Friday, November 12, 2010

The Book of Sarah

This is Baylah talking. I don't think I've spoken to you directly that much. But tonight I feel chatty. And there are things I am compelled to say. First of all, I want you to know who I am. I want you to know me as a discreet personality and not merely 'the black girl in the cast.' This isn't a Star Trek movie or episode. I won't be the first one killed, not if I can help it. Sometimes I just keep my mouth shut because I'm thinking. I am studying the situation. No need to be haisty. I learned that during my time as a slave. It was only for a few years. But memories like that tend to stick with a girl. My father was a prince. Some say he was a king, but no, my grandfather, the high-king, the asantehene was still living. And as my father's mother was not most-favored-queen, I do not think he would ever have received the sacred vessels. But I enjoyed a charmed existence never-the-less. Our smooth, cool stucco palace had many courtyards. We drew our water (actually, our slaves did) from the most god-blessed of the wells. Our garments were made of the richest Ming Dynasty silks brought overland from the Somali coast, not to mention our own much coveted kente cloth. Gold was as silver to us. And silver was as brass. What did we lack? Nothing. Kumasi, our capital, was world famous for its vast marketplace. Every type of possession from the basest clay pot to the finest human was readily available. Schlars from all points under The Great Carver's gaze made their way to our accademies where they studied our poetic, Akan tongue. Timbuctu? What was that dusty place, but the dry abode of arid minded people? Elizabethan London? I think not. Hampton Court holds little charm to a resident of The Palace of Thirty Perfumes. Maybe the Aztec capital of Tenochtitlan could have given us a run for the money. But they knew nothing of us. And we knew nothing of them. Sultry dry season evenings spent on the royal barge upon The River Niger. Exquisite, intoxicating beverages rendered from the sweetest mangoes. My life was rich. But there was a spider in the bananas and she was one of my 'aunt' mothers, another royal wife burdened with a daughter much less accomplished and comely than I. Now my grandfather intended to marry me to a Tuareg prince, inorder to forge a dynastic union between our two peoples.  I was to be the link in the chain. But 'auntie'  dispaired of such a match. She was jealous and wanted her own plain as yam paste girl child to take my place in the tents of the dashing desert heir. So what was I, but another Joseph in yet another tale of hatred and betrayal? Coins changed hands. Promises wre made. Servants were subverted. And I was spirited away from my perfect home to be sold as a slave in the brutal markets of the Ivory Coast. It would have been a hard, punishing experience for any young girl. For a princess, it was absolute torture. Perhaps I will find it in me to whisper the details some other time. But for now, just know that I endured the 'middle passage,' only to emerge as the coseted pet of a spoilt French- Creole in Old New Orleans. And after a time I learned she was more than French... more than a Creole... and more than a human... Indeed, she made me into the creature I am today. Forgive me, but I must stop now. The patrons down in the piano bar are calling for me. They want me to join them in a song... Who can sing in times such as these?... I can... I have to. Come back tomorrow and I will tell you more.

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