. . . just your average Caribbean American New Englander


Posted on Jan 4, 2018 |




The girl child listens, hand to chin, as her elders speak in the coded language of head nods and side glances. This girl child—old enough to be in the room but too young to join the conversation—is suspended in the fog of knowing grown folks have ways about them.

The girl child has heard a few stories about her elders but may never be old enough to know the details of the ongoing resurrection of her mama because some stories don’t need to pass between a mama and her child.

The girl child can’t perceive of a time where her mama was our mentor and role model long before she our friend, that her mama made me apply for jobs because it was good practice, that she pushed me toward my first job after college, that she taught me that having fresh evergreens at Christmas was worth it, even if it left you with $3 in your wallet.

The girl child can’t imagine her mama and me running from bedroom to bedroom of the stately home her mama shared with her husband trying to find the comforter that would warm the bed in her mama’s new apartment, no more than the girl child can imagine the fortitude it took for me to sit on the dining room floor wrapping her mother’s china in old newspapers, just as the soon to be ex-husband comes home.

The girl child can’t picture what a whirlwind her mama was the summer the divorce was final, how we packed for summer getaways like the single women we were: cute shoes, bathing suits, sarongs to wrap around our waists, and a gallon of scotch.  And, at the end of that summer, the courage it took for her mama to leave a good job so that her mama could walk the road of her destiny.

The girl child probably doesn’t know that when her mama was not trying to get married again is exactly when the girl child’s daddy arrived on the scene, that her mama and daddy made a gorgeous couple at their wedding and that they loved on the girl child all during the winter she was born before they let the world love her, too.

The girl child may not understand why I say to her mama “You so trifling,”

and why her mama replies “You so crazy,”

‘cause although trifling and crazy are not nice words they both mean “I love you”;

why her mama and I tend to avoid eye contact, for we see each other deeply and share a sister love that only the Lord could make;

why sometimes grown women grow together and apart and together again.
All the girl child knows is that I am her auntie and she is my niece and her mama is my sister and even though we don’t all share blood, we share safety and love and hope. We share God.

Perhaps that is all she ever really needs to know.

The Wednesday Crew [an open letter to my students]

Posted on Dec 18, 2017 |


Dear Darling Students of Mine,
The end of the semester is upon us and with it comes the requisite meetings with students, as you are quite eager to discuss your final research papers. After meeting with Kayla during the last week of the semester, we talked about our final class.  Kayla asked if I baked anything for the final class. I told her that I didn’t and her eyes narrowed as she gently chastised me for talking about baking all semester. Sorry, I offered.
For a minute I considered baking something—anything! But I just don’t have it in me. Instead, I can offer you this letter. read more

The Gospel Week 10 #52 week challenge

Posted on May 12, 2017 | 0 comments


I Believe

I believe in “please” and “thank you, in “pardon me” and “excuse me.”

I believe in fried chicken and in frying chicken, hand on hip, listening to the oil tell me when to turn a wing or a leg.

I believe in fresh fish.

I believe garlic goes with almost everything.

I believe in Vaseline for my heels and retinol serum for my face.

I believe in clean sheets on New Year’s Day.

I believe in showering before bed to wash away the filth that clings to my mind and body.

I believe in wearing black in the summer and white in the winter.

I believe in knowing how to replace the bit on a drill.

I believe that everyone should know how to drive a car and ride a bike.

I believe in sewing by hand and machine.

I believe that Christmas doesn’t begin until Donnie sings.

I believe that Marvin Gaye was all we needed and that Ron Isley can go sit down somewhere.

I believe that the Honey album cover was our soft porn and we weren’t damaged by it.

I believe that a woman should look like she can cuss you out if she wants to.

I believe diplomacy is overrated and sometimes you gotta knock folks the fuck out.

I believe in fruits and vegetables that don’t need a passport to reach my plate.

I believe in reading.

I believe in subtle wisdom of Winne the Pooh.

I believe in Keds and Converse.

I believe in green nail polish.

I believe in barbershops, not hair salons.

I believe a grown man has no business in a cobalt blue suit.

I believe in having pets.

I believe in being childfree, not childless.

