A Valentine for Angela (for Angela Davis and George Jackson)


When you see Angela
Give her… this Valentine

Tell her

No code of morals

Or pastoral sermons of redemption

in bastions of struggle

nor private language

Or puritanical divinity

from the tyrannical gatekeepers

of black consciousness

in Baptist Churches

Where the house of God

like the people are falling

and bibles are missing

countenances are broken

and carriages are bent

on Grandfathers

huddled like old horses

in Chapel basements

can keep her locks from draping

my thrilled skin

I felt the linguistics of freedom

without right-wing caveats

and the sophistical footnotes

of kept intellectuals

when Black Power waxed

the center of my tower

and the bottom of your well

farther than this cell

and closer than holding you

in my arms now


I found the status quo

on endless streets with names

and no names

we neglect or accommodate


In a sound dream

on spots

we smother

or straddle

we are a sexual coterie


I wanted to indict you for voluntary servitude

buying part and parcel of our own existence

like exploitation bought and exploitation sold

back to the exploitable…


With a shameless display

of unnecessary needs and haughty miens

napping, unconscious, and folded


Like Black parents

who cannot recognize their children

Hiding inside androgynous clothing

Reciting the lines of criminal poets

perverting language that appeals to them


Black Panthers in proletariat-drag

When Heidegger said

The dreadful has already happened!

Tell her…


is an effete dilettante

living life inside a penthouse

longing to be outside in the cracker box

raping after he was free

Down with the masses!

Up with the bourgeoisie!


came to the Party shouting

“I am a rapist!”

“I [am] a patriarch!”

Power was not concept

abstract or privilege for Eldridge

His last contribution

will be the design

of cock pants

And Bobby

is a politician

with idealistic intentions

running for the Mayor of Oakland

loyal to the Patriarchs

that bound and gagged him

in the courtroom

Elaine Brown

confused pussy with power

will deny

Huey beat her down

and ran her out of town

in her red Mercedes Benz…

Hide your guns from Jonathan

My brother is poised for Fatalism

Suicidal ideations are necessary considerations

when voluntary death is a blow against

excessive regulations

The gun…

is justification

for the enigma

of an absurd existence

when God is dead

like Nietzsche and Sartre said…

and heaven is empty


When you see Angela
Give her… this Valentine

Your status in the ballroom

on that intellectual runway

does not resemble

the place we found

Bring me back from Limbo…

Your breath is shallow

Your pulse is faint

The ring is dark

The tower is steep

The well is deep…

Are you coming too?


I am waiting

in this din

pacing the floor in my 9 x 4

in absolute solitude


you, you, you,



Copyright 2004, 2015 E Maria Shelton Speller.  All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

The Foreword to Insomnia

Like all writers, I rewrite, combine, borrow, loot, recreate, change my own work, and play with metafictional devices and the relationship between what is real and what is imagined.  I combined “TP’s Muse Board” with “The Foreword to Insomnia.”  Perhaps it will be a triptych, or perhaps three panels of an octaptych,  a short story, novella, or perhaps a novel.  It’s a WIP.

The Foreword to Insomnia


“All our crimes are the crimes of a phantom:  God.”  Octavio Paz



Is the girl necessary?  Can you abandon her?  Yes and no.    She’s the curtain-lifter and the scout!  Always.  I cannot forget her.  I was there, talking to myself, as if I were someone else.  Like now.

She’s as necessary as the galoshes on her feet, paused in a puddle, with her binary reflection obscured by polka-dots, vector and speckled umbrellas billowing from ordinary windows like parachutes, or the multi-colored aureoles in the virtual vertigo — of an art installation.

She is as necessary as umbrellas on a rainy afternoon under golden arches and digital displays of saucer eyed anime faces in Tokyo during rush-hours, or the dark city around the corner with a hole in the ground — over rainy subway stairs she lost a galosh on.


When she was nine, and her sister seven, they shared a bedroom in the attic of an old Victorian house, in New England.  They loved that pink triangular room, and the imaginary line that equally divided that sanctum, and it was not lost on them, that they were far removed from their extended paternal family, parents and the Irish triplets who shared a room of their own — downstairs.

It was not just the physical detachment, but on the heels of “making believe,” they began to transport each other to fictional realities at bedtime that began with a question, followed by an answer and finally a bidding, “What are you doing?”  “I’m thinking.”  “What are you thinking about?”

Her stories would often begin with something truly extraordinary.  Diana Ross had ten kids in 1964!  She was twenty years old and married to Jorge — the Ebony Fashion Fair model who was the most beautiful man she had ever seen, and one of Diana’s children was her fourth grade classmate — a Puerto Rican named, Sorah Sanchez.  He told his classmates to call him Willie.  He was so cute!

Theirs was the perfect family!  Jorge wore gray suede shoes and cardigans advertised in Jet and Ebony magazines, and the children wore clothing from Alden and Spiegel catalogs!   Images were accessible and appropriated. The stories epic and uninterrupted — unless clarification was necessary, like “What time do the kids have to go to bed?”

