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“This is not a story to pass on.” So concludes the freed black community after its brush with the preternatural, as found in Toni Morrison’s Pulitzer Prize winning novel Beloved (1984).

Five years in its composition, the author dives deep for pungent images to express the inexpressible horrors of southern slavery and its afterimage during the Reconstruction, these anecdotes honed from her grandparents’ and parents’ experiences. Through Morrison’s artistry, her characters, no longer silenced, speak.

The setting for this novel is 124 Bluestone Road, on the outskirts of Cincinnati, Ohio. Within this two-story hovel live the protagonist Sethe, her eighteen-year-old Denver, and Beloved, the poltergeist of Sethe’s second daughter. The time is 1873. The narrative follows a circuitous route, with frequent insertions of backstory: Sweet Home, a small plantation in Kentucky where Sethe and five slaves tend the needs of the Garnets, a childless couple; Sethe’s “marriage” to Halle and their begetting four children; schoolteacher’s torture meted out to all the slaves, some escaping, others killed or rendered witless.

At the center of this circuitous route is lodged Sethe’s unspeakable crime that shimmies, beyond all telling. It takes forever to get there: the journey bristles with tension. Indeed, her poetic language crisps the soles of feet, squinches sensibilities, and fuels outrage.

“Love is or it ain’t. Thin love is not love at all,” Sethe tells Paul D, an aging Sweet Home former slave. From her perspective, her crime takes on a different hue—countering Evil and provoking questions that itch, badly, in the night.




It was evening, the auditorium in Knight Hall located on the Washington University of St. Louis campus. The introduction was made. All was ready.

Petite in stature, her wavy hair framing her oval face, Princeton Professor Elaine Pagels shared her research on a millenials-old story—“war literature,” she called it, referring to the Book of Revelation (91 CE). Urgency, tinged with joy, enhanced her speech, evidence of her having been in the fire with the Sacred.

Upon the floor-to-ceiling-wall, behind her, flashed art works from medieval illuminated manuscripts, from woodcuts, from paintings, from sculptures that further enhanced the cataclysmic clash between Michael the Light Bearer and Lucifer the Prince of Darkness and their minions. For continuing evidence of this clash, we only have to look within our psyches and the world around us. Thus, the continuing attraction of this book that so engaged her listeners.



My take-away only surfaced later… War still exists in my body: fifty-seven years of living with rheumatoid arthritis have throttled my spirit, blunted psychic growth, and enervated relationships. Drugs, knee joint surgeries, and fatigue almost devoured me until I took responsibility for my health. Only devotion to the Crucified with bleeding knees has and still sustains me.


It’s about being faithful. There will be a resolution—entrance into the New Jerusalem as narrated in the Book of Revelation.

It was dusk, the corner of South Grand and Juniata Streets in St. Louis, MO. Breezes enhanced our comments while seated at an outdoor table at The LemonGrass, a Vietnamese restaurant, the remains of rice-vegetable-tofu dishes in front of us. Several blocks away a dissonance loomed, its menace penetrating the fabric of civility around us. Something was amiss.

Shouts of some kind echoed down the corridor of tall buildings with storefront businesses. Seconds passed with the shouts becoming more distinct. “No justice! No Peace!” crackled over a bullhorn, followed by the antiphonal response of protesters waving signs and pumping fists. Leading them was a girl wearing a red jacket and sitting in a motorized wheelchair. “No justice! No peace!” crackled again; its voice morphed into a muscled man wearing a cafe-au-lait-colored suit, the bullhorn resting upon his chin. Again came the response, “No justice! No peace!” shouted by the protesters, their numbers flowing into the street. Cars in opposite lanes honked in support.

In seconds, red-blue flashing lights swooped upon the scene. Tensions flared like flotsam upon angry seas. We watched as six unarmed officers, some gripping batons behind their backs, cordoned off the protesters and inched them back toward the sidewalk. Their passion momentarily diffused, they regrouped further down the street. The police cars followed.

In the ensuing lull we reviewed impressions: shock, fear, tolerance stretched to the max, prayer for both sides of the impasse, relief. Someone was listening.





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