I believe in heated leather seats in cars.

I believe that everyone should see a Broadway play.

I believe in knowing how to make parker house rolls, mashed potatoes, and more than one way to cook eggs.

I believe green tomatoes were meant to be fried.

I believe fresh air and clean water are rights, not privileges.

I believe in spaces where the only sounds are birds chirping.

I believe in walking away from a person, a job, a house, or a car if the vibe ain’t right.

I believe in blood red Dansko clogs.

I believe a good lipstick, black mascara, and a pair of trouser jeans can make me look like a million dollars.

I believe in always wearing earrings when I leave the house, otherwise known as The Mamie Ford Rule.

I believe in God and Jesus.

I believe in divine gifts.

I believe in instinct.

I believe in truth.

I believe in honesty.

I believe that black is beautiful.

I believe in family.

I believe in building one’s tribe throughout our lives.

I believe that everyone is their own Oprah.

I believe in love.

I believe in lust.

I believe in the explosive power of soul love.

I believe in dreams.

I believe God gives us what and who we need.

I believe in the Age of Aquarius.

I believe in moon cycles.

I believe in the dark and the light.

I believe that I am the descendant of Northern African royalty, Caribbean farmers, and Virginia slaves.

I believe that the quickening of my heart is my ancestor’s sign that they are with me, always.

I believe that I am of another time and this time and times yet to come.

I believe that no one can remove the righteous crown from my head.

I believe,

I believe,

I believe.

Indigo Days Week #52essays2017 Week 9

Posted on Mar 26, 2017 | 0 comments


In Julie Dash’s film “Daughters of the Dust,” the women process indigo in the same fashion as their ancestors on St. Helena’s island. Nana Peazant, the family matriarch, works the indigo to the point where her hands are permanently dyed blue.

The Peazant women wear two colors: indigo to represent the past and white to represent the future.  Slavery and freedom. Where there is indigo, there is also white. One color is never far from the other.

When I saw this film back in 1991, I saw a family fighting to move forward and preserve traditions. But more than anything, I saw my blues on screen. When I get blue or sad, it’s deep and varied, as muddled and rich as the dye that bleeds from the indigo plant.

I have indigo days.

In the film, the history of processing the indigo is a source of shame and pride. The 20th century was dawning and the women of the family were caught between old ways and new possibilities. Indigo and island life would always be wedded to another with no room for the future to take hold. But here’s the thing about indigo: it stains. Indigo stains everything it touches. If you get near it you will be marked.

And do it is with my indigo days.

I try to avoid the indigos, even when I know they will overtake me. The harder I try to avoid the stain of indigo days, the more permanent the pigment. Most times, I give in. It’s just too hard to fight. I take to my bed and sleep, which only delays the indigo reaching into my skin. It is then that I choose to stay awake and sit under my indigo sky.

I have learned to mask the indigo days when I have to go to work or be in public. I lower my voice, smile, wear bright colors. If my indigo leaks, my students think they’ve done something to deserve my dour attitude. I don’t correct them. It’s too hard to tell the truth. My indigo is my business and, if I let it show too much at work or even at the grocery store, I might succumb to the stain forever.

On indigo days, I avoid mirrors. This is quite a trick since I need a mirror to put my makeup on. I don’t want to look at myself, for I know I’ll see traces of blue under my skin and trickling out of my ears.

When I catch my reflection, I wonder if people can see the indigo. Anyone who really knows me can see that some kind of cloud is threatening to choke me. Am I pulling it off, this master trick of looking just fine? Would anyone believe that I am one step away from full on madness? Yet, here’s the thing about life in the 21st century: most co-workers are work friends. They don’t know you as well as they pretend to. Social media has taken the place of staying in contact is your real friends, so even they don’t get to look into your eyes or have a reason to hear your voice on a simple phone call. And if you live alone, well, you can choose to deny your indigo to the mirrors but the walls that hold you and the floor that supports you, yeah, they know you have the indigos.

Most times, the indigo clouds leave. The sun comes out and there is nary a trace of the indigos. Sometimes I wonder if I dreamed about the depth of the indigos: how close did they come to my skin? How could I be stained one day and clean the next?