She loved The Supremes!  In the Sixties, Diana Ross was a delicate and beautiful remix, of freedom from ugly restraint.   She could scan a page for “Diana Ross” and find her like code.  Ditty Bop!  She could imitate her voice, her tone, inflection, her vibrato, choreography and her mannerisms!

In the Summer of 1965, she sang A cappella, “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Stop in the Name of Love,” and “Come See About Me,” on a makeshift stage in her back yard, and became an accidental star with a teenaged fan base; but, she just wanted to be left alone to adore Diana Ross — the beautiful one!  Those oral narratives in the dark — were contiguous, on a continuum, interconnected — in medias res.


At seventeen she hadn’t seen her Father in four or five years.  Her mother and six children took the last bus to a safe haven twelve hundred miles from Boston.  But, when father walked into her home, the house her mother managed to “negotiate” by “befriending” the most unattractive man she had ever seen… and barely past the threshold, he said, “I know, I know, I know, and I know.”

It was the most honest response she’d ever heard.  It made sense.  No apologies.  No explanations.  What else could he say?  Last year, she wondered why she and her sister screamed their hearts out of their mouths, eyes, and ears crouched in a closet — as if screaming would make a difference — as if screams would stop unmeasured and random assaults on her Mother in a Commonwealth where the Rule of Thumb allowed husbands to beat their wives as long as the stick was no thicker than his thumb!

In that house, little girls might not stop screams with their own.  Who could scream the loudest?  Who could silence the noise?  Eventually, she realized the house was on Rockledge Street before pre-K, so they were one and three, or two and four years old, perhaps.  In a one mile radius, the same thing happened on Cedar and Alpine Streets. On Hartford Street, her Father cut her Mother up with a meat cleaver.

She can still summon the smell of Sugar Smacks decayed and stinking in bowls of spoiled milk abandoned on the kitchen table like so much blood and flesh on the floors, doors, the papered walls, and ceiling where on her Sister’s 9th birthday, “the accident” happened.

The blood of donors rushed from other jurisdictions, the white sheet that hid her mother’s head from her children, the paddy wagon where her mother was slung like a criminal, the crowd outside the window oohing and awing, jeering, and cheering her Father, who changed into a brown silk leisure suit, brown suede shoes, cocked a fedora on his head and walked tall, proud, and un-cuffed to the Police car.  The footnote in the Boston Globe, “Negro Man Attacks Wife with Meat Cleaver.”  The rise and fall of orphan’s tears, swollen eyes, praying hands and bargains with God in zombie disbelief.

But, I don’t feel sorry for that little girl.  Tall and proud.  She could have been a psycho killer — and I would be her muse, a tiny detail, a paper doll from an Alden’s catalog — paused in a puddle for the amusement of children.


I am the one who cannot sleep.  Aside from occasional drifts from the pollen consumption of moths, to the dignity of a ski-lift nose…


Copyright 2004, 2013 E Maria Shelton Speller. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.


The Foreword to Insomnia’s Istanbul (The Voice of an Unreliable Narrator, in Medias Res)

Now and then, I am restless….

When I dropped them at the restaurant, Simon asked me to join them for lunch. I parked the dolmus near the Sirkeci Railway.  Potential fares watched me curiously. I felt compelled to announce that it was time for lunch.

“Ogle yemegi.”  is what I said to them, and not sesame-sprinkled bread either — to myself!

I couldn’t walk fast enough to get away from the stink of the smelted metal, and I find the putrid aroma of leather nauseating. What you smell on Galata Bridge depends on where you stand.  Looking over at the fishermen bobbing on the ‘horn’ next to the bridge, but still managing to grill a pan-full of mackerel, I almost walked over and bought a snack from my brethren.

When I arrived, Simon and the woman were drinking Tuborg bira. I don’t know what inspired her, but she was wearing the hood on her caftan.  My friend, Ishmir, served us.  He handed me the menu, but he was very good.  Ishmir stood directly across from her and suggested we start with hor d ‘Oeuvres.

They ordered Red Caviar in Mayonnaise.  I ordered Stuffed Vine Leaves. Of course, Ishmir suggested fish, and she ordered Roe. I ordered Anchovy. But Simon ordered Roast Lamb with onions, Yuk!  Ishmir smiled a lot, but he was a cad, a supreme waiter and a notorious rogue.

For vegetables, she ordered Spinach Tomato. Simon ordered Squash Potatoes, and I ordered cabbage.  They wanted Strawberries for fruit, and I ordered Figs.  For dessert, she ordered Yogurt and Egg Pudding.  Simon, a Lady’s Navel, a donut soaked in honey — and me Rice Pudding.

Then we had vodka.  She tipped the glass as if it were empty like her vanity.  Simon told Ishmir to give it some color. So, Ishmir put a peach on the rim. Suddenly everything was right. She rested her elbow on the table, her chin in the palm of her hand, cradling the vodka in the other, and started at the “bottom” of her wish list.

“I want to go to Topkapi Palace.”

