Physical and Mental Devastation

This picture depicts the scene from Beloved where Mr. Garner dies and schoolteacher takes over the sweet home. Life for the slaves became miserable from the day schoolteacher entered the sweet home. His torture and abusive behavior were intolerable due to which slaves went through physical and mental devastation.

This is a composite picture created in Photoshop combining three different pictures and one word art. I chose the picture to be colorless (black and white) because the picture represents a painful scene and I wanted to imprint the sadness in the picture. I created the word art with the help of online site This word art highlights some of the important words related to the scene such as tears, Garner, pregnant, milk. The picture at the bottom right shows three men brutally beating a man. This act represents the conduct of schoolteacher at sweet home. The next picture, which is at the bottom left, shows a scared mother embracing her child. She has fear on her face but at the same time, she is giving her affection and protection to her child from the threat. She represents Sethe, who is the only female slave in the sweet home. Sethe didn’t want her children to live the life in sweet home. The third picture at the top left shows an eye with a teardrop. The teardrop has an image of a child inside it, which means a mother is crying for her child. This teary eye represents feeling of Sethe as well as Mrs. Garner. Schoolteacher abused pregnant Sehte and took the milk of her child and when Sethe told Mrs. Garner about schoolteacher, Mrs. Garner’s eyes rolled out tears.

Image Citation:

Two Roads

I always thought that one of Beloved’s main purposes was to force Sethe to stagnate under the weight of her painful past. With that said, the moment I chose was when Paul D first banished the baby ghost from 124 at the novel’s start. Notice that the windows, as well as the open doorway, all burn a strong red, something I did to symbolize the intensity of the struggle between the baby ghost and Paul D. From the windows come vines, wrapping themselves around 124; and from the top right hand window, a giant flower makes it’s way out of the house. The flower represents Beloved, unopened and wilting before she was given the chance to bloom in life. Going with the interpretation that the baby ghost and Beloved are one in the same, the flower which represents Beloved is leaving the house, though not entirely, still holding onto 124 and it’s inhabitants with the vines coming through the windows. The flower is also going off in the opposite direction as the walkway, symbolizing the way Beloved served as a separator of Sethe from her community.

This is where the title comes from. “Two Roads” represents the two choices which Sethe is eventually presented with: Denver, Paul D, and their community down one road, and Beloved down the other.

The further down the walkway, the more the red coming from the house begins to fade, a representation of  the therapeutic atmosphere that the community can provide Sethe with.

For this piece, I drew the outline with pencil, then added color and effect using acrylic paints. The different shades of blue in the sky represent the patchwork of different experiences that exist in the world outside of 124, all of which are denied to Sethe and Denver so long as they allow themselves to be confined in 124. The blue, green and brown that make up the dirt floor represent the experiences of those long gone, and how the past can always be felt, as it intermingles with the present.

“That Ain’t Her Mouth.”

beloved (pdf)

I used this section of the passage I chose for Essay #2 to become a sort of visual poem. I thought that the language used by Toni Morrison in this section is so full of imagery and metaphors and I wanted to mirror that with an actual visual text. There are so many concrete and significant images in that section of the text I chose and I thought it would be important to highlight them. Some of the words are crossed out, underlined, or italicized for visual and dramatic effect. Each phrase gets bigger in font size by the line because it’s a poetic build up to this horrific realization that such a terrible thing had been done. With this visual text I hope that anyone viewing will realize the emotion in the narration, and can realize how powerful words can jump off a page to become art, news, or evoke feelings like sadness and shock. I also chose the colors to be similar to the cover art on my copy of the book Beloved. I liked that color scheme and I chose to work with it because I thought it would apply and be relevant to this visual project.

“Why me?”

          In the Story Beloved by Toni Morrison, we see different scenes which lead to the outcome and the climax of the story. My picture basically portrays the summary of my essay. Starting with the babies throat being slit by Sethe, which lead to the ghost hunting 124. The wedding dress portrays what Sethe wore when she was getting married to Halle. Also “124 was spiteful. Full of a baby’s venom”. Basically 124 is being hunted by the ghost of Beloved and 124 is very unstable. The river bank is said to be where Beloved resurrected from. Also the circus is where Beloved, Denver and Sethe went for quality time and it reminded Sethe of what being a family was like. Basically if Beloveds throat was never slit, the outcome of the whole story would’ve changed. And 124 wouldn’t have been hunted by Beloved’s ghost.

