We sat on the front porch, the whole
lot of us, the Washington family, knowing
that yes our folk of all different hues of
brown, were born of the first father of our
country, our country too.
Granny, born of a young slave girl, had
nearly died today, fell down once again,
not good for much, she was one-hundred-something
but who was counting? “Take me Lord” she would
pray with her toothless mouth that still
loved to sing “Let My People Go” and to
sip homemade hooch.
We done a right good load of hay baling, said
brother Jim, pointing toward yonder fields.
Oughta fetch a pretty penny and we can buy
our ladies some right pretty material for dresses
and bonnets and what not. Easter Sunday’s
on its way, praise the Lord.
Long as you gots enough wood to repair these
rickety steps that leads up to the cabin, says I.
Oh, don’t you worry, Little Miss, we’ve got
plenty of smackers including those wrinkled up bills we save
for when’s we need em.
Plus, says I, my boy Jefferson is going away to
college some day. We all watched Jefferson as
he played with his little plastic trucks in the dirt
zoom zoom – as he crashed them together
We laughed as one, a church-like chorus where
our own Pap was preacher, he done left us long
Jefferson looked our way and smiled that big ole
Mississippi smile of his. He pointed over the
newly greening fields and stood up.
“Mama,” he cried. “There’s my crescent moon.”
My crescent moon, he shouted over and over,
jumping up and down and raising the dust.
“You are right, boy!” I said, coming off the porch
and swooping him up in a hug. “That moon
sure do love you, boy, and so do I!”
TWO: THE KID
No fair, I cried, you’re so tall we don’t have a
chance in hell of scoring against you.
That’s just a damn excuse, he cried as he dribbled
toward the basket, you just don’t know how to play.
There were six of us, Bobby, David, Ronnie, Max,
Danny and Tall Rose. He was a new guy. Me,
I wanted to punch him and say Get the hell
outa here and don’t come back.
“I know what you’re thinking,” he said, his
blackness the color of a worn leather belt.
“Who’s this new guy that’s taking over your
“S’right,” shouted Tall Rose. “It’s our court
and we want you OUT.”
“Tell you what,” he said. “If you give me a
chance, I’ll show you how to play.”
Mumble mumble mumble.
“Deal!” we shouted.
The kid was good. “You’re so good, Billy,”
I said as we rested on the bench, wiping
ourselves with towels, “you could be a
”That’s what I’m hoping,” he said. “That’s
why I’m here every day, shooting hoops
while the rain sullies my beautiful black
“What’s your last name, anyway?” asked Dan.
“Russell,” he said. “Billy Russell. Remember that!”
Tall Rose pointed to the sky.
“Crescent moon right here in the day,” she cried.
“They been seeing that ole moon since forever. Guided
Captain Ahab in Moby Dick. As for me, Call me Billy.
THREE: THE USELESS KINDNESS OF THE MOON
A moonless night, but of course she saw all.
Floating, like a wayward seashell, in the
year of our Lord, 1912. Twas April, when daffodils
bloom, but not on moon.
She watches it all. The chaos, the disbelief, the
orchestra playing on deck, the lifeboats lowered
down down down.
No way could she melt that iceberg, huge as
a floating city, which is what they called the
Moon loved the cold. Her ancient cheeks – she
was already over 4 billion years, but who’s
counting, she laughed – sniffing the freezing
Below, many were in the water. She
watched them struggle in clothes
that puffed up like balloons. Babies,
too. They’d go quickly, like the buzzing
bee who dies after the first bite.
She cast her glance at Father Sun.
Who was bronzing on beaches
far away? She views the moon-colored
sands in Florida, unseen sharks swimming
miles and miles away.
Ruth has a talent for extrapolating the profound from the simple. There is a kind of poetic eloquence in the vernacular that she employs. Truly a profound offering, this.
– Allan M. Heller
P.S. Disclaimer: Ruth is a friend of mine, but this in no way predisposes me to flattery!