Simon smiled the way a jinni would when “his” wish comes true. “What do you expect to find there?”

“The shadow of God — I don’t know.  I just want to go.”  She dropped her eyes, and then raised them again.

Simon said, “You want to see the shadow of God?  Perhaps we should go to the Sancta Sophia instead, but of course we can go to the Imperial Harem in Topkapi and feel the shadow of black emasculated men who controlled the Harem — eunuchs who resembled modern day pimps without penises. Or the captured, bought or sold foreign and often Christian concubines whose body hair is removed, and then pomaded with henna to prevent perspiration, after it is massaged and scrubbed by slave women (too old to be favored), because the Sultan put his handkerchief on the concubine’s shoulder that she brings to his bed at midnight.”

He leaned into a whisper, “A world of bored lesbians or platonic affairs with castrated page-boys.  And afterwards, we could dive the Bosphorus,” He pointed toward Asia. “In search of those weighted sacks that Sultan Ibrahim had 280 concubines sewn in.  They’ll be upright and easy to find at the bottom of the channel.”

“You know…” she lowered the hand that held her chin, on the table and dug her nails in the palm of her hand.  She sipped her vodka before she continued with, “A goalkeeper can catch ‘and’ throw the ball.”

He didn’t return her volley.  He reached in his pocket for cigarettes.

“Meaning?”  He offered her one, but her eyes faded and she shook her head, balancing the rim of the glass on her tongue.  She sipped her vodka again.  When she spoke, her blue eyes were flambé.

“You can relate the melodrama of emasculated slave drivers; expose the gauze of white bondage in a pleasure dome.  You can casually lean into homophobia and then sink into regret.  You hear voices from the bottom of the channel and you can suggest that we dive like dreadful Arabs; but you don’t mention that in this center of civilization, this threshold of bliss, the arched eyebrows of ravaging old men think it is right and necessary to punish one man for his impudence with the lives of a thousand boys, and a thousand girls, a thousand mothers, and a thousand fathers.”

When she said “a thousand,” her eyes closed, and her lips barely moved.  I could hear her heart weep.  She leaned across the table into prose.

“Muslims never mention a time when neglected and lascivious Turkish women stole around looking for new loves, shrouded in these habiliments — now celebrated as some sort of Islamic affirmation.”

She snatched the hood from her head.  “Whores, whose husbands dreamed about the Imperial Harem, and could never recognize their disguised wives in this garden of paradise.”

I pursed my cigarette between my lips, looked across the Horn at the Galata Tower, and thought, “Please!  Fuck her in the ass!”

Simon’s bottom lip collapsed between his teeth, and when he released it to speak, they left a white impression.  His head moved like the pugilist you shadow box, the prize, the peacock that halts to seduce you.

“Is my nose bleeding, goalkeeper?”

Her hands moved across the table for his.  She took his hand in hers tenderly.  She spread his fingers, and stroked the back of his hand with hers, and turned his palm over and held it up as if light would pass through it like alabaster, and she talked into it, as if words would penetrate like sound.

She said, “I saw a man in Seoul once.  It was a gray day.  My girlfriend and I had just hailed a taxi.  He was with business associates, I guess, I don’t know.  They carried armored briefcases and he was wearing a plush black topcoat.  A town car pulled in front of his party when his eyes, the color of the day, watched me, watching him.  It was a magnetic moment, with magnetic potential, but I felt my body moving like Niagara toward the opened door of the taxi, and fall inside reluctantly.  I left a phantom standing.”

His bottom lip grew accustomed to his teeth again.  He tilted his head far enough to see his reflection in her eyes, and her hands disappeared between his.  White horses straddled the hull, and Ishmir smiled at me, when a glass of tea shifted on his tray.

I followed them through the Gate of the Majestic One, even though I’d been there before.  They were easy to trail.  After we paid half price for nylons from a street vendor, Simon bought some French vanilla because she liked the decanter.  It resembled a flask.  But French vanilla didn’t mix with a miasma of death:  the dark tiny cells, marbled rooms and iron barred windows of black eunuchs, and the eerie and evil battle-axes and scimitars of the conquered.  Or, the surrealism of giant emeralds on the crown of the Topkapi Dagger like a roman candle — carried through the Gate of Felicity by Madonna.

In spite of all that, and the barbaric flower patterns on the walls, and so much gold and diamonds they resembled copper and glass, I smelled French vanilla in this stained-glass heaven, and heard tocks in a room full of clocks like waterfalls, but what I wanted most of all, was to see his cock between her thighs.

Beneath delicate balconies, 300 tiny rooms and 400 years of a ravaged Harem bridged by staircases, little courtyards, and pavilions; at the end of the cul-de-sac, I saw the lustrous eyes of the gazelle.  While my thoughts shifted from ugly destruction to whet wildflowers in this horribly airy place, she looked satisfied.  Then the lights went out!

All you could hear was the hushed noise of silence.  The familiar yelps of babies paused for the unfamiliar, but the proverbial blackout would arouse the dead before they wiped sleep from their eyes, and magnified the click of her heels rising from clay, when I saw her leap in his arms in lackluster headlights, and her bosom brushed his face — infrared in taillights.

