ChickenBones: A Journal

for Literary & Artistic African-American Themes


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See me. It bewilders me he doesn't see me. / For so many years

I was good enough to eat: the world looked at me / And its mouth watered. How often they have undressed me,

The eyes of strangers! / And, holding their flesh within my flesh, their vile




Books by Randall Jarrell

Pictures from an Institution  /  Poetry and the Age  /  The Bat Poet  /  Fly by Night

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Randall Jarrell



Born in Nashville, Tennessee, Randall Jarrell was a World War II veteran, a private in the Army's air force. This experience was the subject of his early poems. Much of his life, however  was spent in academe. He studied at Vanderbilt, as a psychology major, and did literature with John Crowe Ransom, a poet-critic, and changed the direction of Jarrell's career. Jarrell followed Ransom to Kenyon College as an English instructor. At Kenyon, he formed a lifelong friendship with Robert Lowell, another distinguished poet.

Later Jarrell also taught at the University of Texas, Sarah Lawrence, Princeton, Illinois, and for many years at the Woman's College of the University of North Carolina (now UNC Greensboro). His novel Pictures from an Institution used this college as its setting.

Jarrell was poetry editor for the Nation in the mid-1940s and drew attention for his witty, astute, and outspoken reviews of poetry. Poetry and the Age (1953) includes especially brilliant essays on Robert Frost and Wallace Stevens. Jarrell, who loved the German language, translated Goethe's Faust (Part I) and some of the Grimm fairy tales. In late years he wrote four books for children (with beautiful drawings by Maurice Sendak) including The Bat Poet (1964) and the posthumous Fly by Night (1976).--from An Introduction to Poetry by X.J. Kennedy


The Death of the Ball Turret Gunner

From my mother's sleep I fell into the State,

And I hunched in its belly till my wet fur froze.

Six miles from earth, loosed from its dream of life,

I woke to black flak and the nightmare fighters.

When I died they washed me out of the turret with a hose.

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Next Day

Moving from cheer to Joy, from Joy to All,

I take a box

And add it to my wild rice, my Cornish game hens.

The slacked or shorted, basketed, identical

Food-gathering flocks

Are selves I overlook. Wisdom, said William James,


Is learning what to overlook. And I am wise

If that is wisdom.

Yet somehow, as I buy All from these shelves

And the boy takes it to my station wagon,

What I've become

Troubles me even if I shut my eyes.


When I was young and miserable and pretty

And poor, I'd wish

What all girls wish: to have a husband,

A house and children. Now that I'm old, my wish

Is womanish:

That the boy putting groceries in my car


See me. It bewilders me he doesn't see me.

For so many years

I was good enough to eat: the world looked at me

And its mouth watered. How often they have undressed me,

The eyes of strangers!

And, holding their flesh within my flesh, their vile


Imaginings within my imagining,

I too have taken

The chance of life. Now the boy pats my dog

And we start home. Now I am good.

The last mistaken,

Ecstatic, accidental bliss, the blind


Happiness that, bursting, leaves upon the palm

Some soap and water--

It was so long ago, back in some Gay

Twenties, nineties, I don't know . . . Today I miss

My lovely daughter

Away at school, my sons away at school,


My husband away at work--I wish for them.

The dog, the maid,

And I go through the sure unvarying days

At home in them. As I look at my life,

I am afraid

Only that it will change, as I am changing:


I am afraid, this morning, of my face.

It looks at me

From the rear-view mirror, with the eyes I hate,

The smile I hate. Its plain, lined look

of gray discovery

Repeats to me: "You're old." That's all, I'm old.


And yet I'm afraid, as I was at the funeral

I went to yesterday.

My friend's cold made-up face, granite among its flowers,

Her undressed, operated-on, dressed body

Were my face and body.

As I think of her and I hear her telling me


How young I seem; I am exceptional;

I think of all I have.

But really no one is exceptional,

No one has anything, I'm anybody,

I stand beside my grave

Confused with my life, that is commonplace and solitary.

posted 3 April 2010 

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Mockingbirds at Jerusalem (poetry Manuscript)

*   *   *   *   *'s 25 Best Selling Books



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1493: Uncovering the New World Columbus Created

By Charles C. Mann

I’m a big fan of Charles Mann’s previous book 1491: New Revelations of the Americas Before Columbus, in which he provides a sweeping and provocative examination of North and South America prior to the arrival of Christopher Columbus. It’s exhaustively researched but so wonderfully written that it’s anything but exhausting to read. With his follow-up, 1493, Mann has taken it to a new, truly global level. Building on the groundbreaking work of Alfred Crosby (author of The Columbian Exchange and, I’m proud to say, a fellow Nantucketer), Mann has written nothing less than the story of our world: how a planet of what were once several autonomous continents is quickly becoming a single, “globalized” entity.

Mann not only talked to countless scientists and researchers; he visited the places he writes about, and as a consequence, the book has a marvelously wide-ranging yet personal feel as we follow Mann from one far-flung corner of the world to the next. And always, the prose is masterful. In telling the improbable story of how Spanish and Chinese cultures collided in the Philippines in the sixteenth century, he takes us to the island of Mindoro whose “southern coast consists of a number of small bays, one next to another like tooth marks in an apple.” We learn how the spread of malaria, the potato, tobacco, guano, rubber plants, and sugar cane have disrupted and convulsed the planet and will continue to do so until we are finally living on one integrated or at least close-to-integrated Earth. Whether or not the human instigators of all this remarkable change will survive the process they helped to initiate more than five hundred years ago remains, Mann suggests in this monumental and revelatory book, an open question.

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Sex at the Margins

Migration, Labour Markets and the Rescue Industry

By Laura María Agustín

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

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The White Masters of the World

From The World and Africa, 1965

By W. E. B. Du Bois

W. E. B. Du Bois’ Arraignment and Indictment of White Civilization (Fletcher)

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Ancient African Nations

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Negro Digest / Black World

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The Death of Emmett Till by Bob Dylan  The Lonesome Death of Hattie Carroll  Only a Pawn in Their Game

Rev. Jesse Lee Peterson Thanks America for Slavery / George Jackson  / Hurricane Carter

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The Journal of Negro History issues at Project Gutenberg

The Haitian Declaration of Independence 1804  / January 1, 1804 -- The Founding of Haiti 

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update 9 March 2012




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