I'm in the school bathroom washing my hands without soap but I'm still washing my hands. I turn the water off and look for a paper towel but paper towels have been gone since the first day of school and it's June now. I start to leave the bathroom with my wet hands but then the big boys come in talking loud and cussing like they rap stars or have new sneakers. I hear the one named Pinto talking about how someone should get Omar after school since he's the only Muslim they know. Pinto talks with an accent like he's new in the neighborhood too. I don't have to ask him what he's talking about since everybody is talking about the Towers and how they ain't there no more. My momma said it's like a woman losing both breasts to cancer and my daddy was talking at the dinner table about how senseless violence is and Mrs. Gardner next door lost two tall boys to drive-bys Bullets flying into both boys heads making them crumble too. Everybody around here is filled with fear and craziness and now Pinto and the big boys thinking about doing something bad. I stare at my wet hands dripping water on my shoes and wonder if I should run and tell Omar or just run. I feel like I'm trapped in the middle of one of those Bible stories but it ain't Sunday. I hear my Momma's voice saying Boy, always remember to wash your hands but always remember you can't wash your hands from everything. Nashville, TN 10/12/01
The Ear is an Organ Made for Love
It was the language that left us first. The Great Migration of words. When people spoke they punched each other in the mouth. There was no vocabulary for love. Women became masculine and could no longer give birth to warmth or a simple caress with their lips. Tongues were overweight from profanity and the taste of nastiness. It settled over cities like fog smothering everything in sight. My ears begged for camouflage and the chance to go to war. Everywhere was the decay of how we sound. Someone said it reminded them of the time Sonny Rollins disappeared. People spread stories of how the air would never be the same or forgive. It was the end of civilization and nowhere could one hear the first notes of A Love Supreme. It was as if John Coltrane had never been born.