Toward my voice of gentle direction, a friendly gauge to the door I opened, in a dark stagger they fell to obscurity, like me.  But, I prefer to be forgotten, and left to eavesdrop on transitory affairs.

They were two people, interacting on each other.  One, to conquer like the Arab in the desert.  The other to submit, like the Turkish nomad.  Unfortunately, it was black in the back of the dolmus, like the city, and I was only privy to the promise of pleasure, the sound of pain, the smell of conduction, and the rhythm of breathing.

Unlike the neighbors next door, who desperately moan for us all, in the back of a dolmus — sex is existentialismIt is earnest copulation, a period of decline in a carriage drawn by a wild-eyed spooked horse — and I hoped she felt the sharp turn, at the corner of the Soup Kitchen of Lady Nilufer, in her throat.

We skipped the Sancta Sophia and the Blue Mosque.  We circled Istanbul University. When I crossed the Galata Bridge and so many pilgrims dancing in the dark, at once the electric power line that lay victim to steel-belted radials in the middle of the street, swung carefully without resistance — to expose the nightclub in the Galata Tower!

I watched them from a bar stool dance the Fandango.  A Jew with a batch of dark curly hair in rings around his head was dented at the crown by a yarmulke.  He ordered double shots of Absolut Vodka with the regularity of a dehydrated Arab and shook his head in time to Ruben Blades’ El Padre Antonio.

Above the lullaby of the synthesizer, the tower buzzed with “muchas gracias” from the last Spanish-speaking Jewish community.  When that same synthesizer switched to hot salsa and the Jews were oddballs again, her body arched, the small of her back in the palms of his hands.  Her hair hung like strings of yellow ribbon suspended from a merry-go-round.  Fixed at the center, she rode the stallion.

Then I felt an annoying finger poke me on the shoulder blade.  Of course when I turned the offender moved to the other side.  I hate that!  It was Ishmir.  Immediately, he excused himself and sardonically asked, “Where is someone who knows English?”

“Affedersiniz, Ingilizee bilen bir kimse merede?”

I swerved round on the stool, and he saw what I saw.  My fare, without trying, drawing attention, like the dominant table in a crowded restaurant.  Without turning away he searched for his stool.  His hand on the seat, he gradually sat down.

“Guzel…”  He called her beautiful before his mouth closed and his eyes narrowed.  I ordered two shots of viski.  I was above lust in a crowd.  Instead, I encouraged the love Simon consumed and Ishmir conserved — like any valid voyeur.

In this motley assembly of American infidels, young Turks, Jews and effendis, he clearly wanted her.  He had no shame.  I watched Ishmir once stand in the center of the howling, his erection discovered, and affectionately held up for ridicule, Ishmir dropped his pants and revealed a deep-rooted trunk. With his back swayed by his fists on his hips he struck a perfect anatomical pose, a picture of pride among men.

Now, he watched her through narrow schizophrenic eyes, with his nose pressed against the windowpane, the man who has nothing, and no one adored her, like the man, Luther Vandross and Martha Wash sung about, and my fare danced.  Kirk Whalum’s sax charmed the snake.  Ishmir wanted to be the one.

Suddenly, he swerved round and watched them in the mirror behind the bar.  He swigged the viski and then he asked in a melodic yet unromantic tone, “Did he nail her?”

“In the back of the dolmus.”


“With an overhand knot around her neck…”

“You always lie!”  He cut me off.

“I’m not interested in your vivid imagination! What did he do, how did he do it?”  he demanded.

“I’m telling you what I know!  If you don’t believe me, ask him!”

“What of her wrists?”

“A surgeon’s knot.”

“Bullshit!  That’s too much kinetic energy.  She would have to be willing!”

“She was.”

“I don’t believe you!  I don’t believe you…”  He repeated, shaking his head and looking in his empty glass on the bar.  I gestured to the bartender for refills.  We were silent.  Ishmir was disappointed.  He swigged the viski again, and slammed the empty glass on the bar.


“Why what?”

“Why was she willing?”

I watched him.  He was a desperate, impatient predator who didn’t know how to take down his prey.

“Isn’t it obvious?”

“Nothing’s obvious,”  he shot back.

“Did she cry out loud?”

“Yes…in ecstasy.”

Ishmir swallowed saliva.  He gestured to the bartender for refills, and looked in the mirror again. They were sitting at a table for two.  Simon’s arm was draped across the back of her chair.  She used his thigh to rest her arm, her hand between his knees, her head on his shoulder. He fed her the olive he fished from her drink, and sucked the salt from her lips.  Ishmir swigged the viski again.

He sat his glass on the bar and with the same hand, he scratched the back of his neck, looked at me, and resolved, “She’s a whore.

They were loaded.  Simon draped his arms around mine and Ishmir’s neck and in an English proclamation offered to buy more to drink, if we answered this riddle.

