The Sky Inside Nina’s Heart

One of the men thanked the crowd for attending the performance and then announced that “We will leave now.” Of Native heritage, the three men beautifully portrayed the Nations through moving, haunting, and memorable melodies. The harmonics delicately although deeply touched the heart, mind and soul. Musically, the histories were spoken through various instruments such as, the whistle, shakers, flutes, and mouth harps accompanied by incredible background music; and then, from time to time, smoky words realized illusions.

With exception to the whistle, which was tin, every instrument consisted of a wooden, or, bone construction. Including one mouth harp, extending the entire body of its performer. Obviously, everyone enjoyed the performances. Powerful.

On that day and in addition to the pleasantry, the wonder, the kinship that I experienced, for, I, in part, am of Native heritage, always, something has lived with me.

A child of about three years old walked over to the group; the men busied by breaking down the equipment. Standing near the performer who thanked the crowd, the girl’s face glowed. “Hello,” she said, looking up at the big man. Turning to see her, “Hello, ‘Little One,’” the big man returning a smile. “I love you,” she said, beaming with a light that almost dulled the sunny day. Greatly pleased and surprised, he said, “You do?” Shaking her head “Yes” the girl walked closer to the man, while reaching out her tiny hand. Accepting the child’s soft, gentle hand, he searched the crowd, asking, “Where are your parents, Little One?”

Slightly turning and pointing, “My Mommy is right there,” she said. Meeting her mother’s glance, the man smiled, rocking his head hello. Mommy returns the gesture. Bending toward the child, the man asked, “And what is your name?” “Nina.”  “Tell me, Nina, what is your favorite thing about outside?” Looking upward, she points, saying, “The sky.” The glow inside Nina’s eyes and the smile on her pretty face increase, and the performer, says, “I am going to write a song that has your name in it, and it will be about all things living inside the sky, OK?” “OK,” she grins.

Mommy at Nina’s side: The man asks, “Mommy, may I contact you whenever the song is ready?” the man asks. Welcoming the consideration, and then smiling while extending her hand, “Thank you; and I am Laura.” Hello, Laura, I am Little Bear.”

Weeks later, as he sits thinking, Nina’s sweet face touches Bear. The grassy hillside feels soft and the man sometimes retires here, overnight. The river rushes with clean, clear water, and from time to time a big one leaps from the water and into the air. The trees seem to whisper old secrets; about lovers, tragedy and dreamers of long ago. Above him: The Sky Mother; watching, protecting and securing all things. Little Bear loves this spot, this place and this town; and he has lived here for his entire life. Both the his promise to and the child stay with Bear and this moment his face fills with light.

Slowly, a melody stirs him and he feels it. All in nature speak to the big man, and of course, inside his heart lives the sky. The melody for this theme is one of great joy; although embraced by a pleasant sadness. A melancholy blend but Bear knows this concoction well, too well. This type of melody mothers him, holds him, closely, and to its breasts.

After three days the lyrics are ready, but for the music Bear seeks the help of his fellow group members. The men produce a work that surprises even him, and then staring deeply into the pages, he utters, “This one is special.” Recalling that Nina had said that the sky lives inside her heart; this, Bear thinks, has a good feel to it. “The Sky Inside Nina’s Heart.” The men agree on the song title and then begin studio productions of the work.

One day, Nina’s Mommy receives a telephone call from Little Bear; and he invites her and Nina to the performance. “Nina and you will be up front, close to us and me, Ok?” “Great!” says Laura. “I’ll tell her, she’ll be sooo happy!” Oh, thank you, so much,  Bear!” “We’ll be there, can’t wait!”

Nina and her Mommy attend, and as promised are close to the performers, except and even to Mommy’s surprise, Little Bear introduces Nina to the crowd; telling it that she inspired the song. “The Sky Inside Nina’s Heart,” he says, “is forever dedicated to this special child.” Holding Nina in his arms, Bear says, “I love you, ‘Little One.’”  With a big hug, “I love you too.”

An old man wakes to find a strange woman seated near his bedside. His liver and he are dying. Something about the woman feels familiar, but Little Bear says nothing. Touching his hands, she says, “Hello, it has been a long time, Bear, do you remember me?” Nina was a teenager the last time they spoke, however, her eyes and voice, now, brighten his face. In a weakened voice, “‘Little One?’”