Beloved “an eye opener”




“And they took my milk.”

“They beat you and you was pregnant?”

 bought them thataway, raised em thataway. Men every one

Schoolteacher had chastised that nephew,—

But now she’d gone wild, due to nephew who’d overbeat her and made her cut and run.


I told you to put her human characteristics on the left; her animal ones on the right

Them boys found out I told on em. Schoolteacher made one open up my back, and when it closed it made a tree

“We was talking ’bout a tree, Sethe.”

After I left you, those boys came in there and took my milk.

what would his own horse do if you beat it beyond the point of education

I told Mrs.Garner on em. She had that lump and couldn’t speak but her eyes rolled out



They used cowhide on you?”

“And they took my milk!”



It grows there still.

As I read the novel I kept asking myself what was the motivation for Sethe’s acts. This question kept popping up until the moment when Sethe was assaulted by the Schoolteacher’s nephews. Looking at the turn of events, there was nothing more significant than the fact that if Mr. Garner was alive Schoolteacher would not have been involved in the lives of the slaves; to push things in a very traumatic way for the slaves.

As much as Beloved is a bitter experience for the slaves, it “opened our eyes” to the consequence of slavery. It showed what slavery did to innocent people and their community as a whole. Indeed Beloved is really an eye opener; as it opened up a lot of questions that have long been unanswered or in some cases never asked; as it affords the opportunity to think about some critical questions that have never been thought of for a very long time.

On curating Beloved the black and red color signify sorrow and death. In this context it signifies the amount of sorrow Sethe and Sweet Home slaves experienced in the hands of Schoolteacher. The picture on display shows the scars that were on Sethe’s back after she was beaten by Schoolteacher’s nephews. The tree Sethe calls it signifies the amount of pain that grow with the scars on her back. It shows how much it traumatize her day in day, which eventually led her to kill her baby.


Beloved She is Mine


In class we read the novel Beloved by Toni Morrison. This novel deals with a runaway slave who commits infanticide and has to deal with the consequences of that as well as her traumatic past. The character’s name is Sethe. I chose the scene where Sethe has finally realized that Beloved is her daughter as one of the most important parts of the story to me. In part one of essay two I argued that had Sethe not realized that Beloved was her daughter the story would have been changed. The most important thing that would have changed was Sethe’s acceptance of the past and all that she has been through. She had everything bottled u on the inside and she believed that things in the past were unmentionable because they hurt too much when bought up. This video that I created shows what I believe Sethe feels as she realizes that Beloved is truly the Soul of her deceased daughter come back to life. She believes that her daughter has returned to her so that she can give her the childhood that she never had. I also created a picture of important words from the passage that I chose. In that image are all the words that make up this story of Sethe’s experiences through her life. In the ending credits I wrote a poem that I think describes Sethe as I have come to understand her.

Sethe Without Amy Denver


The section of the novel “Beloved,” by Toni Morrison that I chose was when Sethe meets Amy Denver. In my point of view, the story wouldn’t have continued or ended the way it did, because I feel that Sethe might not have survived or wouldn’t have had a successful getaway. This drawing represents my assumption of what would have happened if Sethe never came across Ms. Denver.  As a graphic designer, I chose to experiment with chalk.  I used red chalk in the background to represent blood, anger and death. On top of that layer, I chose words that would have stood out to me as the result of her not coming across Sethe’s path. I chose words like death, failure, animal, and alone because that’s what I felt represented the failure of a slave’s escape.  If you look closely at Sethe’s face, I chose to make her looking down, as a sign of shame. I also added a mixture of reds and purples in her skin to show the physical damage caused by people at Sweet Home. I chose the braids and the dress based on the way Sethe was represented in the clip that we were showed in class.


Dote: verb: to be lavish or excessive in one’s attention, fondness, or affection.

Who had not even escaped slavery—had, in fact, been bought out of it by a doting son . . . ” (137).

I understand now that a son who is extremely loved would buy their parents out of slavery.

Is Beloved a ghost?

