#ThrowbackThursday Fiction: A Love Affair With Jazz

From an earlier version of Love Poetry, here’s a Throwback snippet that will hopefully jolt me back into writing this novella, so I can finally, finally finish it.

To see how Love Poetry began, read my very first A to Z Challenge here. With the monstrous blog hop not even two weeks away, it feel  fitting to take you back to the beginning… 


A Love Affair With Jazz

Jessica didn’t know much about Eartha Kitt—only that she played Catwoman in the Batman television series and had an affair with Eddie Murphy in Boomerang—but she would’ve done anything to get out of her dismantled apartment. Her grandmother’s shattered china on the kitchen floor. The hole in the wall next to the photo of her mother. The front door, almost completely off its hinges after Whitmore slammed it behind him and kicked it with all his strength before finally leaving.

When Bruce called in the aftermath, Jessica said yes before he could ask the question, and now, as she sat at the table in the dimly lit restaurant, listening to the jazz musicians’ tribute to the late singer, she couldn’t help but feel intoxicated. Transcending the problems of her current relationship, she snapped her fingers, rolled her neck, and let out a deep moan.

“I knew you would like it,” Bruce whispered in her ear. He was suddenly standing behind her, massaging her shoulders. She hadn’t noticed him leave his seat across from her.

“You’re trying to seduce me,” Jessica said. “You know I have a man.”

“A man?” There was a hint of sarcasm in his voice. Jessica tried to laugh, but her weak chuckle pained her side. She knew this blissful moment couldn’t last. Even as she yearned for Bruce to wrap his arms around her and move her body with the soothing notes of the trombone, saxophone, and trumpet in harmony, every other man in the restaurant resembled Whitmore. She felt trapped, the walls closing in, the airways to her lungs blocked.

As if reading her mind, Bruce placed a hand on Jessica’s cheek. He wiped away invisible tears with his thumb. He nuzzled her neck and inhaled her perfume. “Lilacs,” he said smiling.

Jessica pursed her lips. “Dance with me.”

Bruce took her hand and together they glided to the dance floor just below the stage. The music had stopped, replaced with a rhythmic beat on a djembe drum. Jessica lifted the hem of her skirt, bounced and rocked her hips as the woman on stage sang into the microphone deep from the back of her throat.

Come oooonnnn-a my house . . .

Jessica danced and spun and let Bruce take her by the hips and pull her into him, his lips grazing behind her ear. She forgot about Whitmore. His unreasonable demands for affection. The tantrum he threw after she’d declined his third proposal. She threw her head back, wrapped her arms around the back of Bruce’s neck, pulling him closer to her. They danced for what seemed like hours.

The final beat on the drum sounded, and the piano, bass, and horns returned.

Oooooh, John, pleeease don’t kiss me. Ooooh, John, pleeeease . . .

Jessica rubbed her cheek against the coarse stubble on Bruce’s chin.

Oooooh, Bruce,” she echoed. “Pleeease . . .

And he kissed her.

—Nortina

Originally published February 12, 2015

 

Monday’s One-Minute Fiction: Week of February 12

Rise and shine! May I borrow a minute of your morning for a quick flash fiction challenge? How quickly does an idea spark and develop into a story when you only have a picture, a word, or a phrase…and one minute to write?

Monday’s One-Minute Fiction challenges you to write a complete micro-fiction piece in, you guessed it, one minute, no more, no less, based on the prompt provided! Of course, you can come back to edit for grammar & spelling, but the story itself must be written in a minute.

Hello, February! Ah, so many great things happen in February—the Super Bowl, the Winter Olympics, Black History Month, Black Poetry Writing Month…

I’ve been inspired by my Black Poetry Writing Month challenge to give you some BlaPoWriMo-themed prompts for #1MinFiction. Are you ready? Let’s get started.

This week’s BlaPoWriMo theme is the Harlem Renaissance, a time when blacks exploded onto the scene with great literature, art, and music, including jazz. One the main characteristics of jazz music inspired this poem, and it also inspired your prompt for the week…

improv

*Technically speaking, #1MinFiction is already a form of improvisation, so this shouldn’t be hard right?…

Now it’s time for the rules. I don’t have many, because we all know rules are no fun, but here are the basic logistics for each challenge:

  • Write your story in one minute. (Use a stop watch to keep yourself honest. 😉 )
  • Post it to your blog and tag it #1MinFiction.
  • Link it back to this prompt post.