Leaning in and wrapping her arms around the dying man, “Yes.” “I am sorry…” Tears wetting her face. Bear feels her sadness and then, momentarily, joy energizes him. “You are a strange one, my child, for I have known no other sharing sadness and joy as I do but you.”

Something inside Nina’s eyes speaks to him; and the old man has known these feelings since she was a child, since they first met. As she aged: Bear began to see him in the child; however, and although he wanted to know, could never intrude in such a way. Inside him, believably, Nina is his daughter. His love for her could never exceed the love he knew from the fist day, none is greater. “My final moments smile because you are with me, “My” Daughter.” (Nina tears.)

Embracing tightly, closely, they share the song and as the melody warms them, Bear becomes cold. Singing, Nina buries her face inside his chest and then cries in a way only he could share.

Four years after Little Bear’s death, Nina’s Mom dies; and as a sorrowful daughter attends the hurtful tasks of inspecting and cleaning, she finds a document. Reading it, the startled woman learns that her Mom used an agency to assist with pregnancy; this is puzzling and the gasping woman sits, to catch her breath.

“Why?” she thinks, “would Mom do something like this, why?” The street address is local and the agency continues to operate. A few short rings and a woman answers the telephone. After a series of questions, finally, and although unusual, the person agrees to help with identification of the sperm donor. Within the week Nina receives a Certified Letter.

The sperm donor is a Mr. Nigel Clayton Leaks. Naturally, the name means nothing to Nina, after all, and all her life, she has known nothing of her true father. The document includes miscellaneous information, such as Race, Tribe, and Tribal Name. With big eyes and racing heart: Nina is incredulous of what she reads. The man is identified as Blackfeet and his tribal name is “Little Bear.”

“What?” “Little Bear?” Mom never told me…(Laura never knew the donor, the law restricted this information.) Of course, it could be any Little Bear but something inside her assures Nina of her thinking. She has things that Bear gave her and his DNA has to be on them. She would have the test done. Within the month proof arrives and (in fact) Little Bear was her biological father. Nina, although sad, feels elated because she loved Bear and who else would better be her Daddy. “Joy, sometimes, arrives in bundles of sadness.” Anxiously: She would change her surname.

Six months later: Nina drives to a town about ten miles south of her residence and then finds a quiet spot to relax, think. The news about Bear significantly changed her life; knowing the truth of whom she is and the totality of her ancestry, pleases her; her Mom always told Nina of their Seminole heritage and now she has more, much more. Spotting a good place to relax Nina safely parks the car, inside an elbow, and off the road. As the weary woman strolls across the highway, something about this place feels familiar.

Here: The rushing river, with clear and clean water, the whispering trees and above her, the Sky Mother; oh, and look, from time to time, a big one leaps out the water and into the air. Reclining, right there, on the soft grassy hillside, Nina thinks of Little Bear-“Daddy.” Sadly smiling, she hums “The Sky Inside Nina’s Heart.” Tired, worn and missing Mom and now, too, her Dad, she feels everything surrounding her. The affects of inspiration swelling her chest: briefly, the old woman energizes; and as the trees tickle her with tales of long ago, happily, and for the last time, Nina closes her eyes…incoherently, “My final moments smile… because… you are with me, my Father…”


The powers in Nature, truly, mystify: Without knowing: A father and daughter are united although for the while, truth remained hidden from them; yet, and before her death, a newly found truth connects a woman to her entire heritage.

This joy delivered by sadness is genetically and eternally shared with a Mom who the woman has ever known and a Dad found and then lost before she could know him; although, and for most of her life, she (has known and) loved him.

This tale forever lives as told to me by my mother; the melodies Nina heard that day and the song written for her wake, walk with and then lull me, to sleep. Nina died more than ten years ago; and proudly, I say, she was my grandmother.

(c) 2017 Delbert H. Rhodes

The Masks of Life

By Delbert H. Rhodes

Born to the North west coast of La Florida, and for reasons not his own, to some people he is different, dislikable and unwelcomed. Necessarily, these prejudgments are not by strangers, but often by people he knows; many of whom he encounters, everyday. In childhood, a woman acquainted with his Mother, calls him small; in jr. high school, a jealous boy tauntingly says, “The girls like that baby face of yours.” Later, in high school, his younger sister’s boyfriend notes, “When you were a little boy, we use to see you pulling your wagon up the street. We said, ‘Look at him, he’s not like us, let’s git him.’”