“What motivates a woman more than love, pride, country, power, glory, or God?”  Our eyes shifted from his to each other’s.  It was a trick question.  I thought of the sphinx for our reward.  Then, in an aria of proper English, Ishmir and I replied, “Man, of course.”

We laughed in perfect harmony.  The truth was never more obvious than the pure expression of vulnerability and betrayal in her eyes; because I thought, I betrayed her confidence.  I snooped.  I peeked.  Yes, I stuck my dick in her pie, and felt a pang of regret.

She resembled an Alsatian bitch with that one three, two four stride, and when we got to the dolmus, she literally crawled inside on all fours.  Ishmir saw the fresh pears before Simon closed the door.

I watched Simon curiously.  Surely he wasn’t finished with her yet!  He wouldn’t send her home in a ‘taxi’…!

“We forgot her caftan.”  He lit a cigarette, cupping the flame from the breeze, as he walked away.

“I’ll do it!”  I thumbed myself repeatedly in the chest I was afraid to be left alone with her.

Ishmir nudged me and showed me his empty hands, and before I could fill them with my fists, he opened the door and filled them with her ass.  Two fresh pears in his hands.  He bit one gently, his tongue cushioned his teeth, his arms embraced them and his face disappeared.

She thought it was Simon.  She moaned when Ishmir’s hands went round and touched the core of her sex.  I knew he’d gone too far when I was erect.  I reached for the scruff of his neck and missed when he fell inside and covered her on the seat.  He started…humping her, like lesbians hump virgin lesbians.  It was fucking coitus!

They were slender bodies of revolution.  Then she screamed like a little girl screams at the sight of an earthworm.When Ishmir backed off, the wet spot clung to his leg.  She bolted out of the dolmus like a Mandrill and clung to him.  She was in a violent rage!  The skin of his face was under her nails.  She was like the sticky pulp of Oedipus hurled in Jocasta’s face.

She slapped him hard, and harder again before Ishmir grabbed her by the neck with one hand, and fenced with the other.  That didn’t work!  He started choking her and pushed her back inside.  They smelled like leather.  I needed to throw up.   Then I realized we were in the leather district of the bridge!

Out of nowhere, while I stood there praying for fresh air and Simon, she stabbed Ishmir repeatedly in the head with the heel of her shoe!  He fell on top of her in a convulsive fit.  Blood pulsed with every spasm, and zigzagged in a darker red all over my velvet roof and all over her yellow hair — dripping red.  I threw up on the curb.

Simon finally, shoved him to the floor and she kept screaming, “He, he, he….” and pointing at the bloody head.  She was hysterical!  Instead of shaking or slapping her, Simon hugged her and smothered her face in the pit of his arm.

“Shh, shh!”  he said anxiously, until she simply trembled violently in his arms, her cries inverted.

“What happened?”  he whispered between clinched teeth.  I hesitated, trying desperately to separate saliva from acid.

“Talk to me, and speak English!”

I pointed at Ishmir’s head, “He violated her…” I choked.

“You ‘watched’ him violate her?”

My hands wouldn’t speak, “I…I…I”  Simon leaned and punched me, fast and hard in the face.  I stumbled, my arms falling on top of the dolmus.  I braced myself against a fall on the curb I threw up on.  I thought he broke my nose.

“You stupid fuck!”  He’s ‘your’ friend, how could you let this happen?”  He pointed his angry finger.

I raised the palms of my hands, fending off his accusations, shaking my head in denial.

“He forgot that she’s an American!”  I pointed at Ishmir.

“And she forgot that she’s in a foreign country!”  I pointed at her.

I tell you all this because I can’t tell anyone else.  You see, I helped them excavate an Ottoman gravestone.  We tied Ishmir supine around it in square nylon knots and threw him in the Golden Horn.  What is life in Istanbul anyway?  A world of felicity — Ishmir is in the other.

I see the French vanilla on the cover of magazines.  She has an odd fixed look in her eyes.  The kind of look every man sees when a woman is between his legs on her knees; because, indeed nothing propels a woman like man, not God, country, or pride.

“Please excuse me.  Ogle yemegi.”

The mackerel has never tasted better.  There must be something in the water.

Copyright 2004, 2013 E Maria Shelton Speller  All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

Istanbul’s Muse Board

Trench People (TP) Muse Board

When I was nine, and my sister seven, we shared a bedroom in the attic of a Victorian house, in New England.  We loved that pink triangular room, and the imaginary line that equally divided her side and mine, and it was not lost on us, that we were far removed from our extended paternal family, our parents, and the Irish triplets who shared a room of their own — downstairs. 

It was not just the physical detachment, but on the heels of “making believe,” we began to transport each other to fictional realities at bedtime that began with a question, followed by an answer and finally a bidding, “What are you doing?”  “I’m thinking.”  “What are you thinking about?” 

My stories would often begin with something truly extraordinary.  Diana Ross had ten kids in 1964!  She was twenty years old and married to Jorge — the Ebony Fashion Fair model who was the most beautiful man I had ever seen, and one of her children was my fourth grade classmate — a Puerto Rican named, Willie Sanchez.  He told us to call him Willie.  He was so cute!   