In the story Beloved there were many obstracles showed Beloved was a ghost. First, in the beginning its obvious that there was a ghost inside the house and that was Beloved’s spirit. But after Paul D showed up and shout at the cockroach, the house became silent because at the same time Paul D shout away the ghost as well.

Then later in the story, Beloved showed up as a physical person. They met her at the carnival and she was thirsty, so they took her home and feed her. Paul D against their decision, and dislike Beloved because he know she was pretending infront of Sethe and Denver as disability person when she has to hold something in order to stand up straight. Paul D told Sethe, he and Denver saw Beloved was not weak, but when Sethe asked Denver she denied. Ever since that, Paul D was very careful with Beloved. Denver know Beloved was not a human too but she refused to accept that because she want to keep Beloved as company to play with her, and thats why she denied anything that against Beloved. Also, Beloved knew everything that happen on them, such as the crystal earring Sethe had and the song Sethe only sang to her children. There were many times, Sethe believed Beloved was her dead baby girl and now she came back for her.

Thesis Statement

There are many obstacles that take place in “Beloved” which would’ve completely changed the plot of the story if it hadn’t taken place. “Beloved” which was written by Toni Morrison has many key points which portray these events. I believe the story of “Beloved” would have never taken place the way it did if Beloved’s throat was never slit, more importantly there wouldn’t be any ghost. In “Beloved” we acknowledge many changes with the ghost’s behavior as it gets more aggressive throughout the story. Therefore in my understanding it is important to discuss what would have occurred if the ghosts never existed throughout the story and all the many changes with the ghost’s behavior.

Passage for Essay 2

“Good for you. More it hurt more better it is. Can’t nothing heal without
pain, you know. What you wiggling for?”
Sethe raised up on her elbows. Lying on her back so long had raised a
ruckus between her shoulder blades. The fire in her feet and the fire on her
back made her sweat.
“My back hurt me,” she said.
“Your back? Gal, you a mess. Turn over here and let me see.”
In an effort so great it made her sick to her stomach, Sethe turned onto
her right side. Amy unfastened the back of her dress and said, “Come here,
Jesus,” when she saw. Sethe guessed it must be bad because after that call to
Jesus Amy didn’t speak for a while. In the silence of an Amy struck dumb for a
change, Sethe felt the fingers of those good hands lightly touch her back. She
could hear her breathing but still the whitegirl said nothing. Sethe could not
move. She couldn’t lie on her stomach or her back, and to keep on her side
meant pressure on her screaming feet. Amy spoke at last in her dreamwalker’s
“It’s a tree, Lu. A chokecherry tree. See, here’s the trunk–it’s red and
split wide open, full of sap, and this here’s the parting for the branches. You
got a mighty lot of branches. Leaves, too, look like, and dern if these ain’t
blossoms. Tiny little cherry blossoms, just as white. Your back got a whole

Passage for Essay 2

Well, that’s the way it was. Nobody counted on Garner dying.
Nobody thought he could. How ’bout that? Everything rested on Garner
being alive. Without his life each of theirs fell to pieces. Now ain’t that
slavery or what is it? At the peak of his strength, taller than tall men, and
stronger than most, they clipped him, Paul D.
First his shotgun, then his thoughts, for schoolteacher didn’t take
advice from Negroes. The information they offered he called backtalk and
developed a variety of corrections (which he recorded in his notebook) to
reeducate them. He complained they ate too much, rested too much, talked too
much, which was certainly true compared to him, because schoolteacher ate
little, spoke less and rested not at all. Once he saw them playing–a pitching
game–and his look of deeply felt hurt was enough to make Paul D blink. He was
as hard on his pupils as he was on them–except for the corrections.
For years Paul D believed schoolteacher broke into children what Garner
had raised into men. And it was that that made them run off. Now, plagued by
the contents of his tobacco tin, he wondered how much difference there really
was between before schoolteacher and after. Garner called and announced them
men–but only on Sweet Home, and by his leave. Was he naming what he saw or
creating what he did not? That was the wonder of Sixo, and even Halle; it was
always clear to Paul D that those two were men whether Garner said so or not.
It troubled him that, concerning his own manhood, he could not satisfy himself
on that point. Oh, he did manly things, but was that Garner’s gift or his own
will? What would he have been anyway–before Sweet Home–without Garner? In
Sixo’s country, or his mother’s? Or, God help him, on the boat? Did a whiteman
saying it make it so? Suppose Garner woke up one morning and changed his mind?
Took the word away. Would they have run then? And if he didn’t, would the Pauls
have stayed there all their lives? Why did the brothers need the one whole
night to decide? To discuss whether they would join Sixo and Halle. Because
they had been isolated in a wonderful lie, dismissing Halle’s and Baby Suggs’
life before Sweet Home as bad luck. Ignorant of or amused by Sixo’s dark
stories. Protected and convinced they were special.
Never suspecting the problem of Alfred, Georgia; being so in love with
the look of the world, putting up with anything and everything, just to stay
alive in a place where a moon he had no right to was nevertheless there. Loving
small and in secret. His little love was a tree, of course, but not like
Brother–old, wide and beckoning.