It is, to me, the profundity of the indigos. The existence of whites and indigos at the same time, warring for the same space. Sometimes freedom wins, flashing her gauzy feminine fabric in victory. Great clouds of white fabric, like the skirts of the Peazant women, obscure all doubt about indigo. The ocean wind picks up the fabric, snapping it like sheets on a clothes line on a summer day.

Nana Peazant, like the indigo she wears and bears, will not go away. She is standing in the shade, waiting for the sun to go down. Waiting her turn to turn my days blue again.










Burrata Wisdom #52essays2017 Week 8

Posted on Mar 6, 2017 | 0 comments

Burrata-1024x680[1]Grief is a jealous bitch.

She takes your free time, of which you have so little, and clogs it up with horrendous sadness. She does not take lightly to other suitors, like your job or your health. She won’t even let you drive your car one stupid mile without making you forget where you are going.

Like most jealous bitches, grief comes in a huff and leaves without warning.

Just as grief exits the stage, in her place comes mourning. She’s the quiet, older auntie who sits in the corner. Don’t mind me. Keep doing what you’re doing. I’ll sit here a while.

And so she does.

I grieved Linda’s passing when she was alive. Every time she was hospitalized, I grieved. When she was not deemed sick enough for a liver transplant, a hymn would rise in me. And when she was taken off the transplant list because of other compounding illnesses, I started to grieve all the more.

Our last phone call felt like church. Crying in an aching sort of way, the kind that makes your heart crease. Thanking God for his goodness and mercy, saying I love you, assuring each other that it—this life and the one after—would be all right.  Yes, indeedy, it was church. His eye is on the sparrow and He watches over me. My lord…

A church is where I planned to be on March 4, the day set aside for her memorial at the historic San Fernando Mission Church in Los Angeles, California. My plan was to find a Catholic church as lovely as the Mission Church so that I could say my goodbyes in God’s house.

The things is, I’m not Catholic. I was going to go to the church around the corner but it has all the charm of a 7-Eleven. My next plan was to stop in at the largest Catholic church in Hartford. It’s gorgeous and Linda would have liked it. But churches don’t stay open all day like they used to and all I wanted to do was to spend a few quiet minutes in prayer, maybe light a candle, most certainly cry in peace. 

Instead of the sanctity of a Catholic church, I went to the next best church that I know Linda would have loved: Ulta.

Beauty geeks know that if you need to get your makeup fix, you go to Sephora or Ulta. Sephora can be moody with all the black lacquer and techno music. Ulta has the bright lights and mixture of high end and drugstore brands.

The best part of going to the church of Ulta was that Kim was with me. She knew that the day would not be easy for me and said that she would do whatever I wanted. Earlier in the week, she asked if I wanted to go the casino; totally her thing and not mine. One of the casinos has a Sephora in their adjoining mall but casinos depress me. Too many old people spending money they don’t have on the chance of striking it rich. I wasn’t about to spend March 4 dodging old people with walkers and oxygen tanks trying to beat me to a slot machine.

Ulta was the perfect choice. I found the Tarte mascara and the concealer I’ve been waiting to try( Shape Tape is everything!). If you’re into brows, you have to check out Anastasia. I mean, anything Anastasia. I went for the brow gel in chocolate. Since I already have enough lipstick to last the next few years, I didn’t buy any but if I was going to buy a lipstick it would have been Lipstick Queen’s Frog Prince. Trust me, it is your color.  Kim sampled everything I did, although she didn’t buy anything.

Kim, however, was not content to let the day end. She took me and mom out to dinner at a gastropub in town. Stepping through the door, I caught my breath at the loudness of the restaurant. So many people laughing and talking, as if grief and mourning had never visited their homes.

We took seats at the cook’s bar and watched skilled hands prepare everything from pizza to steak tartare. Kim ordered Prosecco for all of us, a sparkling Italian wine. Linda was Italian, Sicilian to be exact. We often talked about the many iterations of Italian Americans. She hated the New Jersey stereotype of the big haired, loud talking Italian women. The east coast did not have the exclusive rights to Italian heritage. Linda was born and raised in Los Angeles and would fight anyone who claimed that she was not a daughter of Sicily.  