Theirs was the perfect family!  Jorge wore gray suede shoes and cardigans advertised in Jet and Ebony magazines, and the children wore clothing from the Alden and Spiegel Catalogs!   Images were accessible and appropriated. The stories epic and uninterrupted — unless clarification was necessary, like “What time do the kids have to go to bed?” 

I loved The Supremes!  In the Sixties, Diana Ross was a delicate and beautiful remix of freedom from ugly restraint.   I could scan a page for her name and find her like code!  Ditty Bop.  I could imitate her voice, her tone, inflection, her vibrato, choreography and her mannerisms! 

In the Summer of 1965, I sang A cappella, “Where Did Our Love Go,” “Stop in the Name of Love,” and “Come See About Me,” on a makeshift stage in our back yard, and became an accidental star with a teenage fan base… but, I just wanted to be left alone to adore her.

Those oral narratives in the dark — were contiguous, on a continuum, interconnected, in medias res. When I think about — Trench People, I wonder what are Angela, Lisa and Nimrod’s musings and who are their muses?  What would they like?  What makes them click?  TP’s Muse board is visible/linked below.  It’s a living, breathing, WIP.  It’s the pink room in the attic all over again!   I wonder how my sister is doing?  I wonder what she’s thinking…




Copyright © 2012, 2013 by Elaine Maria Shelton Speller


Trench People — Once Upon a Time There Were… Master Scene 2

The intent of this installment is to juxtapose art, content, audio, imagery, prose and poetry in an original screenplay, Trench People (TP).  Explode is a product of the antagonist’s art in TP.  TP is the framework for a virtual walk-through art installation like Christo and Jean Claude’s Wrapped Walk Ways or The Umbrellas — a mind-scape if you will.

Data for how many thoughts we have per minute and the speed of thought has not been measured and analyzed, so WYSIWYG — Wordpress is space for ideations.

TP follows the established rules of the industry, and in this space a JUMP CUT may signal a deviation, a temporary change of direction, an aside, a self indulgence, that hopefully holds your attention until the next FADE TO, CUT TO, DISSOLVE TO, or SMASH CUT TO — the antagonist’s art and the protagonist’s idealism.  When I started reading at the Lizard Lounge in Cambridge Massachusetts, I read master scenes as prose and epic poetry.  TP was well received and even requested!

What concerns me is decorum.  I hope my audience is not averse to poetry in medias res…  Once upon a time there were…  Trench People!




(Original Screenplay — a Period piece)



Copyright ©1996, 2015. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

WGA Registration 2005



I.  The Erastes and Erominos (White letters on black background)



They laugh out loud.  Angela throws her head back in FULL-THROATED LAUGHTER and June BANGS the table in approval with her fist.


(out loud)

That was brilliant!



That was careless!  Talk

about artistic irresponsibility!



Oh, come on, Ros!



A warning would have been APPROPRIATE,

instead of SURPRISE — mayhem,

and blaming the white man, again.



It’s not HER fault Preachers,

Politicians, and the gatekeepers

of black consciousness jumped

to conclusions.



What’s with this about-face?



I never said I thought it was

wrong, Ros… YOU did!



who RAISES both brows at Angela and WAVES the subject away.



June leans closer to the BABY-DYKES, specifically Lisa.




One Hundred Nooses was crazy

art!  Was it a political pun

against the pathos of black

art, or a brazen political




who OVERHEARD Rosalind’s opinion and although she is talking to June, she LOOKS at Angela.  She LEANS across the table as far as she can and talks in a curt monotone like Lisa Bonet.




I will not offer an explanation,

which is to say, an apology

for my art.  Not to be understood

or over-stood… Everything IS Political.

Sex is politics.  The day we swam to

the egg or were propelled, by stronger

swimmers behind us, was politics!

Art without politics is passion

without pluck. Sterile like

Impressionism!  An allusion of

The Great Gatsby.  Who… who

dreams in pastels?


Maybe one percent of

the population?


The only way to have dreamed

about, A Sunday Afternoon on

the Island of La Grande Jatte

was to have been there.  Those

were elitist dreams.  The

poor and vulnerable don’t dream

about wearing iced-cream pants!

They dream about, Starry Night,

The Scream.


One Hundred Nooses is a

commentary on truth and

reconciliation.  It’s

an unnecessary postmortem

for a committee that has

not happened.



The GODDESSES are SILENT.  Mardou breaks into a chilly smile.



looking at Lisa.




It’s not who is going to let me,

it’s who is going to stop me.

I thought we plugged the


Let’s channel…


The Subterraneans, tonight.



Lisa’s eyes WIDEN and she feigns IRRITATION.  Soon everyone CHUCKLES.  People sitting around them look in their direction, as if acknowledging that theirs is the dominant table in the room.  Then Mardou watches Lisa REV up again.




It’s Bukowski’s Coffeehouse tonight.

