becky – (en)

BECKY_Dugutigui
Becky was the white woman who had two Negro sons. She’s dead; they’re gone away. The pines whisper to Jesus. The Bible flaps its leaves with an aimless rustle on her mound.
Becky had one Negro son. Who gave it to her? Damn buck nigger, said the white folks’ mouths. She wouldn’t tell. Common, God-forsaken, insane white shameless wench, said the white folks’ mouths. Her eyes were sunken, her neck stringy, her breasts fallen, till then. Taking their words, they filled her, like a bubble rising – then she broke. Mouth setting in a twist that held her eyes, harsh, vacant, staring. . . Who gave it to her? Low-down nigger with no self-respect, said the black folks’ muths. White folks and black folks built her cabin, fed her and her growing baby, prayed secretly to God who’d put His cross upon her and cast her out.
When the first was born, the white folks said they’d have no more to do with her. And black folks, they too joined hands to cast her out. . . The pines whispered to Jesus. . The railroad boss said not to say he said it, but she could live, if she wanted to, on the narrow strip of land between the railroad and the road. John Stone, who owned the lumber and the bricks, would have shot the man who told he gave the stuff to Lonnie Deacon, who stole out there at the night and built the cabin. A single room held down to earth. . . O fly away to Jesus . . . by a leaning chimney. . .
BECKY_0_Dugutigui
Six trains each day rumbled past and shook the ground under her cabin. Fords, and horse- and mule-drawn buggies went back and forth along the road. No one ever saw her. Trainmen, and passengers who’d heard about her, threw out papers and food. Threw out little crumpled slips of papers scribbled with prayers, as they passed her eye-shaped piece of sandy ground. Ground islandized between the road and the railroad track. Pushed up where a blue-sheen God with listless eyes could look at it. Folks from the town took turns, unknown, of course, to each other, in bringing corn and meat and sweet potatoes. Even sometimes snuff. . . P thank y Jesus. . Old David Georgia, grinding cane and boiling syrup, never went her way without some sugar sap. No one ever saw her. The boy grew up and ran around. When he was five years old as folks reckoned it, Hugh Jourdon saw him carrying a baby. “Becky has another son,” was what the whole town knew. But nothing was said, for the part of man that says things to the likes of that had told itself that if there was a Becky, that Becky now was dead.
The two boys grew. Sullen and cunning. . . O pines, whisper to Jesus; tell Him to come and press sweet Jesus-lips against their lips and eyes. . . It seemed as though with those two big fellows there, there could be no room for Becky. The part that prayed wondered if perhaps she’d really died, and they has buried her. No one dared ask. They’d beat and cut a man who meant nothing at all in mentioning that they lived along the road. White or colored? No one knew, and least of all themselves. They drifted around from job to job. We, who had cast out their mother because of them, could we take them in? They answered black and white folks by shooting up two men and leaving town. “Goddam the white folks; goddam the niggers,” they’d shouted as they left town. Becky? Smoke curled up from her chimney. Nobody noticed it. A creepy feeling came over all who saw that thin wraith of smoke and felt the trembling of the ground. Folks began to take her food again. They quit it soon because they had a fear. Becky if dead might be a haint, and if alive – it took some nerve even to mention it. . . O pines, whisper to Jesus. . .
It was Sunday. Our congregation had been visiting at Pulverton, and were coming home. There was no wind. The autumn sun, the bell from Ebenezer Church, listless and heavy. Even the pines were stale, slicky, like the smell of food that makes you sick. Before we turned the bend of the road that would show us the Becky cabin, the horses stopped stock-still, pushed back their ears, and nervously whinnied. We urged, then whipped them on. Quarter of a mile away thin smoke curled up from the leaning chimney. . . O pines, whisper to Jesus. . . Goose-flesh came on my skin though there was neither chill nor wind. Eyes left their sockets for the cabin. Ears burned and throbbed. Uncanny eclipse! fear closed my mind. We were just about to pass. . . Pines shout to Jesus! . . the ground trembled as a ghost train rumbled by. The chimney fell into the cabin. Its thud was a hollow report, ages having passed since it went off. Barlo and I were pulled out of our seats, dragged to the door that had swung open. Through the dust we saw the bricks in a mound upon the floor. Becky, if she was there lay under them. I thought I heard a groan. Barlo, mumbling something, threw his Bible on the pile. (No one has ever touched it.) Somehow we got away. My buggy was still on the road. The last thing I remember was whipping old Dan like fury; I remember nothing after that – that is, until I reached town and folks crowded round to get the true word of it.
Becky was the white woman who had two Negro sons. She’s dead; they’re gone away. The pines whisper to Jesus. The Bible flaps its leaves with an aimless rustle on her mound.
.
Becky – By Jean Toomer 

About Dugutigui

In the “Diula” language in Mali, the term « dugutigui » (chief of the village), literally translated, means: «owner of the village»; «dugu» means village and «tigui», owner. Probably the term is the result of the contraction of «dugu kuntigui» (literally: chief of the village).
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2 Responses to becky – (en)

  1. Janni Styles says:

    Well written, thank you for sharing with us.

  2. achilliad says:

    Ya know, I pray that the color of skin is moot here in 2014. This is a nice and not so nice reminder of a (hopefully) by-gone era. Media in the USA perpetuates race-bating and they should cease; Our heavenly Father created all humans as plants and flowers with assorted colors. The human has the biggest brain of all species, yet cannot figure this out?

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