The Literary Purveyor is looking for freelancers to help produce content that is meaningful and impactful, accepting pitches covering a variety of topics, including faith, culture, lifestyle, identity, wellness, fashion, home decor, and politics presented as fiction, nonfiction, poetry, photo essay, and short film. Ideas for submissions in all mediums, including audio, illustration, data and visualization are welcome.
The Literary Purveyor will publish pieces up to 1500 words. Payment is $.20 per word; poetry is $10 per line (with a maximum payment of $300); illustration is $50 per image (with a $300 maximum per comic or photo essay); photographs accompanying article $30; film payscale as follows: 1-5 minutes, $50; 6-10 minutes $100; 11-20 minutes, $200; 21-30 minutes, $300 for first serial rights.
As the sun kissed the top of Sacrca’s head while waiting on the sidewalk just outside the Dwight D. Eisenhower National Airport, validated were his dreams of a sparkling place with boundless opportunity. His first thought: The heartland. Though Saccra was far from it, the mid-afternoon gleam reminded him of the hot, peaceful courtship between sky, man, and savannah back home. With an exhale, his jet lag dissipated. Here, he would court a new life. “I like Ike,” he mumbled, recalling the presidential campaign slogan of the airport’s namesake. Though his pragmatic nature led him to computer science, he’d always carried an affinity for history, politics and literature. Americans prefer simple rhyme. Simple rhythm. Wheat blowing in the wind.
He doesn’t wait long; his friend, Malachi, pulls up honking and calling out. “Time to fly!”
“Eagle’s landed,” Saccra responded, tossing his luggage, one suitcase and one duffle bag, carelessly in the car trunk. Though he planned an extended stay, he’d packed light; his life would consist of all new things, including clothes.
He settled on selling insurance, having failed to land a position in his field of study. Ascension was quick, his success largely attributed to his voice, which reflected a variety of baritones with confidence and intelligence. His suave rhetoric never seemed manipulative, but rather honest. And he was honest—for the most part. He was honest with himself and his capabilities, while realizing preconceived societal ideals.
Most assumed him French until they entered his office. To his credit, though young, he was of the old guard mindset of good sportsmanship; he was competitive and not easily triggered. He responded with hospitality and a lot of demand, informing them they had no choice but to take advantage of the opportunity of protection while it affordably presented itself. His lion-like strut and self-assurance resulted in a great majority of kills.
It had its advantages, the job. Not only was he able to interact with various types of people while earning a living, but he was also able to construct a social life through work. Romantically, he was a voyager with many conquests, though sometimes he felt American women were not worth the trouble; he believed Kansan women less secure than Togolese—even with all their rights—and that their bodies—even with all the gyms and plastic surgeons around town—were disappointing. If not out of shape, without shape or downright fat, they had augmented standard top halfs resembling overgrown grapefruit that denied the natural softness of a woman paired with nibbled on apple bottoms.
He was neither discriminatory nor picky, the woman who would become his live-in lover indicative of such facts. She was a twenty-three year old third working on fourth year undeclared partying sophomore who felt now was not the time for building, but rather for recovering time stolen by overly restrictive parents. Jenny was not overwhelmingly ugly, but her very plain face combined with stringy blonde hair and husky body made her relatively unattractive. She fought it, as is every woman’s duty—her main ammo make-up and suggestive clothing—but the clothes were ill fit on her box-like figure. She meagerly attempted to look tan with foundation five shades darker than her neck, which inadvertently caused her to lose the battle of beauty in the saddest way possible—to herself. The consensus about the couple among black women was, “At least he could have picked a pretty one,” and among white men, “She’s the only white woman he could get.”
For two years they played, living together the last eight months. When Jenny’s parents trimmed her financial support after discovering she had been shacking up without moving an inch closer to graduating, Jenny picked up a third shift job as a home security dispatcher. On Saccra’s part, he’d always placed greater focus on securing his silk du-rag nightly than cuddling with Jenny, so he was far from torn. Still, he’d become restless, tired of selling insurance and searching for a sociological academic position, wanting to earn a PhD, with no prospects of entering higher education in sight. Had it not been for Jenny’s scholarly Aunt Edna subsidizing their income, her having been charmed—“I see no reason this handsome man can’t get a PhD” she would often say—he’d have left the situation sooner.