Except, you’re beautiful,


and you’re beautiful… and you’re

beautiful… and we know Bukowski

only trusted the company of

desperate people, with broken minds,

broken ways, and broken teeth.



They AHA in unison.




Fuck levity, then!



Mardou, you want

something, superficial!



looks long at Lisa.



Why? Why are you so…





PULLS the edge of her glass to HER tongue.  In SLOW MOTION, it lands softly.



The tip of her tongue behind the rim of the glass.



Angela is the only MOVEMENT at the table.



who LOOKS at Mardou.



What is satisfied?

Is that like wanting to

be the black girl of Jack

Kerouac’s dreams?  And

precisely when — when he

woke up and was repulsed by

her puffy sleeping lips the

morning after?



feigning boredom.  She looks at the crazy crowd.  Then turns back to what she considered baby-talk.



looking at her friends.







moving her hands as if describing a spiral staircase.




I don’t want to be the

only one laughing tonight.



They BURST out laughing.



They look at each other.



an imposing man, like Ving Rhames’ Marsellus Wallace in Pulp Fiction, owns Pushkin’s Coffeehouse.  He spots Lisa, wearing a long black skirt over those long narrow flats with toes that turn up almost like elf shoes that she often wears, and a cropped black motorcycle jacket with white raised lines and letters of cycle iconography.  He looks SURPRISED because she seldom wears color.  Jimmy gets an ERECTION when he LOOKS at Lisa.  He reaches down to ADJUST the SWELLING under his fly. He waits a minute and then makes his way through the crazy crowd in Lisa’s direction.  He SIDLES beside Lisa — LEANING on the edge of the table with the palms of his hands.


El (Lisa)… How you

doin’, Baby?




What’s up, Jimmy?



I know you’re flowing

tonight, right?!



who looks up at Jimmy, and says nothing.



Don’t look at me like

that!  You read here,

at Pushkin’s first.

I know you’re gonna




All the coffeehouse and cafe

owners say the same thing.

Everybody gave me a break,

but nobody wants to pay me…

You want me to read for free!

Then you get an attitude when

I won’t.  Pay me!  Show your

appreciation.  I’m a working

artist.  A proletariat!



OK, OK.  How much you





Jimmy, you know how much

I charge… I’m sick of

having to give the same

speech every time I want

a cup of coffee.



In Fifteen?



Let’s do it now!



rising from the table focused on space.  Her entourage ceases to exist. SLOWLY PAN the CRAZY CROWD.



Ladies and Gentlemen, Pushkin

is proud to present, our very

own, El Cherry… Snap!



Lisa and her P.O.V. is filmed in black and white.  People step aside at the last minute, greeting her on her way through, while snapping their fingers.


On stage, you cannot HEAR her FOOTSTEPS.  The toes of her shoes SWISH the air.  At the microphone she STANDS straight almost in a NAPOLEONIC pose.  The room is QUIET.  She launches into “One Single Act of Love.”



(curt, ferocious monotone)

I sold a rock opus to the best

Black rock band on the planet.

A band that lost its capacity

to dream.  Formulaic guarantees

skewed their imagination for plati-

num discs.  The male coward covered

their lifework, literally.

My story reminded them of what

‘rushing’ felt like, how complete,

how deep blushing could be obvious.

And they bought it, and produced it.

And it was good — it was better

than good.  It was thought provoking

and it was an African-American affir-

mation of our realities and our

fantasies no matter how unrealistic.

Suddenly, they were very significant

and the world truly believed that

rock music is black music and black

music is everything.  Power is

aesthetic.  Aesthetics is politics

and being black is philosophical

and our philosophy is phenomenology

and being black, is being real…


The uninitiated FIDGET, while obvious followers recite some of the passages like Allen Ginsberg’s audience did when he recited, Howl in the Sixties. Lisa does not raise her voice.


shoving her hands deep in shallow pockets.


(less ferocity)

No Hip Hop could say as much as

this rock opus did, ever–no matter

how many stories they sampled.

So, this black rock band were

crowned kings and were exulted,

and revered, incandescent icons,

the envy of friends, the

consumption of man, the image

of immortality like the stained-

glass heaven you summon before

you close…  And they loved me…

I was the wick in their candle-

stick and without me there was

no burning flame.  I was the

source of their energy.  I was

the unstained virgin encamped…



leaning closer to the microphone.




When we huddled over a page it was

a psychological bristling, a patho-

logical fear, a sexual entreaty.

I wanted them, and they wanted

me.  So when opportunity knocked,

I told them so.  Sooner than anyone

imagined, there was nothing more

important, than our collaboration.

The media was our medium. They

stopped referring to me as a writer,

and started calling me a Love Supreme.

Annie Leibovitz wanted to take our

pictures–together. But, there was

something unnatural about the photo

session.  Instinct was lacking.

There was a tame and conspicuous

outsider on camp.  After taking

off too many shades, we asked

Annie to come back tomorrow and

blamed our ubiquitous danger on

some tribal angst about picture

taking and soul stealing…

When she was gone, I suggested

that they fuck me…



Her eyelashes flutter.



