Academic journal article Journal of Caribbean Literatures

Great Spaces

Academic journal article Journal of Caribbean Literatures

Great Spaces

Article excerpt

On occasion of the 40th anniversary of John F. Kennedy's assassination

Voices drift, flakes of ice, on this wintry November morning and as we take off from the Great Plains, the pain and pride sets in of homesteader memories of churning butter and bullets, quilting blizzards and bison and Jefferson's Lewis and Clark streaming free through unwritten histories and the uncertain beauty of sky wide fields of legendary tracks of land and mountains of dreams and thunders, stars and winds, hay and corn cobs on plates, lampshades, banisters, walls, high ceilings, and even door handles.

Of a 4th generation Nebraskan woman who navigates humbled visitors through a Capitol towering and stretching out its political and legal gothic bones in the sacred mausoleum darkness of a Saturday late afternoon, of Willa Cather and Wild Bill lining up the Italian and Belgian marbled Hall of Fame into a central nave protected by all 8 virtues offering in the transept wings the East and West Chambers and 2 sets of carved doors through which we all have crossed to arrive here and now, but so often, have chosen to forget: Men and Women of Assyria, tamers of wheat and barley, and Native Americans with fellow otter and turtle, sun and moon.

More voices adrift, spirits of past, present and future, of the whispering Kurdish women who clean my hotel room, and the Mexican boy telling his father he is allowed to enter this building, the mulatto poet who was born illegally in MLK and JFK's MS, of the song and dance of Lakotas and Pawnees rising from the frozen ground and of the bearded man, a shark-like reminder at our backs, accusing us of littering his Great Plains perhaps because a friend and I walked Lincoln's ways wondering about a lost ID in Spanish.

I fly out over the Great Lakes and the Boston Harbor and wonder how I will ever explain these Great Spaces to my students whose sun shrivels the cob and blooms the coconut, whose jungle mountains smell of coffee and culantro, tobacco and arroz con pollo, bananas and yautias, and cradle the coqui-coqui, Taino and Arawak chants, booming forth the plena and bomba drum beats, the merengue and salsa all-night hip swings, and who piled up ant-like 3 million and counting strong on a volcanic island barely 100 miles long by 35 wide, face with naive hearts blue waters so often dangerously deep and stormy, deceptively wide, invitingly OPEN. …

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