Saccra regularly hunted for employment with Malachi and when they returned home on evenings before Jenny left for work, he’d find Jenny sitting on the middle of the living room sofa waiting. Malachi would plop next to her, cut the tension of a man coming home much too late, and tell Saccra to make a round of drinks. On nights Jenny didn’t have to work, the three would play gin rummy or watch a movie. “You act more excited to see him than me,” Saccra would chide, looking at Jenny, trying to sense her true feelings, though he already knew.
“Of course not,” she’d reply, determined not to get snapped into his trap, remembering she should be the one asking the questions. “Another round?”
Mishaps happen when a heart yearns for change but is too cowardly to act. Saccra didn’t have to hustle back out to the field—he’d never really left it—but he did abandon the sense of ethics he’d formerly maintained while at the plate. He had gone from a strutting lion to a lazy lion, frustrated from unrealized expectations. A third shift working girlfriend was an open invitation to play, and Saccra had begun gaming on home turf, Jenny’s car the signifying flag to stop or go. When it was gone they came and incense burned to snuff out the smell of foreign flesh.
She left work early that day, feeling nauseous while heading home. A blue Nissan sat in her parking space, so she parked at the next spot over and headed towards the door. When she stepped in she saw Sacra lying on the sofa with an espresso colored woman between his legs, a lackadaisical vibe between the two as if their only concern were one another. When they noticed Jenny in the doorway Saccra tapped the woman’s leg and she slowly stood up.
“Hi,” the smooth woman said, as if there were nothing to slice—no tension, no foul—before gliding past Jenny and letting herself out. Saccra then stood up and poured himself a glass of milk. “Do you want anything?” Jenny noticed the small invisible lines connecting the corners of his lips to his nose.
“No,” she responded. He sat back down on the sofa and began flipping through channels. Jenny walked to the bedroom and sat on the bed. She didn’t cry, she just thought. She took her clothes off and went to sleep.
A couple of weeks later Saccra left on a weeklong trip to Denver for what he told Jenny was “marketing enhancement training.” She spent the hours cleaning, beginning in the kitchen and continuing until she was dusting the bedroom light fixtures. She was only a week late, but one too many stories of pregnant women scrubbing floors and disinfecting door knobs rendered her afraid of the potential implications.
While on her knees tugging the bed skirt just so to give it a perfect silhouette, she saw a shoebox near the side table. In it lay unimportant matter—pictures of Saccra’s family, resident documentation, and at the very bottom, bank statements for an account Jenny never knew existed.
Saccra was enjoying his view of Aspen through the windows of his suite.
“You want something to drink?”
“Why so standoffish? Are you happy?” She moved forward to kiss him, but with a slight turn of the head what was intended for his lips landed on one of the invisible lines Jenny had noticed two weeks ago. For a moment he searched her face for any family resemblance and, to his relief, found nothing. Edna was twenty years older but didn’t have to try so hard; she was a natural looker and a serious woman who still knew how to have fun, probably a lesson learned late in life, Saccra figured, which is why she was alone.
“She’s been good to me. Supported me, stuck by me.”
“You love her?”
He hadn’t asked himself this, never felt it was important and had he been questioned a week ago he would have answered no without a doubt. He’d pitied her originally, thought he did her a favor by being with her, and at this moment couldn’t explain why he hesitated to answer or why the answer itself had changed. “Yes.”
“Just like that? I’m too old for you.”
“That’s not it.”
“I’ve invested in you.”
“I’ll pay you back. All of it. I’ll pay you back.”
He dozed off on the plane and reflected peacefully in the rideshare home, thinking of a new way, a new life, a new identity.
Finally he was home. He walked up the cement path and felt the sway of the pussy willow fan his body. He loved this place. He opened the door and walked in, stopped in his tracks by the scene. Jenny lay atop Malachi on the sofa, two stalks still in the wind, the rhythm of the silence a masterful serenade to the comfort found between two people. They both looked at Saccra. Jenny stood up and Malachi followed her, wordlessly passing his old friend. After he left, Jenny pulled out a bottle of wine. She opened it, poured herself a glass. “You want one?”
He walked into the bedroom, where his financial statements lay scattered across his side of the bed. He sat fighting a mist of pride while down the hall Jenny called Malachi to see if he’d safely made it home.
