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  • Photograph: Aureola Boulevard, Easter 1963 and: Émigré and: Bout for Jack and a West Indian Immigrant
  • Lynne Thompson (bio)

Photograph: Aureola Boulevard, Easter 1963

    for Sonja & Karen There we all are: my sisters-in-law in their Jackie Kennedys; our neighbor Janet from across the divide, whom we all pray can be brought to Jesus (although all I really want is her dark

and slick ponytail hidden beneath a chapeau of crêpe de chine). And yes, of course, our mother Queen Cluck & More, sporting gloves of elbow-length white that seem to promise everything

is possible. Then me, on the end again—all pink ribbons, scarred knees, little hope—our myriad virtues captured by Dad’s Brownie. Does anyone even know what that means anymore? Do we rise?


Maybe it was reflex. Maybe it was memory and want—want for   the scent of soursop and sugar apples; memory of the flight of

a frigate bird that made us drive every Sunday, down Vine Street,   past Forest Lawn Cemetery to Griffith Park, where Pop, nutmeg-colored

and clad head-to-toe in his all-whites, came to play cricket   and make believe he was home in Buccament Valley, St. Vincent,

West Indies, where he could be the man home would have made   of him although none of that meant one EC dollar to me because

in those days, cricket—with its ball of string, hard cork and wooden   stumps, the willow-carved blades-turned-bats—was an odd British

formality, a time when ladies wore pale hose and organdy hats and   I was allowed to wear my Sunday finery (as long as I didn’t grass-stainmy skirt);

to quaff hot tea in Wedgewood cups and consume   cucumber-and-cream-cheese sandwiches those old world women

made for their men to devour during the break in the game, which   might last for a leisurely hour or more before the teams would

take up again in a throe of fear because my Pop was the game’s best   bowler, and with his elbow cocked and a lightning rotation of his

underarm, he threw googlies, leg-breaks and flippers, always got his   man and took the wicket because Pop could bring the heat—although

he would never have said bring the heat because his home rule kind of   schooling favored the King’s English over the colloquial—but it was

exactly this heat-bringing, this resplendent use of language that made   him the kind of man to be reckoned with and I tried to grasp it all

as we drove home, silent—Pop’s eyes cataract’d with his recollections   of Caliaqua, Baleine, and Chateaubelair—on the far side of the sundial. [End Page 195]

Bout for Jack and a West Indian Immigrant

The year mother arrived on Ellis Island, the heavyweight fighter, Jack Johnson, was serving a one-year sentence in Leavenworth for violating the Mann Act but everybody knew

Jack was doing time for loving up a whole lotta white women, and each and every one of them every which-way. Fresh from hibiscus and the Caribbean Sea, my mother

knew nothing about that; didn’t know that some who thought if you’re light, well alright would look at her and wonder is she a white girl. . . ?

I never asked her about color when I could have; never thought of the past as prologue because in the civil rights, free-sex sixties, black was a beauty

and I didn’t want to think about the pale man who’d bedded my grandmother; that my mother was grey pearl, chipped tooth, the other white meat, mulatto

which didn’t save her from the raised eyebrows of blacks and whites who fled Jim Crow’s South for the Cotton Club; just like Johnson couldn’t be saved, being a man of “unbearable blackness,”

of golden fists, feet on speed dial, progenitor of Louis & Ali, lover of any woman who wasn’t the color of nutmeg or volcanic ash, the-man-who-couldn’t-be-stopped although when he danced in España,

in la belle France, in Mexico (where he said a man could be free), in exile, he cried...


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