Why hurt him because of his differences; and is he responsible for what merely are accidents of birth?

As he ages, the art of deception becomes his sword and shield, he develops and expands his abilities of control, and regardless of the teasing and taunting that he sometimes receives, he permits no one to push him over the edge.

Infrequently, however, he cares to severely injure someone, nevertheless, this, he knows, is wrong, and would cause him much trouble and especially with the police. He is careful to neither embarrass, nor cause his Mother financial difficulties. His family is poor, and his Mom does all that she can to care for his siblings and him. For his entire life, these realizations, these truths, remain as his focal points.

Often: At his Aunt’s house Carlton spends private time in the front bedroom. The first time that he sees his image, the boy is in First Grade. He likes his looks, and customarily returns to the mirror. Staring at his face thrills him; and soon, he notices the big rotten tooth, in the bottom of his mouth.

One day, his Aunt tells him that he is to join his Mom, up north. Saddened: Carlton feels ripped from the people he loves most, and his home. At the age of nine years old, and living in a distant state, he attends school for the first time with White kids; and quickly develops a new behavior; Carlton, now, compares himself to them; and then, once more, he feels small.

Emphatically, after she reads his pocket Birth Certificate, a White classmate says, “Oooo, you’re a ‘Ne-e-gro-o!’” The word printed next to the word “Race” is not totally new to the boy; and somehow, he knew that it referred to his color. One time, in his hometown, a White man called him Black boy. The boy knew that he was different from White people, this was a matter of fact, but the word Negro seems to lessen him, reduce him.

“Negro.” He feels injured, stabbed in the heart by something that causes no visible damages, by something that delivers him distress, a word that he learns to strongly dislike; and yet, without actually hating it.

Years later and as an adult, he thinks of the comment, and then searches the facts in his original Birth Certificate. The document indicates nothing for him in the racial category; however, for his Mother the letter ‘C’ is inscribed.

His Mom is of mixed heritages, including White, Creek, and Black. Perhaps the Cee stands for Creek; however, and most likely, he thinks, because of her genetic mixtures, the Cee is for “Colored.” A word that feels somewhat although not totally better.

The Spanish noun Negro, and its variants are derivatives of the Latin neuter adjective niger, meaning black. Respectively, interpretation of the word is determined by the particular Language within which it is hosted; i.e., the term may translate to dark, or night, and even partner, or friend, in different localities, or regions of the world.

Over time, the Latin neuter form evolved to one of psychological and emotional corruption; and then used inhumanely, to ultimate measures of internal, and then later, external dysfunction; achieving social reduction, rejection and then destruction.

Black, and whenever generally applied as racial identifiers, is a misnomer, and is based in (so called) White standard. For, historically, and while searching for trade routes into India, the Portuguese, and Spaniards used the word to identify sub-Saharan Bantu People. Is it probable that these indigenous people used tribal rather than names of colors, for purposes of identification? Actually, and considering both continental African, and American Blacks, an array of hues exists, black, merely, represents one category.

Carlton wishes to express that he is neither black skinned, Bantu nor sub-Saharan African. Additionally, many years ago, and in-passing, a White man provided invaluable, nevertheless unsolicited information to the Lad. While walking by, and peering over his shoulder, the man offered, “You’re from Mauritania West Africa.” This comment, and as strange as it may seem, could ancestrally be more correct than not; for, the plausible truth is demonstrated in our astonished man’s physiognomy.

Yes, Negro, the word follows Carlton for the rest of his natural life; a life, he feels, better lived inside another skin. Later, the word loses its sting; however, its relative negative terms, like “nigger,” he despises. Into his sixties, the man recalls that White people never directly slapped him with the hateful term, nonetheless, one southern born Black friend, did so, and often. To Carlton: A nigger is a dead thing; and currently, he is very much alive. After about thirty years the “friendship,” ended.

Is it not ironic that (some) Blacks feel/claim ownership of, and casually use the term nigger; and decry usage to others, and especially White people; when, and of course and to the well informed, this behavior is nonsensical, for, is not the word, created, and used by White plantation owners and other Whites during and since Slavery, thereby the property of its creators?