Salute! To Linda, we said as we clinked glasses. The Prosecco danced on my tongue, as bright as was Linda. The seat next to me was empty but it was occupied by Auntie Mourning. I managed to avoid her most of the day but she followed me to that damn restaurant. Don’t mind me, I’m just sitting here.  I did my best to ignore Auntie Mourning and even thought to force a tear or two so that she would go away. Mourning doesn’t give in that easy. I let her have her seat.

Since Kim was treating us to dinner, I was going to have my usual: Caesar salad and fish and chips. Kim hates my pedestrian taste in food, which I would rather call traditional. Besides, my stomach is sensitive on very good days. Still, I decided that I would try something new.

I began with the burrata and figs with serrano ham. This surprised Kim because she knows how I feel about cheese. I can do American, aged cheddar, gruyere, anything that’s fairly dry. Soft cheeses are out.  When I read the menu I couldn’t recall exactly what kind of cheese burrata was and nearly sank in disappoint when the server set my plate down. I saw that is was a softer cheese. I will say that the presentation was gorgeous: Armagnac glazed figs wrapped in delicate slices of serrano ham and set atop the clouds of burrata, with a sweet reduction of balsamic vinegar and topped with just enough arugula and basil.

The first taste almost made me cry. Linda was burrata: traditional but ultimately unexpected, joyous, delightful.

On the outside, burrata is mozzarella, firm and milky white. But the inside is filled with cream and strings of mozzarella that would otherwise have been discarded. If the outside is classic, the inside is surprisingly sweet and luscious.

I took another sip of Prosecco and returned to my figs and burrata. Laughter from a nearby table mixed with the line cooks chopping and slicing. Bluesy music and the clink of plates added to the night air. Mourning left. Not sure where she went but I knew she’d back. For now, I had Kim, mom, my figs and burrata and a very fine glass of Prosecco.

Salute, Linda, e Dio vi benedica.  



Morning #52essays2017 week 7

Posted on Feb 20, 2017 | 1 comment

They say that it will be all over in the morning, that it will be better in the morning.

But what happens when morning arrives and the stillness of the night remains? No one tells you that there is a relationship between the morning and mourning.

I miss my friend. Her laughter, her grace, the ease with which she said bitch. When Linda asked me questions to which I didn’t have an answer, I’d say “Fuck if I know.” And she’d laugh at the truth of it all.

In the morning, I sit upright in bed, close my eyes and place my hand on my forehead. I say my prayers in the silence of the day, and thank God for waking me up, ask God to bless me, and to keep me a relatively good person.

Even after I’ve said this prayer, my faith tends to slip. These days, is it possible for the day ahead to be a good one? Fuck if I know.

I wonder if she’s laughing in heaven.


My work attire almost always includes jeans. I would never have thought I’d dress this way to work. Yet teaching college English does not, for me, require skirts and heels. It’s easy to look like you don’t care when you wear jeans, so I try to make things look better by wearing dark-wash trouser jeans. In the winter, brown leather boots, a sweater, and hoop earrings complete this look.

In the past two weeks since Linda died, I’m afraid of looking like I just don’t care and is why lipstick is my essential accessory.

I learned long ago that if I wear brown lipstick, I look mean—or at least unimpressed and disengaged. When I want distance, I wear brown lipstick. NYX makes a matte brown lipstick called Brooklyn Thorn. It is one ugly lipstick, making a swath of muddy brown across my full lips.  I haven’t worn this lipstick since Linda died because I don’t want to look as sad as I feel.

I’ve been wearing Milani’s coppery bright “Making Me Matte.” It’s really like a crushed penny on my lips, shimmery without being too young. Other days it’s lip liner and the pink mauve of Trust Fund Beauty’s “Blame Game” lipgloss. And when I want the perfect juicy plum, there’s no match for Givenchy’s “Rouge Interdit Vinyl.”

In the morning, in the midst of my mourning, it is color that is getting me through.


When I hit the lottery or when Publisher’s Clearing House finally comes to my door with that oversized check, I’m going to buy as many beauty products as I can. For now, I get the products I can afford.