Beloved pages 74-89

“Tell me,” Beloved said. “Tell me how Sethe made you in the boat.”
“She never told me all of it,” said Denver.
“Tell me.”
Denver climbed up on the bed and folded her arms under her apron. She had
not been in the tree room once since Beloved sat on their stump after the
carnival, and had not remembered that she hadn’t gone there until this very
desperate moment. Nothing was out there that this sister-girl did not provide
in abundance: a racing heart, dreaminess, society, danger, beauty. She
swallowed twice to prepare for the telling, to construct out of the strings she
had heard all her life a net to hold Beloved.
“She had good hands, she said. The whitegirl, she said, had thin little
arms but good hands. She saw that right away, she said. Hair enough for five
heads and good hands, she said. I guess the hands made her think she could do
it: get us both across the river. But the mouth was what kept her from being
scared. She said there ain’t nothing to go by with whitepeople. You don’t know
how they’ll jump. Say one thing, do another. But if you looked at the mouth
sometimes you could tell by that. She said this girl talked a storm, but there
wasn’t no meanness around her mouth. She took Ma’am to that lean-to and rubbed
her feet for her, so that was one thing.
And Ma’am believed she wasn’t going to turn her over. You could get money
if you turned a runaway over, and she wasn’t sure this girl Amy didn’t need
money more than anything, especially since all she talked about was getting
hold of some velvet.”
“What’s velvet?”
“It’s a cloth, kind of deep and soft.”
“Go ahead.”
“Anyway, she rubbed Ma’am’s feet back to life, and she cried, she said,
from how it hurt. But it made her think she could make it on over to where
Grandma Baby Suggs was and…”
“Who is that?”
“I just said it. My grandmother.”
“Is that Sethe’s mother?”
“No. My father’s mother.”
“Go ahead.”
“That’s where the others was. My brothers and.., the baby girl.
She sent them on before to wait for her at Grandma Baby’s. So she had to
put up with everything to get there. And this here girl Amy helped.”
Denver stopped and sighed. This was the part of the story she loved. She
was coming to it now, and she loved it because it was all about herself; but
she hated it too because it made her feel like a bill was owing somewhere andhe, Denver, had to pay it. But who she owed or what to pay it with eluded her.
Now, watching Beloved’s alert and hungry face, how she took in every word,
asking questions about the color of things and their size, her downright
craving to know, Denver began to see what she was saying and not just to hear
it: there is this nineteen-year-old slave girl–a year older than her self–
walking through the dark woods to get to her children who are far away. She is
tired, scared maybe, and maybe even lost. Most of all she is by herself and
inside her is another baby she has to think about too. Behind her dogs,
perhaps; guns probably; and certainly mossy teeth. She is not so afraid at
night because she is the color of it, but in the day every sound is a shot or a
tracker’s quiet step.
Denver was seeing it now and feeling it–through Beloved. Feeling how it
must have felt to her mother. Seeing how it must have looked.
And the more fine points she made, the more detail she provided, the more
Beloved liked it. So she anticipated the questions by giving blood to the
scraps her mother and grandmother had told herwand a heartbeat. The monologue
became, iri fact, a duet as they lay down together, Denver nursing Beloved’s
interest like a lover whose pleasure was to overfeed the loved. The dark quilt
with two orange patches was there with them because Beloved wanted it near her
when she slept. It was smelling like grass and feeling like hands– the
unrested hands of busy women: dry, warm, prickly. Denver spoke, Beloved
listened, and the two did the best they could to create what really happened,
how it really was, something only Sethe knew because she alone had the mind for
it and the time afterward to shape it: the quality of Amy’s voice, her breath
like burning wood. The quick-change weather up in those hills—cool at night,
hot in the day, sudden fog. How recklessly she behaved with this whitegirlNa