Nigger, and no matter its forms: is a virulent, psycho-social and economical tool, used to emotionally degrade, control, and dehumanize Black African Slaves. Why would their Black ancestors care to claim, casually use, or desire relationship, of any kind, to the word? Why?

Moreover, another oddity is that the anagram of such an egregious perversion is well regarded; for its additive medicinal properties, to foods, and various human systemic symptoms, respectively. The spice enhances and offers delicious tasty morsels to the tummy; and corrects various systemic imbalances, such as upset stomachs and dizziness.

Oh, but please, beware: Although the positive effects of Ginger are absolutely welcomed by many, the provisions of its tasteless twin are not delicacies, they cannot medicinally assist, and with the precision of a razor’s edge, the targeted application of ‘this’ word achieves but one end, and the prognoses, the generational tragedies are nationally, culturally and humanly irreversible.

A White classmate occasionally rubs Carlton’s hair, “Cool,” says Alex, “I wish I had hair like that.” Sometimes the boy gathers another White boy to discuss their Black classmate’s differences; but, and no matter the smiles, the attention causes him discomfort and displeasure.

Similar to his Mother, Carlton has light brown skin, curly dark hair, dark brown eyes, and thin lips. He dislikes that his differences place him on display, and even infrequently. In junior high school, the boy begins to dislike his nose, it seems too fat at its end. The rest is okay.

At home and often, the young teen makes trips to the bathroom, to resume his private time. Staring into the glass, Carlton likens his nose to a potato, something better left to the garden and not his face. Also, and since elementary school, in order to appear more like his White classmates, he applies cosmetic grease to his hair; and then meticulously combs and brushes it, until it flattens.

While sleeping, and to hold his hair neatly in place, Carlton wears upon his head one of his Mom’s stockings. Curiously, a Black friend says, “Your hair don’t look real.” Somewhere along the way, Carlton’s nose no longer displeases him; and happily, it has lost its negative appeal.

Things are changing, and he even thinks less about his race; life offers other distractions, such as girls; a distraction demanding more exploration, and a pretty redhead in another school has captured Carlton’s attention.

The late sixties to early seventies, high school and friends, the lapsing Hippy generation, racial difficulties; although he never takes part in issues of race, a last minute decision against the Marine Corp., the redhead is gone, Lisa J., and then the question of what-actually-comes after graduation. Academically, Carlton performs poorly in both jr. high and high schools. These things and more fill his youthful mind.

During these years, his Mother spends much time in the hospital, and with two younger brothers to help raise, Carlton has much to think about. He never seems quite satisfied with himself, he never seems quite satisfied with his family. Still, and although consumed by uncertainties, and before him, the path is poorly lit, somehow, the older teen moves forward; and one step at a time.

Newly attending the local jr. college and because he furthers his education, some guys from his childhood resent Carlton. Historically, Black Slaves secretly learned to read and write; education that later, cost many their lives. Strange that some present day Blacks seem to prefer ignorance to knowledge. Viewing educated Blacks as sellouts to “their” people. “Trying to be like the ‘White man.’”

‘Their’ is a possessive pronoun, bestowing ownership; and Carlton strongly advises that he owns no one; and further, any people caring more of ignorance than knowledge is a people to which he cares never to belong; additionally, a mere accident of birth avails neither his allegiances nor obligations, to said people.

“I owe you nothing!” He protests.

Carlton’s years in jr. college provide him instructive distractions. His studies are exciting and he does well; and then graduates with good grades; however, at senior college things are different. In some ways, he is academically unprepared. During earlier school years, the young man shied Mathematics, and attended only three classes; courses hosting higher degrees of the subject become difficulties for him.

In 1976, and during his Junior year, Carlton has a car accident; from which he suffers the loss of the cap to his right incisor, a bump to the left knee, and loss of hair. These were the obvious injuries. Not as obvious were the inabilities to attentively focus and to speak completed sentences. Additionally, issues of esteem and minor depression hinder him, slow him. Never asking for help, the student tells no one of his troubles, and not even a best friend.

Daily, and even while in class, he fakes it; and unremarkably, gets by. His grades, however, do not; subsequently, his academic cum terribly drops, and he is close to expulsion. Fortunately, he slowly increases his cum, and then receives an academic award for the fourth quarter. The summer permits him time to heal, however, he decides not to return to school for the following term.