Impression management is a requisite to performing on the social stage of life. To possess a keen sense of style provides the ability to wield power across settings by keeping an impeccable image. Author John T. Molloy asserted the importance of dressing for success in his books of similar name, outlining nearly fifty years ago the necessity of adorning for your desired post as opposed to your current position. His how to dress for success books have provided insight into the art of subtly for generations, making him “America’s first wardrobe engineer” according to Time magazine.
But if Molloy was the first American wardrobe engineer, Edith Head was the first American wardrobe architect. “You can do anything you want in life if you dress for it,” says Head in How to Dress for Success, her book eight years senior to Molloy’s Dress for Success.
For several years, I worked for a nonprofit of similar title to Molloy’s books, everyday partaking in the transformational nature of clothing. Though “We suit the woman from within” became the tagline expressing the need for a menu of programming that included workforce development, employment retention, financial literacy, health and wellness, and leadership, supporting a woman wherever she stood in her employment journey, the truth of the matter is that the organization’s divinity lay in the boutique, where women stood taller at their reflection in a three-way mirror affirming their newness in the clothes they’d just been provided.
Garments as an expression of love is Biblical. One of God’s first acts of care and mercy after Adam and Eve sinned was to provide clothing. (Gen 3:21). God took care of the Israelites during the exodus by causing their clothes not to wear out (Deut 8:4; 29:5; Neh 9:21), and Israel loved Joseph above all his other sons and gifted him a coat of many colors. To express her love, Hannah gave Samuel clothes (1 Sam 2:19). And the highest level of love in the Bible, that God so loved the world He gave His one and only Son, came with a prophecy about Jesus, ‘They parted my garments among them, and upon my vesture did they cast lots’ (Matthew 27:35).
“This is where the magic happens” the organization’s longest serving CEO would tell potential donors and guests when leading them on a tour of the space.
I recorded a video for that organization about my “power piece,” a derivative of “power dressing” popularized in the 1970s and 1980s–assisted by Molloy’s books– and modernly rooted in the 1920s by Chanel suits consisting of tight skirts and collarless button-up jackets, usually with braid trim, metallic buttons and fitted sleeves, both pieces in wool. For me, a power piece typically means one thing:
It started many years ago with my mother, who had her own definition of power dressing:
And while mom may have preferred sequins, toile and fox slings, she was business first, and that is how she dressed her only daughter starting in pre-k. In fact, one of my childhood nicknames was Nancy Reagan.
From Chanel to Zara, Gucci to St. John and Saint Laurent, and beyond; at galas and in cluttered offices, on sets and in boardrooms, train stations and living rooms, at homecomings and The Rock, I’ve been wearing blazers ever since.
For women, the practice of deliberately establishing authority in a professional and political environment traditionally dominated by men sometimes goes beyond the blazer. Such was the case of my first job at the MacDonald golf course in Wichita, Kansas as part of the city’s summer youth program.
I experienced all the typical formalities of a first job—responsibility and commitment, learning to work with various personalities. But I also discovered the important role wardrobe choice plays in conveying a message within the workplace.
There were three youth summer workers: thirteen-year-old me, my fourteen going on fifteen-year-old brother, and a sixteen-year-old guy.
All the other employees were adult males, and with the exception of one black, they were all white.
Locker room talk was the culture, and one employee, Steve, was the worst of them all. “Hey man, my sister is in here,” my brother reminded Steve, checking the tan white man with slanted bright eyes.
Not only was I the only girl in the place, I was actually the first girl to ever work there.
Everyone’s job was to maintain the course under the superintendent Randy, who was quite considerate and professional, despite the toxic work environment.
My days typically consisted of carrying around a bucket of what was referred to as “chicken feed”—grass seeds— and filling in divots. A golf cart would have made the job easier, but none of the youth workers were allowed to drive, so we had to shlep. It was hard work–we were in the hot sun doing manual labor all day. But I really enjoyed earning money.
I outworked and outlasted both my brother, who ended up having an allergic reaction to a row of trees he and I trimmed, resulting in is head swelling about twice its normal size, giving him the appearance of an alien, and the sixteen-year-old, who quit a few weeks in.
This left me without the shield of my brother and the only youth worker among the golf course broskis. I was more than a little nervous about going in, but as the saying goes, “My mama didn’t raise no punk.”
There was a popular sketch-comedy show created by the brilliant Keenan Ivory Wayans airing at the time called In Living Color, a show launching the careers of several people including his talented brother Damon Wayans, as well as the incomparables Jim Carrey and Jamie Foxx, and even Jennifer Lopez, who was part the show’s dance troupe, The Fly Girls.