recklessness born of desperation and encouraged by Amy’s fugitive eyes and her
tenderhearted mouth.
“You ain’t got no business walking round these hills, miss.”
“Looka here who’s talking. I got more business here ‘n you got.
They catch you they cut your head off. Ain’t nobody after me but I know
somebody after you.” Amy pressed her fingers into the soles of the slavewoman’s
feet. “Whose baby that?”
Sethe did not answer.
“You don’t even know. Come here, Jesus,” Amy sighed and shook her head.
“A touch.”
“Good for you. More it hurt more better it is. Can’t nothing heal without
pain, you know. What you wiggling for?”
Sethe raised up on her elbows. Lying on her back so long had raised a
ruckus between her shoulder blades. The fire in her feet and the fire on her
back made her sweat.
“My back hurt me,” she said.
“Your back? Gal, you a mess. Turn over here and let me see.”
In an effort so great it made her sick to her stomach, Sethe turned onto
her right side. Amy unfastened the back of her dress and said, “Come here,
Jesus,” when she saw. Sethe guessed it must be bad because after that call to
Jesus Amy didn’t speak for a while. In the silence of an Amy struck dumb for a
change, Sethe felt the fingers of those good hands lightly touch her back. She
could hear her breathing but still the whitegirl said nothing. Sethe could not
move. She couldn’t lie on her stomach or her back, and to keep on her side
meant pressure on her screaming feet. Amy spoke at last in her dreamwalker’s
“It’s a tree, Lu. A chokecherry tree. See, here’s the trunk–it’s red and
split wide open, full of sap, and this here’s the parting for the branches. You
got a mighty lot of branches. Leaves, too, look like, and dern if these ain’t
blossoms. Tiny little cherry blossoms, just as white. Your back got a wholeree on it. In bloom. What God have in mind, I wonder. I had me some whippings,
but I don’t remember nothing like this. Mr. Buddy had a right evil hand too.
Whip you for looking at him straight. Sure would. I looked right at him one
time and he hauled off and threw the poker at me. Guess he knew what I was athinking.'”
Sethe groaned and Amy cut her reverie short–long enough to shift Sethe’s
feet so the weight, resting on leaf-covered stones, was above the ankles.
“That better? Lord what a way to die. You gonna die in here, you know.
Ain’t no way out of it. Thank your Maker I come along so’s you wouldn’t have to
die outside in them weeds. Snake come along he bite you. Bear eat you up. Maybe
you should of stayed where you was, Lu. I can see by your back why you didn’t
ha ha.
Whoever planted that tree beat Mr. Buddy by a mile. Glad I ain’t you.
Well, spiderwebs is ’bout all I can do for you. What’s in here ain’t enough.
I’ll look outside. Could use moss, but sometimes bugs and things is in it.
Maybe I ought to break them blossoms open. Get that pus to running, you think?
Wonder what God had in mind. You must of did something. Don’t run off nowhere
Sethe could hear her humming away in the bushes as she hunted spiderwebs.
A humming she concentrated on because as soon as Amy ducked out the baby began
to stretch. Good question, she was thinking.
What did He have in mind? Amy had left the back of Sethe’s dress open and
now a tail of wind hit it, taking the pain down a step. A relief that let her
feel the lesser pain of her sore tongue. Amy returned with two palmfuls of web,
which she cleaned of prey and then draped on Sethe’s back, saying it was like
stringing a tree for Christmas.
“We got a old nigger girl come by our place. She don’t know nothing. Sews
stuff for Mrs. Buddy–real fine lace but can’t barely stick two words together.
She don’t know nothing, just like you. You don’t know a thing. End up dead,
that’s what. Not me. I’m a get to Boston and get myself some velvet. Carmine.
You don’t even know about that, do you? Now you never will. Bet you never even
sleep with the sun in your face. I did it a couple of times. Most times I’m
feeding stock before light and don’t get to sleep till way after dark comes.
But I was in the back of the wagon once and fell asleep.
Sleeping with the sun in your face is the best old feeling. Two times I
did it. Once when I was little. Didn’t nobody bother me then. Next time, in
