Title: Fingerprints

Author: L.E. Scott

In: Sport 2: Autumn 1989

Publication details: Fergus Barrowman, April 1989, Wellington

Part of: Sport

Keywords: Prose Literature

Conditions of use



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Sport 2: Autumn 1989

L.E. Scott — Fingerprints

page 126

L.E. Scott


For James Baldwin

Besides lying with a beautiful woman who will grow old and die, what else is beyond the womb? Do not state: the graveyard. It is a part of birth.

Child, what you got on your mind so bothersome to you?

Mama, I don't have anything on my mind bothersome to me.

Child, I the one done birth you into this world and I know when you got troubles in your life and when you ain't got none. I gave birth to that life you got, so I know, and don't you get to thinking that I don't know. So now go'n and tell me what I done ask you a minute ago and stop trying to fool your Mama.

Mama, is it true that before my father died he said: Woman, give me a glass of ice cold water; I don't want to leave this world thirsty.

No answer. The birth is over. The child has his father's hands. Long dark fingers. And what will his last words in life be?

She kisses the tips of his fingers.

Place of birth.

It is 'Another Country' within America, and it has a whole set of complex, deadly rules which either protect or destroy the souls of those who live there. It is a place where the words 'Law & Order' mean it's nigger-time again. Darwin was a whiteman who told the truth: Only the strong...

Harlem is the dark side of the American Dream — where the chocolate children of America party soulfully from Friday to Sunday morning and then go to church all day Sunday, praying and telling God: Look, baby, don't send no boy to do a man's job, but this time come yourself.

The room of birth is more than black on black crime; the pimps and the hustlers; the bitter life and sweet death. It's more than just a place where the Harlem Renaissance went down and a white man called it Nigger Heaven.

South-Africa-America — how many colours can a Black man be?

page 127

The image that scurries before your still-life eyes is not of me. My father's eyes were a dusty brown-red when he left this world. He kept staring until the finger tips of the undertaker closed his eyelids, and I closed the coffin.

In this box is a life you did not see, but he was here when you came into the room. Open the lid, the undertaker could only partly close my father's eyes. He wants to see you who cannot see.

The Devil's eyes are not red. The Devil cannot see.

(In the living room, where you never come, one learns to survive the man-made rules of birth.)

The girl next door.

In this house live the believers of God. The daughter is as fine as a brick shit-house in the winter time. Never mind that the toilet don't flush. The city Fathers and the absentee landlords in Miami know why: New York is broke and Harlem is for sale.

In these times: one footprint of man on the moon (peacefully?), 1984, future shock, the brave new world, the third world/the world bank, sports and the gun, the born-agains who still cannot see — we need a new god. Vote for the man across the street, he's against communism and will fight a war to prove it.

The next door neighbour's daughter walks through the living room. Sweet child evangelist plays the piano in the store-front church from the age of 13 to 44 and still believes in God. But the church closes down and the rent man takes the piano. Jesus lives in us all, but some of us keep him in the guest room.

The girl next door made love for the first time last night. That is, she got touched there. It wasn't me, but the neighbour across the street. I got to her knee once. But she's not in trouble, only the fingers touched.

She's married now. Had three children, one died and two got killed. One by a policeman who didn't like uppity niggers and the other one, well, some said he jumped and some said he was pushed (but he's still dead). It was caused by a subway train near 125th street. Nobody knew who he was until they checked his fingerprints.

She still plays the piano that the rent man never brought back. The eyes of the once God-Child look beyond the distance of the jungle. They seek a way to escape the white hand of man-made destiny. Yes. She plays the piano that only she can see. The blind would say she's mad. But they cannot see that she's got red eyes.

page 128

Jim Jones, Jim Jones, look what you've done to my people and Hollywood made you a star like Jesus.

It was a winter's day with falling snow. I've known more than one woman — what else is beyond the womb? I'm growing old and my eyes are becoming a deeper, dusty brown-red. My father has been dead for 13 years and my fingers are being chilled by a westerly wind.

I have a son now. I look into his eyes each day. They are not red yet. I hope. What will he have seen when I am dead for 13 years? Woman, sit a glass of ice cold water nearby and call my son.

Child, come with me, it is time to wash your father and fold his hands.

(You can walk past a stranger, like yesterday, and feel hurt that neither of them stopped. Time. Mama, what did you say?)

The voice of mother: Child, get up out of that bed. I know you sick and mad, but you ain't tired. I know you feeling old but you ain't, cause I ain't but 75 and you my son and now you got a son. You got to get up cause you got a whole lot more to do, and you ain't seen the half of it yet. This is just one of them streets we got to walk sometimes. Child, this ain't the end of life, what you looking back for?

Woman, who gave her hand to my son, take that cold water away from your man. Child, don't you worry about what I said about time. When it's time, it will let you know what you need to know. Child, your eyes ain't that red.

(Walk with me Mama, just a little ways, until I feel stronger.)

The day after.

Woman, child, we gonna make it round this corner. Those with the long black fingers before us made it and their fingers shaped us. We are their prints.

The fire next time.

It is the blind of the world who will burn in the fire unless they learn to see what their fingers have shaped.