The year off, he works, earns money, and then buys another car; he lost the first one in the accident. Eventually, Carlton neither  suffers lack of focus nor degraded speech; and then, once more, he feels whole. The fall semester approaches and returning to school excites him.

The loss of his first car was reason, or possibly, an excuse to exit a long distance relationship, but then the loss of one girlfriend becomes the gain of another. An auburn beauty from town enters the young man’s life. Although the lady is lovely, and she deliciously deserves his attention, even she cannot distract him from his thoughts; often, Carlton wonders whether anyone would remember him after he perishes.

Frequently, Hollywood types, Pro-ball players, Musicians, Educators, Scientists, The Rich for one reason, or another are splashed across the Media; and especially to mourn death. Everyone sharing like, or dislike becomes imprinted with memory. “When I die,” Carlton thinks, “whom would remember me, or, care to, and would death make me a better person?”

Truly, the man thinks of various reasons to ponder death, and its aftermath; and In Memoriam, he agrees with and understands anyone scorning him. After all, everyone has a right to his, or her opinions; still, in his lifetime, he has harmed no one; he is not criminal and although a loner, is hugely, and nevertheless, privately, compassionate.

Now in his sixties, memories of his youth, and his personally hidden pains preoccupy the man. He feels and believes that he is a good person, but sometimes suffers from his negatively internalized emotions. Generally: People are unforgiving; and for lifetimes, certain memories linger. Surely, upon his death he would, by some, be remembered; however, in what way and why?

In the norm: Carlton cares little of how others think of him. Why, then, and considerably before his death, would their thoughts cause him pause? He lives in solitude, and even family cannot selfishly control him, imbue him with guilt. Yet, daily, privately, and as he constantly returns to the mirrors, the man reconstructs the masks of his life.

Copyright (c) 2017 Delbert H. Rhodes

Not a Father’s Son

Delbert H. Rhodes

His mind sinking his body hurting the stars stare down at him, his vision dimming. The pounding of his heart seems louder than the sounds of his breathing. As a boy, Tony often visited this beach, and now this would be his last. Out there, the waves swell, as stars swim back and forth in the water.

The dune upon which he lies was his favorite as a child. Snake tracks ever graced its sands and fluffy turf, but the creature was never about. The dune pushed him higher while the sky leaned closer, the clouds brushing his face. The boy loved thinking, the daydreamer he walked inside his thoughts, and the adult, the curious storyteller. No matter its  influences, thinking is passionate, private. Now privacy and thinking have little to offer him, as he openly lives his final moments. Odd: that a man could blindly perish in plain sight. Years ago, his great-great grandmother met with death here.

This man has experienced many things, yet one thing would never be his. You see, at the age of fourteen the boy asked of his father, everything a curiosity. “He stopped coming to see you when you were four years old,” his mother’s eyes looking at yesterday. His aging ears replayed her voice, and now the words swim with his mind. “Strange,” he quietly says, “to live and die without a father’s love. ‘I am not a father’s son.’”

 A chilly night, and the trees hush the winds, crickets blow whistles, as ancestral arms embrace the lost man. Like a loving mother, the night keeps vigil, she watches him. Slowly, the feelings in his legs lessen, and coldness blankets him. “Tony, bring me a wash cloth.” He remembers how seeing his naked mother always embarrassed him. Strange how the mind works, the taste of Bazooka Bubble gum slides around his tongue, a smile seduces his cheeks.

His breathing suffers; he feels trapped. He has no children, he has only death; the connective links of mind and body deteriorating, somehow, the man reaches into his pocket. The carcass of an old reptile lies near him, its body cold and his body cooling. Death is romantically ironic, unwittingly; the viper and the man finally meet. Darkness closes his eyes, and soon, a paper flies away from his hand. During an early morning run, a man finds the body and within a few yards, a paper in the sands:

Father’s Day

 Where is my dad
Oh hear me say
Who do I call
On Father’s Day 

To the skies I look
(And) God sits there
To Him I cry
To me a stare 

Oh, daddy, daddy
Where are you
In a world of colors
My color is blue 

On that last day,
I close my eyes
Fatherless I have lived
My father dies

Copyright © 2007-2014 Delbert H. Rhodes