Angela’s lips, opening slowly.



who at this moment, personifies the rebirth of COOL.




Not unlike the man in the movie

and the dancing whore…  My

honest response to the love

between us left them exposed.

So exposed, their breath rushed

past their lips in staccato

proportions.  Although they all

did, the one that really cared

about me began to pace the room.

His eyes watched how his feet

travailed.  Another, would have taken me

right then and there had we been

alone–he would have used his

shoestrings and tied my thumbs

behind me if that were all he

had.  But he was not the only

one I wanted, so he waited

anxiously.  Another, had the

strange and curious stare of an

intellectual trying to figure me

out.  And the other, simply smiled

at me from some private place, now

public, and I knew he would hurt me…

deliberately. The intellectual asked

me if I really thought it would make

a difference, and I couldn’t help

watching him as if he were some…

clear liquid.  How could it not

make a difference?  The pacer turned

and admitted he cared and said he

could not and would not participate;

furthermore, he did not think it

should happen.  The anxious one

stood and started barking at him.

If I moved in any direction, it

would be provocation for premature

ejaculation and the anxious one,

while still barking would be the

first to straddle me…



A man in the audience barks.  Another howls.  Women smile to themselves.






She raises her voice.




If I raised my hand or my voice,

they would think I might change

my mind.  Trapped, I sat there

watching this frenzy I’d started.

The air grew hot but I did manage

to express, “All or no one.”  They

turned to look at the one who cared.

He looked at me, and I decided

that he would be the one that

would hurt me… deliberately.

And because he cared, because

he was the one holding back,

he would have to be the first.

He would have to get his reser-

vations out of the way so that

they could proceed.   “It’s on you

man.”  Said the intellectual and

then I decided the intellectual

would be the last one.  Was I

afraid? I was practically trem-

bling on that single futon.  My

laptop at the head of the bed

would have to be moved–gingerly.

The point was, I slept with my

work, I ate with my work and now

I’d fuck my work–but we would

never tell Annie the latter.

“What the fuck is the matter with

you?”  The one who cared blasted

at me.  Oh, I thought, he would

fuck me angrily–he would punish

me this way…



closing her eyes.



whose nostrils FLARE slightly.




All I had to say was something

stupid like, ‘What the fuck is

the matter with you?’  Then,

giving him an excuse to fuck

me to death like June Jordan’s

“…unidentified victim of her

own neglect…” gang-raped on

a Brooklyn rooftop and thrown

to her death, screaming  but




RAISING her voice for what is clearly her favorite passage.




Conscious decisions are all that

I can respect.  Don’t cling to

insanity, or criminal passion,

or peer pressure, or social

expectations.  Don’t talk to me

about losing control–momentarily.

Or, the poverty and violence of

pain heaped upon more pain

because you’re black.   This is not

a gang-rape.  This is not dionysia

all over again, where women

and children are sacrificed, and

blood is beer.  If I change my

language, the outcome will still

be the same.  And, if I am woman

enough to resist surrender, are

you man enough to know the

difference, between love

and violence–without conditions…



He dispatches a NEAT Remy Martin to her table.


LISA (O.S.)  (continuing)

“You want her don’t you?”  Somebody

said.   Then he asked me a private

question, not at all furtively,

“Why?”  I dropped my eyes and then

I looked askance at the one who

cared and said,  “My fascination

with poetic themes is like–a

serenade already in progress…

isn’t this poetry, in effect?”



PAN the Crazy Crowd — spellbound.




He kneeled at the foot of the bed

and that was their cue, but I was

not ready and he knew it–but what

the hell!  The love between us

was trapped between power and lust.

His hand covered my neck like a

bridge over a dam I could not escape.

The intellectual secured my wrists

exactly the way I described in my

dreams.  I whispered to the one

who cared… that while I waxed

my dream before it faded–

I knew he would halt before he

turned the page.  Like the man

in my dreams, he was too big for

me, but he did not hurt me delib-

erately.  Under violent power

strokes, I broke under him in a

cadence I could not count in a race

out of water.  A rhapsody played in

fusion.  The anxious one ejaculated

too soon, and the one that smiled

from some private place took me

to the basement in some tenement

and hurt me deliberately, pushing

in unyielding directions.  So, I

screamed finally and the one who

cared pulled him off me and he

came all over my thighs.  That is

what he wanted, to be restrained

by somebody, anybody because he

was an animal after-all.  The

intellectual rocked me gently

to peace, licked the tears from

my ears and my face.  When it

was over, the one who cared untied

my arms that felt like ribbons

draped over my shoulders.  He was

the only heat for my cold tremble,

my soul stirring complete.  In one

single act of love we were bound

together and in unison they

screamed to the stained virgin…

you’re mine!   It was…SURREAL.



The crazy CROWD and her entourage give her a MUCH LOVE.



PIVOTS like a feline to leave the stage.  APPLAUSE lasts until she is well seated.  She reaches for the drink Jimmy sent to the table.  Mardou and Toni HUDDLE with LISA.