If you’d like to join BlaPoWriMo, click here for challenge details.

I’m partnering with Marquessa at The Next Chapter to bring you #1MinFiction and her challenge, #LyricalFictionFriday. Be sure to stop by her blog this Friday for more fun prompts (and to build an awesome playlist too! 😉 )

Now, let’s get writing, shall we? And…

Ready . . .

Set . . .

Write!

*mammy – a black woman who worked as a nanny/housekeeper for a white family, often nursing the family’s children

#BlaPoWriMo: Thoughts While Listening to X

Tonya wears jeans three days of the week
when only Fridays are reserved for casual
dress, but who’s checking when half the
office works remote; the rest leave before
five, and I stay behind stretched between
miscellaneous requests and thoughts that
I might have worn the same sweater twice
in one week or that my boots squeak when
I walk to the bathroom as the torn hem to
the only business pants I own that don’t
fit me like slacks drags across the carpet.
In front of the mirror, I stand against the
backdrop of four stalls and pick out my
afro that shrank three inches in the dank
atmosphere below the heating & air vent,
and return to my desk, earbuds plugged,
to fill the silence with the soundtracks of
Black Panther and hope the bald white
man in the corner office who frightens
me like a skinhead with a noose doesn’t
hear Kendrick encourage me too loudly,
Fuck the place up.

—Nortina


Poem inspired by the improvisational characteristics of jazz music and the Black Panther soundtrack that just came out today.

Written for Black Poetry Writing Month (BlaPoWriMo). This year, we’re taking a journey through the different eras of black poetry and history. This week’s era is: Harlem Renaissance

K is for Kitt

Originally posted April 13, 2015 for the A to Z Challenge

Bruce arrived a few minutes early. The sound of his knocking rattled against Jessica’s brain. Paranoid that Whitmore might have returned, she drew her knees to her chin and curled into a ball on the couch next to the door, waiting for him to burst in. By the time she mustered enough courage to unlock the door and pull it open, the clock had already struck nine.

“I thought you might’ve changed your mind,” Bruce said. He was wearing a blue cardigan with a dark gray button-up underneath. He ran his fingers through his hair, making it swoop over his face the way it had on their lunch date. He tugged on the bottom of his jacket and coughed into his fist. “I noticed the wood in your door was split down the middle. Almost like someone tried to beat it down. You might wanna—”

He paused when Jessica stepped outside. Her nose was red and her eyes swollen from crying. She still wore her yoga pants and t-shirt from the gym, the collar of her shirt soaked from where she wiped her tears.

“What happened? Was it him?” Bruce asked as if reading her mind. He placed both hands on her checks and brushed away the tears with his thumbs. He pulled her into a hug, resting his chin on top of her head.

“He’s more delusional than I thought,” she cried into his shoulder.

“I’ll take you to a place where you can forget about him,” Bruce said.

eartha

Jessica didn’t know much about Eartha Kitt—only that she had played Catwoman in the Batman television series and had an affair with Eddie Murphy’s character in the film, Boomerang—but as she sat at the table in the dimly lit restaurant, listening to the jazz musicians’ tribute to the late singer, she couldn’t help but feel intoxicated. Transcending the problems of her current relationship, she snapped her fingers, rolled her neck, and let out a deep moan.

“She just makes you want to forget everything around you,” Bruce whispered in her ear. He was suddenly standing behind her, massaging her shoulders.

“Just to live in the moment,” Jessica said. She had forgotten how underdressed she was. All she wanted was for Bruce to wrap his arms around her and move her body with the soothing notes of the trombone, saxophone, and trumpet in harmony.

Bruce leaned in, nuzzled her neck, and inhaled her perfume. “Lilacs, and a hint of must,” he said smiling.

“Shut up and dance with me.”

Bruce took her hand and together they glided to the dance floor just below the stage. The music had stopped, replaced with a rhythmic beat on a djembe drum. Jessica placed her hands on her hips. She bounced and rocked as the woman on stage sang into the microphone deep from the back of her throat.

Come oooonnnn-a my house . . .

Jessica danced and spun and let Bruce take her by the hips and pull her into him, his lips grazing behind her ear. She threw her head back, wrapped her arms around the back of Bruce’s neck, pulling him closer to her.

The final beat on the drum sounded, and the piano, bass, and horns returned.

Oooooh, John, pleeease don’t kiss me. Ooooh, John, pleeeease . . .