Days are long when you are in mourning. I am trying, really trying to feel better one hour at a time. Today, I’d had enough of trying to feel better. I needed products. It’s not like I don’t have soap and lotion at home. Believe me, I have a ton of it. I just don’t feel like using any of it. My intention was to get to Target and get this lemon and sugar body scrub I’ve been reading about and maybe a bottle or two of argan oil body butter. I only made it as far as Bed, Bath, and Beyond, which is just another place that conspires to get my money. I found a Moroccan Rose sugar scrub with argan oil and organic shea butter. Then I lucked out and got one of the last tubes of good old Dr.  Teal’s lavender body lotion. I know I’ll smell like a garden when I’m done. It’s what I’m after: the smell good, feel good way that lotions and scrubs and body washes make me feel. Linda would understand this need for self-care, this need to cocoon myself in feminine scents. I want to call her and tell her how amazing the lotion smells. Somehow, I think she already knows.

I am not new to mourning but I am so much better at taking care of my soul. I’m not rushing this process of mourning, as much as I would love for it to be over. But the morning will come, the true morning when I will awaken with gratitude and peace and a newfound resilience for living my life without my friend.

Someday. But not right now. And I’m okay with that.


I Love You/Goodnight #52essays2017 week 6

Posted on Feb 10, 2017 | 12 comments



You are never ready. Even when you know that death will visit, you are never ready to learn that death stole under the door of one of your best friends, held her hand and silenced her breath.

But death did visit and now the earthly side of Linda’s transition is complete.

I exhaled the moment I learned she died. Perhaps I’d been holding my breath for a long time. But that’s what I remember, the exhalation that is still creating its meaning.

She’s gone. I let myself think it before I could say the words out loud.  She’s gone, as in not here anymore, not among the living. Linda Marie Alcorace—with raven-haired curls, icy blue Sicilian eyes, who loved God and was a bone deep California girl.  It is nearly inconceivable that she died.


* * * * * * *  * *

It didn’t occur to me that living in Connecticut makes it hard to maintain a friendship with someone who lives in Santa Monica, California. We met as grad students in the summer of 2009 at the Solstice MFA in Creative Writing Program just outside of Boston. In the early stages of our friendship, after the first residency was over and we went back to our respective homes, we wrote one another lengthy emails. She hated to text, as did I. We are writers, we often reminded one another, so why was it hard to write? Talking was the only way for us to communicate.

We solved our 3,000 mile distance with weekly phone calls. More accurately, a few phone calls a week. Sometime last year, she asked me to post about the state of her health on her Facebook page. It was summer and she was in the hospital again. It may have been a low blood count or ascites or both, I truly cannot remember. Linda wanted folks to know where she was and not to worry. Although she was smart to bring her cell phone to the hospital, she tended to her health and knew it was impractical to be in contact with all of her friends.

It was not the first time that I was her Facebook writer. When she had been hospitalized in previous years, I took to Facebook. When she started a GoFundMe page to raise money to go to the Mayo Clinic in Florida in the hopes of getting a liver transplant, again I communicated with her friends and our friends as much as Facebook allowed. When her beloved fiancé, Mark, died five years ago, through tears that left her nearly inaudible, she asked me to post the news to Facebook.

Kerry, you’re such a good friend, came the comments.

Thanks for keeping us updated.

You’re an amazing friend to Linda…thank you!

Linda’s so lucky to have you for a friend.

Such comments made me uneasy and I never knew why. I tucked them away for a time when I could digest the reason for my unease.


Last Thanksgiving, her health really began to fail. We had always talked about death, her death.  There was much that was going to be left undone. Her Facebook page was not something she wanted to outlive her, which is why she asked one of her nieces to finally delete the account.

It took me a minute to get used to Linda’s absence on Facebook. What’s the point? she asked me. While she killed her Facebook page, she was still—then—alive.

And we continued to talk except for the time near Christmas when she was hospitalized for a few days. Shortly after 2017 arrived and she knew death was close than ever, I told her I would stop calling her. I didn’t want to tire her. She cried and asked me to please keep calling her. And I called. Every day until two weeks ago. We ended each conversation with I love you.

