An Opinion on Events at the University of Missouri, by Donal Mahoney

I was born, reared, educated and worked as an editor in Chicago for many years. I now live in St. Louis, Missouri, where work brought me long ago. In retirement, I stay busy writing a little of this and a little of that.

But I am distracted now but not surprised by the racial discord at the University of Missouri, a year or so after the killing of Michael Brown in Ferguson, a suburb of St. Louis. I find racism in St. Louis much different than I remember its counterpart in Chicago. But I am white and still a Chicagoan, albeit an expatriate, and perhaps that skews my thoughts. I like the people of Missouri but I’m not one of them. I lived too long in Chicago that almost as many years in Missouri cannot counteract.

I find that unlike in the Chicago I recall, where racism was often loud and abrasive, racism in St. Louis has until recently seemed largely silent.

But as an outsider I find racism in St. Louis is part of many white folks’ emotional DNA while perhaps it is not in Chicago, at least to the same degree. I can’t speak, of course, for blacks in either state except to note the obvious. Until recently blacks in Chicago addressed issues more forcefully than in St. Louis. And then came the killing of Michael Brown.

Missouri was and is still considered by some to be a Southern state. Not so Illinois. Nevertheless, I have found that many whites in Chicago and in St. Louis respond to blacks negatively but for different reasons.

In Chicago, blacks moving into a white neighborhood meant property values would drop, a happening anathema to white property owners and to be avoided if at all possible. Blacks were also considered to be bearers of crime, doubtless due in part to the poverty they lived with then and many still live with now. To what degree the lack of opportunity caused by racism in whites is a contributing factor is difficult to calculate but impossible to deny.

In Chicago, I found that not many whites, myself included, knew any blacks well. As a teen I almost got to know one black man while I was working at a summer job in a soft drink factory. He was an older man who worked the day his son was executed by the state later in the night. He never said a word during his shift. A white supervisor told me about the impending execution the way a good reporter might, sans any emotion.
The black worker looked no different that day doing his repetitive job than he did any other day, putting empty soda bottles into holes in a conveyor belt so they could be washed and sterilized. Except for two breaks and lunch, he could not stop inserting the bottles. If he stopped, the conveyor belt would stop. He used both hands to stuff the bottles in the holes as the machine clanged on, the conveyor belt rising and disappearing into the steam of the soapy boiling water. It was like watching a dwarf stand in front of Niagara Falls running in reverse.

In my time in Missouri, I have lived in St. Louis and in a rural part of the state. I have found whites and blacks may know each other better in St. Louis than in Chicago even if they do not like each other any better.

In the past, rural whites and blacks in Missouri lived in fairly close proximity as blacks often worked for whites on their farms. Perhaps from their rural ancestors, urban blacks and whites in St. Louis bring with them attitudes and opinions about each other that have not been driven off despite the different kind of life many of them now lead in an urban area.

After three decades in Missouri, following four in Chicago, I am still surprised that blacks have not rioted in St. Louis long before now, not that whites in St. Louis have given them greater cause to do so than whites may have done in the Chicago I knew.

But the lethal silence of racism in Missouri that I sense must have aggravated and now continues to aggravate problems over three or four generations. As a social illness, I find this silent racism not unlike AIDS in that until it begins to show, one doesn’t know if someone else, white or black, is a carrier.

When I first emigrated from Chicago, I told my wife, a University of Missouri Journalism School grad with four books in print, that I thought St. Louis was another Watts in gestation, that some day the lid would blow, and the destruction, seen and unseen, would be incalculable. It hasn’t blown yet but there are days I think I hear the water boiling.

The day Michael Brown died was one of those days. The day the president of the University of Missouri resigned in the face of black protests was another. I have to wonder if there isn’t among blacks protesting at the University of Missouri some subliminal connection to what happened in Ferguson. I also have to wonder if the roar of the black students now isn’t louder as a result of what happened in Ferguson. Is it all part of the new continuum called Black Lives Matter?

Despite local, national and international coverage that might lead some to a different opinion, Michael Brown was no angel nor was Darren Wilson, the white cop who shot him. One was a young black man and the other a young white cop raised in the simmering silent racism that I, as an outsider, believe is pandemic in St. Louis and parts of rural Missouri.

