In my mother’s church, everybody read the Bible and it was mostly about music. My mother had the most beautiful voice I have ever heard in my life. She could sing anything – classical, jazz, blues, opera. And people came from long distances to that little church she went to – African Methodist Episcopal, the AME church she belonged to – just hear her.
One of the monstrous things that slavery in this country caused was the breakup of families. Physical labor, horrible; beatings, horrible; lynching death, all of that, horrible. But the living life of a parent who has no control over what happens to your children, none. They don’t belong to you. You may not even nurse them. They may be shipped off somewhere, as in “Beloved” the mother was, to be nursed by somebody who was not able to work in the fields and was a wet nurse.
Unless carefree, mother love was a killer.
…fact was she knew more about them than she knew about herself, having never had the map to discover what she was like. Could she sing? (Was it nice to hear when she did?) Was she pretty? Was she a good friend? Could she have been a loving mother? A faithful wife? Have I got a sister and does she favor me? If my mother knew me would she like me? (140)
I don’t think anybody cares about unwed mothers unless they’re black or poor. The question is not morality, the question is money. That’s what we’re upset about.
Birth, life, and death― each took place on the hidden side of a leaf.
All of us–all who knew her–felt so wholesome after we cleaned ourselves on her. We were so beautiful when we stood astride her ugliness. Her simplicity decorated us, her guilt sanctified us, her pain made us glow with health, her awkwardness made us think we had a sense of humor. Her inarticulateness made us believe we were eloquent. Her poverty kept us generous. Even her waking dreams we used–to silence our own nightmares.
A dream is just a nightmare with lipstick.
As a writer reading, I came to realize the obvious: the subject of the dream is the dreamer.
…she needed to confirm its presence. Like the keeper of the lighthouse and the prisoner, she regarded it as a mooring, a checkpoint, some stable visual object that assured her that the world was still there; that this was like and not a dream. That she was alive somewhere, inside, which she acknowledged to be true only because a thing she knew intimately was out there, outside of herself.
But to find out the truth about how dreams die, one should never take the word of the dreamer.