Except the last phone call. After the I love you’s, I said, Goodbye.

Linda said, Goodnight.

On Monday, February 6, 2017—three days after her 57th birthday—Linda died. I had promised Linda that I would use Facebook to let people know, especially the community of writers affiliated with the Solstice program.  I struggled with the message. Not what to say but how the announcement looked. Black text on a white background was too stark, too plain.

I have one of those quote-maker apps on my phone. I chose a dusky purple background, just perfect for Linda. She spent her last days in her home on her purple velvet couch. It was a color that she loved in decoration, jewelry, and makeup.  I added her name in a warm pink color and her birth and death dates in rich gold and joined that image to one of my favorite pictures of her. Only then could I announce her passing in Facebook’s dour black text.

The sweetest condolence messages came pouring in. They made me cry for all the love Linda was getting, all the incredible adoration for her brave life. Yet these were not the only messages.

Kerry, you’re such a good friend, came the Facebook comments to my post and in private messages.

Kerry, you were such a brave/wonderful/faithful friend, came the texts and the emails.

I don’t know how you could stay by her side but I’m glad you did.

The day after Linda died, I told my sister, Kim, that way too many people were applauding me for being Linda’s friend.  Kim reminded me that many people turn away from those who are sick.  For me, the truth of Linda’s life was that she was sick and she was going to die sooner than later. But until her death and long before her body began to truly fail, she was a woman, a daughter, a sister. She was Mark’s love. She was my sister/friend. What terrible thing was there to bear? To witness? I am not extraordinarily gifted with a super-friend gene. If that were the case, Linda would have had a new liver, her cancer would have fled her body, and the love of her life would be alive. I did with and for Linda what I want for myself: I was present.

I am not stronger than most people or made of tougher mettle. I am sinewy perhaps in the ways that matter. My heart, my faith are both strong and muscular. Yet I see none of those qualities as extraordinary.  As Kim ultimately declared, I could be Linda’s friend because of the way I am made.

I sat with Linda’s illnesses, albeit on the phone. Distance didn’t make it easier to be her friend. I couldn’t distract her doing the things one does in person. We didn’t watch TV or go to the movies. We didn’t go out to dinner or lunch, we didn’t watch Fourth of July fireworks on the beach.  All I could do is listen to her and talk with her. When she asked me about my day, I asked about hers. If she told me that she had a hellish day of appointments at the Ronald Reagan UCLA Medical Center, I’d say I was sorry. Because I was sorry. But then I’d ask her about a makeup video I’d seen and she would ask me if I wanted a nail polish she bought that wasn’t her color after all.

We talked about men and cooking and men and Beyoncé and writing and teaching and men and Jamaicans and Italians and college and Oprah and men and Africa and theater and dance and men and Prince and siblings and drugs and hospitals and death and chocolate and cars and men and angels and God and love and the sweet heaven we knew awaited us.

Our hours-long phone conversations would end someday but not right away. Until our phone calls ended, Linda would be my friend.  I absorbed everything she told me to the point of saturation, only to be able to hold more.  Spongy was her nickname for me. To be sure, she gave as good as it gets when it comes to friendship and she was often the spongy friend. She sat with me and listened to me and knew my heart like no one else. Many times, she called me asking if I was okay because her clear as diamond instincts told her that I was sad or troubled. If I wanted to talk with her but was too busy to do so, by the next phone call she would say, That’s okay. I could tell you were thinking about me.


A few hours after I learned of her death, a song came to me that I believe Linda sent. “Glad to Have a Friend Like You” and is from the 1973 Marlo Thomas album “Free to be You and Me.” It’s a children’s song with a simple melody and catchy lyrics. I searched YouTube until I found the audio. At the sound of the familiar chorus, I sang out loud alone in my kitchen and smiled at the memory of my beautiful before a torrent of tears and a wave of grief nearly knocked me over:

Glad to have a friend like you,

Fair and fun and skippin’ free.

Glad to have a friend like you,

And glad to just be me.


Goodnight, Linda, my sister/friend. I love you.