I realize that many natives of the state will resent and dissent from this opinion. I disagree with them but understand they have a different emotional DNA than I do. I’m not saying mine is better. It’s just different. Growing up in Chicago I learned to yell in the face of any kind of oppression, real or imagined. Black folks there did so as well. Not so in St. Louis, until recently.

I don’t believe racism over time will evaporate in Chicago, St. Louis or other parts of the United States. The Pulitzer-prize-winning black poet Gwendolyn Brooks, back in Chicago in the Fifties, wrote something to the effect that racism in America will disappear when we are all “tea-colored.”

From my experience over many years in both cities, I see no reason at the moment to disagree with Gwendolyn Brooks. But as do others on both sides, I have hope. Hope is the advent of progress. We need more hope fueling our actions and less gnashing of teeth.

 

~~~

 

Donal Mahoney, a native of Chicago, lives in St. Louis, Missouri. His fiction and poetry have appeared in various publications, including The Wisconsin Review, The Kansas Quarterly, The South Carolina Review, The Christian Science Monitor, The Chicago Tribune and  Commonweal.  Some of his work can be found at http://eyeonlifemag.com/the-poetry-locksmith/donal-mahoney-poet.html#sthash.OSYzpgmQ.dpbs=

2 POEMS by Christopher P. Mooney

L’ amour fou
– after Ted Hughes’ Lovesong

There was a love between them

He ate only her kisses, and could never be slaked
She clawed at him, gnashed her teeth at him
suffused her mouth and fed her soul with him

He wanted to fill her belly

Time stood perfectly still, for them,
with no meaning to their pasts and no hurry toward a future
The moment was enough

The universe itself dared not disturb them

She held him near, tendons taut,
with smiles words laughs
looks whispers caresses
He, a lover ensnared, needed not resist
and did not

The grunts through clenched teeth
were given, not taken,
as their skin cleaved together
in a bucking embrace

Dawn’s mist found them there
one indistinguishable from the other

WAR
– after Ted Hughes’ Crow’s Account of the Battle

It was a cataclysmic encounter
to rival the prophesised end of days.
The noise almost deafening;
from rallying cries to shouts of pain,
the clash of weapons
to the sound of booted feet on dry ground
and wails swallowed up in the gloom.

Tendons twitched on triggers,
doing as they were told.
Bullets ripped through sons’ flesh, their bones,
and lodged in husbands’ guts, brothers’ hearts and throats,
as the living looked on with disbelieving eyes
at the infernal carnage of a world gone wrong.

Grown men, strong men,
lay dying in the dark,
drowning in piss,
choking on blood and vomit
and on the memories of broken dreams
left unfulfilled;
deathly footprints the only reminder
that they had been real.

The stars burst out of their sockets
and the moon dripped red with blood
in a sky of hard mourning
above mankind’s hollow dust.

~~~

Christopher P. Mooney was born and brought up in Glasgow, Scotland, and currently lives near London, England. He has worked as a supermarket cashier, a shelf stacker, a barman, a cinema usher, a carpet-fitter’s labourer and a foreign-language assistant. He is now a professional teacher of French and English and an amateur writer of crime and horror fiction. His stories have been accepted for publication in print, online and on Kindle by Crooked Holster, Spelk Fiction, Dead Guns Press, Devolution Z, Out of the Gutter and Yellow Mama.

THUNDERSTRUCK, fiction by A.L Erwin

Dead and nameless. Manny Raven wanted it by the end of the day. A marinated meat paste of fissured bullshit. Pounded. Beaten. And felled. All of it crumpled in a pile at his feet.

Fucking Manny Raven.

Fucking steel-toe-boot-wearing-chop-house-riding-big-bitch-loving-craziest-motherfucker to ride the Homestead line there ever lived. Sort not even Gawd found room in his heart to love and the kind that woulda ripped the four inch thick metal chain from off his hips and pummeled Him down if he ever found room in it again.

Drilled a battlefield in the back of a boy outside Fairmont so bad with the tail end of that metal, poor soul’s forced to plug up ‘em holes with a set of tampons outta his sister’s purse so’s he wouldn’t bleed out ‘fore help came. Shit were over a fucking seat. Well. A seat that got bumped. Down at the Poky Dot. Couldn’ta painted a worse setting.