back of the wagon, it happened again and doggone if the chickens didn’t get
loose. Mr. Buddy whipped my tail. Kentucky ain’t no good place to be in.
Boston’s the place to be in. That’s where my mother was before she was give to
Mr. Buddy. Joe Nathan said Mr.
Buddy is my daddy but I don’t believe that, you?”
Sethe told her she didn’t believe Mr. Buddy was her daddy.
“You know your daddy, do you?”
“No,” said Sethe.
“Neither me. All I know is it ain’t him.” She stood up then, having
finished her repair work, and weaving about the lean-to, her slow-moving eyes
pale in the sun that lit her hair, she sang: “‘When the busy day is done And my
weary little one Rocketh gently to and fro; When the night winds softly blow,
And the crickets in the glen Chirp and chirp and chirp again; Where “pon the
haunted green Fairies dance around their queen, Then from yonder misty skies
Cometh Lady Button Eyes.”
Suddenly she stopped weaving and rocking and sat down, her skinny arms
wrapped around her knees, her good good hands cupping her elbows. Her slowmoving eyes stopped and peered into the dirt at her feet. “That’s my mama’s
song. She taught me it.”
“Through the muck and mist and glaam To our quiet cozy home, Where to
singing sweet and low Rocks a cradle to and the clock’s dull monotone
Telleth of the day that’s done,
Where the moonbeams hover o’er
Playthings sleeping on the floor,
Where my weary wee one lies
Cometh Lady Button Eyes.
Layeth she her hands upon
My dear weary little one,
And those white hands overspread
Like a veil the curly head,
Seem to fondle and caress
Every little silken tress.
Then she smooths the eyelids down
Over those two eyes of brown
In such soothing tender wise
Cometh Lady Button Eyes.”
Amy sat quietly after her song, then repeated the last line before she
stood, left the lean-to and walked off a little ways to lean against a young
ash. When she came back the sun was in the valley below and they were way above
it in blue Kentucky light.
“‘You ain’t dead yet, Lu? Lu?”
“Not yet.”
“Make you a bet. You make it through the night, you make it all the way.”
Amy rearranged the leaves for comfort and knelt down to massage the swollen
feet again. “Give these one more real good rub,” she said, and when Sethe
sucked air through her teeth, she said, “Shut up. You got to keep your mouth
Careful of her tongue, Sethe bit down on her lips and let the good hands
go to work to the tune of “So bees, sing soft and bees, sing low.” Afterward,
Amy moved to the other side of the lean-to where, seated, she lowered her head
toward her shoulder and braided her hair, saying, “Don’t up and die on me in
the night, you hear? I don’t want to see your ugly black face hankering over
me. If you do die, just go on off somewhere where I can’t see you, hear?”
“I hear,” said Sethe. I’ll do what I can, miss.”
Sethe never expected to see another thing in this world, so when she felt
toes prodding her hip it took a while to come out of a sleep she thought was
death. She sat up, stiff and shivery, while Amy looked in on her juicy back.
“Looks like the devil,” said Amy. “But you made it through.
Come down here, Jesus, Lu made it through. That’s because of me.
I’m good at sick things. Can you walk, you think?”
“I have to let my water some kind of way.”
“Let’s see you walk on em.”
It was not good, but it was possible, so Sethe limped, holding on first
to Amy, then to a sapling.
“Was me did it. I’m good at sick things ain’t I?”
“Yeah,” said Sethe, “you good.”
“We got to get off this here hill. Come on. I’ll take you down to the
river. That ought to suit you. Me, I’m going to the Pike. Take me straight to
Boston. What’s that all over your dress?”
“You one mess.”
Sethe looked down at her stomach and touched it. The baby was dead. She
had not died in the night, but the baby had. If that was the case, then thereas no stopping now. She would get that milk to her baby girl if she had to
“Ain’t you hungry?” Amy asked her.
“I ain’t nothing but in a hurry, miss.”
“Whoa. Slow down. Want some shoes?”
“Say what?”
“I figured how,” said Amy and so she had. She tore two pieces from
Sethe’s shawl, filled them with leaves and tied them over her feet, chattering
all the while.
“How old are you, Lu? I been bleeding for four years but I ain’t having
