Esther on the television
shows Amos and Andy and Sanford and Son, respectively.
points out how the propagation of these harmful myths
have served the mainstream culture well. For instance,
the Mammy suggests that it is almost second nature for
black females to feel a maternal instinct towards
As for the source
of the Jezebel, black women had no control over their
own bodies during slavery given that they were being
auctioned off and bred to maximize profits. Nonetheless,
it was in the interest of plantation owners to propagate
the lie that sisters were sluts inclined to mate
On one level, Salvage the Bones is a simple story about a poor black family that’s about to be trashed by one of the most deadly hurricanes in U.S. history. What makes the novel so powerful, though, is the way Ward winds private passions with that menace gathering force out in the Gulf of Mexico. Without a hint of pretension, in the simple lives of these poor people living among chickens and abandoned cars, she evokes the tenacious love and desperation of classical tragedy. The force that pushes back against Katrina’s inexorable winds is the voice of Ward’s narrator, a 14-year-old girl named Esch, the only daughter among four siblings. Precocious, passionate and sensitive, she speaks almost entirely in phrases soaked in her family’s raw land. Everything here is gritty, loamy and alive, as though the very soil were animated. Her brother’s “blood smells like wet hot earth after summer rain. . . . His scalp looks like fresh turned dirt.” Her father’s hands “are like gravel,” while her own hand “slides through his grip like a wet fish,” and a handsome boy’s “muscles jabbered like chickens.” Admittedly, Ward can push so hard on this simile-obsessed style that her paragraphs risk sounding like a compost heap, but this isn’t usually just metaphor for metaphor’s sake. She conveys something fundamental about Esch’s fluid state of mind: her figurative sense of the world in which all things correspond and connect. She and her brothers live in a ramshackle house steeped in grief since their mother died giving birth to her last child. . . . What remains, what’s salvaged, is something indomitable in these tough siblings, the strength of their love, the permanence of their devotion.—