Jessica rubbed her cheek against the coarse stubble on Bruce’s chin.

Oooooh, Bruce,” she echoed. “Pleeease . . .

And he kissed her.

—Nortina

Your Love is Like Jazz

Your love is like jazz music,
like the sultry Eartha Kitt
fitted in leather cat suit,
stretched across the piano,
purring into the mic.

Peel back my dress like the
delicate skin of a grape,
off my shoulders, slipping
down my waist and over my
hips; reveal succulent flesh
underneath, supple, ready to
burst under your prodding.

My hips wind against you
like a ticking clock to the
rhythm of your tongue rolling
off the roof of your mouth,
so close behind my ear naked.
Oooh . . . don’t kiss me—
Yes . . . please kiss me—
My neck elongated,
graceful, like a gazelle;
your lips right there.

No—Yes. Make up my mind.
You over him. Whisper me
sweet wine to flood my
trepidation in red. Spontaneity
over consistency. A fluttered
heartbeat bounces to the
spinning trumpet, and
I wanna be evil with you,
I’m sick of being his angel,
I wanna be your devil—
Oooh . . . Bruce—let’s do it.

—Nortina 


So, I think Wednesdays in June will be dedicated to love poetry from Love Poetry, my Camp NaNoWriMo novella I’ll be writing next month! This poem introduces the chapter where Jessica and Bruce reeeally get to know each other… 😉

If you want to learn more about Love Poetry, check out my 2015 A to Z Challenge. Eventually I’ll have all these posts together in one location.

Black Poetry Writing Month: Write a Poem Inspired by Music

Battle Report

One thousand saxophones infiltrate the city.
Each with a man inside,
Hidden in ordinary cases,
Labeled FRAGILE.

A fleet of trumpets drops their hooks,
Inside at the outside.

Ten waves of trombones approach the city
Under blue cover
Of late autumn’s neo-classical clouds.

Five hundred bassmen, all string feet tall,
Beating it back to the bass.

One hundred drummers, each a stick in each hand,
The delicate rumble of pianos, moving in.

The secret agent, an innocent bystander,
Drops a note in the wail box.

Five generals, gathered in the gallery,
Blowing plans.

At last, the secret code is flashed:
Now is the time, now is the time.

Attack: The sound of jazz.

The city falls.

—Bob Kaufman, from Solitudes Crowded with Loneliness (1965)

 

Jazz music is all about improvisation. A band that consists of maybe a saxophonist, a trumpet and trombone player, a bassist, a drummer, a pianist, and lastly, a singer could have an original musical arrangement—either written or learned by ear and memorized—but once it’s time for each musician to perform his or her two minute solo, everything changes. Each performer spins their own little twist to the melody, showing off their musical talents. From the drummer to the saxophonist. Even the singer may do a little bebop. There may even be a call-and-response exchange between the singer and other musicians, a competition of who’s improvisation is the best, until finally they all come back together to close the number, and the audience erupts in applause. Bob Kaufman’s “Battle Report” serves as a metaphor to that element of jazz.

wp-1456153693531.jpg

For today’s BlaPoWriMo prompt, write a poem inspired by a genre of music. It could be jazz, hip hop, country, whatever music you prefer. Incorporate the characteristics of that music genre into your writing—the sound, the rhythm, the style. Make us feel the music in your words.

—Nortina

Black Poetry Writing Month: Write a Poem for the Cool Kids

We Real Cool

THE POOL PLAYERS.
SEVEN AT THE GOLDEN SHOVEL.

We real cool. We
Left school. We

Lurk late. We
Strike straight. We

Sing sin. We
Thin gin. We

Jazz June. We
Die soon.

—Gwendolyn Brooks, from The Bean Eaters (1960)

Continuing with our Gwendolyn Brooks inspiring weekend, we’re looking at her shortest and most popular poem, “We Real Cool.” With very few words, Brooks illustrates an explicit scene in a pool hall where seven presumed young men hangout, playing hooky and “acting grown.”

pool-hall-1091644_960_720

There are many interpretations for this poem; it could about youth rebellion, the speaker’s condemnation and disapproval of the young men’s actions, etc. However, I’d like to think these “pool players” are establishing their identities in an unfriendly world. The repetition of “We” at the end of each line is a declaration that we are here, and we will not be ignored. I don’t see the statement “We real cool” as sarcastic but as a realization that not conforming to society’s expectation for them is ideal; it makes them authentic, “cool.” Even the last line has a positive tone, similar to the YOLO phrase kids chant today. You only live once, so make the best of it and do what makes you happy with no apologies.