nobody’s baby. Won’t catch me sweating milk cause…”
“I know,” said Sethe. “You going to Boston.”
At noon they saw it; then they were near enough to hear it. By late
afternoon they could drink from it if they wanted to. Four stars were visible
by the time they found, not a riverboat to stow Sethe away on, or a ferryman
willing to take on a fugitive passenger–nothing like that–but a whole boat to
steal. It had one oar, lots of holes and two bird nests.
“There you go, Lu. Jesus looking at you.”
Sethe was looking at one mile of dark water, which would have to be split
with one oar in a useless boat against a current dedicated to the Mississippi
hundreds of miles away. It looked like home to her, and the baby (not dead in
the least) must have thought so too.
As soon as Sethe got close to the river her own water broke loose to join
it. The break, followed by the redundant announcement of labor, arched her
“What you doing that for?” asked Amy. “Ain’t you got a brain in your
head? Stop that right now. I said stop it, Lu. You the dumbest thing on this
here earth. Lu! Lu!”
Sethe couldn’t think of anywhere to go but in. She waited for the sweet
beat that followed the blast of pain. On her knees again, she crawled into the
boat. It waddled under her and she had just enough time to brace her leaf-bag
feet on the bench when another rip took her breath away. Panting under four
summer stars, she threw her legs over the sides, because here come the head, as
Amy informed her as though she did not know it–as though the rip was a breakup
of walnut logs in the brace, or of lightning’s jagged tear through a leather
It was stuck. Face up and drowning in its mother’s blood. Amy stopped
begging Jesus and began to curse His daddy.
“Push!” screamed Amy.
“Pull,” whispered Sethe.
And the strong hands went to work a fourth time, none too soon, for river
water, seeping through any hole it chose, was spreading over Sethe’s hips. She
reached one arm back and grabbed the rope while Amy fairly clawed at the head.
When a foot rose from the river bed and kicked the bottom of the boat and
Sethe’s behind, she knew it was done and permitted herself a short faint.
Coming to, she heard no cries, just Amy’s encouraging coos. Nothing happened
for so long they both believed they had lost it. Sethe arched suddenly and the
afterbirth shot out. Then the baby whimpered and Sethe looked.
Twenty inches of cord hung from its belly and it trembled in the cooling
evening air. Amy wrapped her skirt around it and the wet sticky women clambered
ashore to see what, indeed, God had in mind.
Spores of bluefern growing in the hollows along the riverbank float
toward the water in silver-blue lines hard to see unless you are in or near
them, lying right at the river’s edge when the sunshots are low and drained.
Often they are mistook for insects–but they are seeds in which the whole
generation sleeps confident of a future.
And for a moment it is easy to believe each one has one–will become allf what is contained in the spore: will live out its days as planned.
This moment of certainty lasts no longer than that; longer, perhaps, than
the spore itself.
On a riverbank in the cool of a summer evening two women struggled under
a shower of silvery blue. They never expected to see each other again in this
world and at the moment couldn’t care less.
But there on a summer night surrounded by bluefern they did something
together appropriately and well. A pateroller passing would have sniggered to
see two throw-away people, two lawless outlaws– a slave and a barefoot
whitewoman with unpinned hair–wrapping a ten-minute-old baby in the rags they
wore. But no pateroller came and no preacher. The water sucked and swallowed
itself beneath them. There was nothing to disturb them at their work. So they
did it appropriately and well.
Twilight came on and Amy said she had to go; that she wouldn’t be caught
dead in daylight on a busy river with a runaway. After rinsing her hands and
face in the river, she stood and looked down at the baby wrapped and tied to
Sethe’s chest.
“She’s never gonna know who I am. You gonna tell her? Who brought her
into this here world?” She lifted her chin, looked off into the place where the
sun used to be. “You better tell her. You hear? Say Miss Amy Denver. Of