Poor Kid knocked that fiend’s seat after stumbling up from a serving of ‘nanner split french toast, and weren’t no way in hell it ever leant towards purpose, and damn near shoved Manny’s fork that were driving a load of peanut butter pie right through his throat. Kids and families present for the whole thing, for the cracking of that bastard’s ribs on a bright pink dignette chair, for the smack of cheek bone to counter top, to the battered crank ‘em links made as they ripped bunny-baby-red all on that American-sock-hop-clash-of-killer-clown-meets-Cleaver-diner-ruin.

And ya know what, what that crazy motherfucker did after that, what he did after he blistered that boy blue and black and purpled cream—he sat right back down at that low hanging counter, type where a grown man’s knees haunch close-like near his ears, and finished his gawdamn pie. Chewed it down in big savory gulps like there weren’t sprawling swirls of dripped-down-cherry-filling-face-goo slipping off the sides of his pecan packed crust. Right there, while ‘em children and Mommies and Daddies and two barely legal teens clawed close all ‘em kids. How come that spot of strawberry-blast-red came to exist on that bedazzeled-skating-ring carpet.

Tried to cover it. Sure, they did. But ain’t no bit of eraser soap made for washing dirt like that. No amount of scrub and pick and grate with wire mesh brush gonna move the leftovers of a man’s pride. Just shuffled one of ‘em shiny chrome table stands over it. Fixed it up with a set of streamers hanging down from ‘em bright white panels holding back that pink insulation flurry in the roof. Called it the Champ’s table, they did.

I’s there. Remember it like yesterday. Like the grease from the flattop’s still wafting burnt in my nose. Like I’s still walking from that back pickup window where I stared at ‘em girls as they carried trashcans full of food to all ‘em screaming, swarming, kids. Froze. By the soda machine. My hat on. My black shirt that smelled, no matter how many times I threw it in the wash, like french fry oil. Just breathing sweat down my back next to that freezer where scoops of candy coated dreams spoon outta buckets and get piled cloud fluff high by sweet-sixteen hands. Where I liked to smoosh my pants against the cool as the cokes flowing in my BIG Sheetz cup.

There.

Standing with my back to Manny. With my never having ever met nor seen the man with all the bite.

There. Just for a second. Just for a break. ‘Fore I stepped out for a smoke and came back to the same grind.

There. Not knowing venom soon to come from his chest.

Heard the skid of metal. Mistake of body thud bang. The D-Day plow of boots on ground as five-nine frame grew.

Turned.

Saw. For the first time. Saw with eyes wide and gloss gone and life suddenly renewed, a pit of snakes working rattlers up a man’s spine. The strike of candy apple red spreading thin and wide in firework spurt. Curled toe in boot and watched with weight tipped forward and felt—

And felt—

And felt—Shiny. Alive. And new.

~~~

A.L. Erwin writes Southern Pulp. Sometimes she does it well. Mostly, she slings drinks until the day comes that she doesn’t. She is the author of A Ballad Concerning Black Betty or the Retelling of a Man Killer and Her Machete, which is available on Amazon. Her short stories can be found at Cheap Pop and Shotgun Honey. Erwin is currently working on her second novel about some hard fuckers from Eastern Kentucky.

HOW THEY DO IT IN SYRIA TODAY, poetry by Donal Mahoney

First, we place the neck on the block
and put the basket underneath
the head and then make sure the blade
is sharp enough before we ask the person
one more time just to be polite:
Are you sure you’re not one of us?

And if the answer’s no, we
pick up our bullhorn and announce
loud enough for the others
waiting in their orange to hear:
“Going once, going twice.”
Then we pull the rope and

the blade drops and that one’s done.
Then we uncage the next one and tell him
to put the head on a pole and bag the rest
before we position him on the same block
and politely ask him the same question:
Are you sure you’re not one of us?

~~~

Donal Mahoney’s fiction and poetry have appeared in various publications, including Ink Sweat & Tears (England). The Galway Review (Ireland), The Osprey Journal (Wales), Public Republic (Bulgaria), Revival (Ireland), Ancient Heart (Australia) and a wide variety of print and online magazines in the United States. Some of his work can be found at http://eyeonlifemag.com/the-poetry-locksmith/donal-mahoney-poet.html#sthash.OSYzpgmQ.dpbs=.