For today’s BlaPoWriMo prompt, write a poem for the cool kids. Why is it important for us to listen to them? Using Brooks’ poem as inspiration, paint a scene in very few words that illustrates an group of kids making their mark on the world and establishing their individuality.

—Nortina

Black History Month: Toni Morrison

Firstly, I would like to apologize for my week long hiatus. Now, on to Toni Morrison.

ab-Toni-MorrisonIn my mind, one of the most important contemporary African American writers of today would have to be Toni Morrison. If you’ve yet to read any of her novels, you are both lucky and deprived. I say lucky because you probably aren’t mentally prepared for some of the discomforting subjects you will inevitably be reading. I say deprived because although the novels are typically set in the past and, as a result, may seem implausible, the stories deal with issues we as African Americans have faced in the past and still face today.

Of her ten novels, I’ve read six. My favorite so far is definitely Song of Solomon. My least favorite, A Mercy, however, I feel the reason behind my dislike for A Mercy is that I had to read it for a class and was only given a week to finish it. Now, I don’t care how great or fast a reader you are, no one can read a Toni Morrison novel in a week. Especially if you’re like me, an English major taking four other courses, each with a book and a paper to be completed by the end of the week. Talk about stress! I finished the novel, yes, but I know I missed important details. Toni Morrison has a very poetic writing style. Very sophisticated and complex. It can be a difficult read sometimes. I don’t recommend multitasking. As a writer, I think what frustrated me the most—this frustrated another writer in the class as well—was that she broke so many rules. Changing points of view within a paragraph. Jumping back and forth through time and place without any identifiable transitions. These are things we are told not to do in our fiction writing courses, yet not only did she do them, but she got away with doing them, and they worked in her favor! It made me so mad, but I guess when you’re as accomplished as Toni Morrison is, you can do those kinds of things. Now that I have graduated and am on the job hunt (which means I have A LOT of time on my hands), I can go back and reread A Mercy and her other works, and my opinion of the novels may possibly change.

One of her most notable works is Beloved, for which she won a Pulitzer Price in 1988. Beloved is a fictional story inspired by the fugitive slave, Margaret Garner, who opted to kill her own daughter than to allow her to be taken back into slavery and suffer the abuse that many slaves, especially enslaved women, endured during that time. It’s an heart-wrenching story that explores the lengths a mother would take to protect her children, how those actions affect everyone else around her, and how, over time, it can eat her up. For those of you who have read the novel, you know what I mean when I say, it can literally eat her alive, almost killing her. The epigraph of the book reads: “Sixty Million and more,” dedicated to the Africans and their descendants who lost their lives thanks to the cruelty of the Atlantic slave trade.

Other novels of hers include The Bluest Eye, which tells the story of an eleven-year-old girl who is raped and impregnated by her father. Before you jump to judge, you may find yourself surprisingly developing sympathy for the father of all people! Song of Solomon explores family heritage, the metaphor of flight and transcending one’s problems, and the injustices that the black community faces every day. There was one passage that talked about the science of race that was so ironic, I wished the creators of the white vs. black dichotomy were still alive to see how ignorant they sounded. When I think of the purpose for the Seven Days terrorist group that Guitar was a part of, it makes we want to go down to Florida and shoot up a truck of teenage white boys because of their “loud music” (Not really. Please don’t call the cops. Read the book instead). I can understand why Song of Solomon was banned in some places, but it is still a must read in my opinion. Jazz and Paradise form parts two and three, respectively, of Morrison’s trilogy on African American history which began with Beloved. Jazz, in it’s structure, mirrors the characteristics of jazz music, and Paradise tells the story of the tension between the leaders of the all-black town of Ruby, Oklahoma and outcast women living in a convent seventeen miles way. From the very first sentence, this novel will have you puzzling for days to come, who the hell was the white girl?! I recently found Sula hiding behind Kendall Hart Slater’s (From All My Children . . . don’t ask) novel, CHARM! on my mother’s bookshelf. Sula will be the next Toni Morrison novel on my list to read.

I know that there are many subplots within the main plots of her novels that people may miss after the first read. I know that novels aren’t Morrison’s only contribution to the African American literary canon. If you have read her novels or any of her other works, let me know your opinions of them in the comments below, and as always, Happy Black History Month.