One of the most popular skits was about an ex-con turned silly clown called Homey D. Clown. Homey D. Clown would go to birthday parties and kids would ask him to do things like, “Can you slip on a banana and fall?”
Homey would answer: “Fall down, bust my skull open and have my blood and brains ooze out on the carpet so you can get a couple of cheap laughs, huh? I don’t think so.” Then he’d smack the child over the head with a sock and say, “Homey don’t play that.”
Or they’d asked, “Can I smash this pie in your face?”
And he’d answer, “I think you’ve got it reversed.” Then he’d smash the pie in the child’s face and say, “Homey don’t play that.”
Oftentime Homey would give sound advice to the kids, especially about dignity. But just when you thought Homey had turned tender in his wisdom as the child asked for a hug or to sit on his lap, he’d remind them and the viewer that under no uncertain terms does Homey ever play that. In short, Homey D. Clown is a militant, Afrocentric, anti-establishment clown who responds with “Homie don’t play that” when he is asked to do something beneath his values. “Let’s get something straight, kids. Homey may be a clown, but he don’t make a fool outta hisself.”
I found my power piece in the basement washroom. I don’t remember who the shirt actually belonged to, but I took it up to my room as I prepared for work the next day. I would wear a Homey D Clown t-shirt to my premier as the lone youth worker on the job.
And just like that, I solidified a new nickname: Homey. All day, the broskis randomly read aloud the tagline on my shirt: “Homey don’t play that!”
There was a high school English teacher who moonlit at the course every summer particularly amused; only the widely read would notice his subtle smirk. Dare I say he was impressed.
That shirt shifted the atmosphere to a level of comfortability that inspired me to work even harder than I had when my brother was around. Randy the Supervisor invited me to stay beyond the program deadline, until school started, so I was able to earn extra money. “You come back anytime; we’d love to have you,” Randy offered on my last day, the Friday before the new school year began.
I thanked Randy, genuinely grateful for his consideration. And though I had the sense to be appreciative for the opportunity and to hold my tongue, in my mind I let him know: “I don’t think so. Homey don’t play that.”
A Performance Piece written and performed by Michelle Parker
I came out of the womb declaring war against the world. A nappy headed woman who never had the opulence to be a little girl born to a nappy headed woman who never had the opulence to be a little girl who was born to the same. Skin light enough to digest but tongue made of fire, they quickly spit me back up. Woman and Black woven into my spirit, the perpetual hand I was dealt and love so dearly. A butterfly, enthralling each flower that grows near my garden, completely oblivious to my form, unaware of this environment. A praying mother was nearly the most aggressive offense to the world, right after this black woman inheriting such an eminent trait. At twelve a woman whispered in my ear and told me caterpillars don’t always become butterflies. It’s dependent upon their environment and food, sometimes they become moths. The first crime performed against me decided my fate. My mouth was forced open before I ever desired a taste. My head was drawn back and filth was poured down my throat leaving a bitter taste to infect the rest of my body. A moth. The sweet fruits of God’s labor were occluded, I refused it. Unable to believe that honeysuckle taste was for me. It must be something I stole quietly, like my shadow on the floor. It was under these circumstances I breathed outside my mothers body for the first time. My lungs grasped for air, unable to recognize what I had just gone through. I luxuriated in my daydreams for hours on end, my feet on the floor simply didn’t make sense. My mother continued to deterge, too in place to carry me any further. We were no longer mirrors, instead a reflection in water, slightly distorted, not quite the same. I chased tails, stomped feet, and danced under a sky of cataclysm. Twisting and turning desperate to separate myself from the terrible crime I performed against the world and the forgotten crime that was performed against me. Like lady in yellow my spirit is too ancient to understand the separation of soul and gender but I never considered my love too delicate to have thrown back in my face. My cup was half empty, back so weary, and these shoulders. My goodness, please straighten them. No charm, no symmetry. A moth. However I remained with a praying mother. My soul wept and pleaded for chapters like David in the book of Psalm. It wasn’t until I opened my own mouth and allowed myself to taste those fruits. Those sweet, planted, grown, gathered, washed, packaged, sent with a love note fruits. What a terrible crime to survive as a moth when I could live as a butterfly.
I attended a SOAR virtual workshop this past Sunday, Love in the Afternoon Loving up on You!, where Kimberly A. Collins used her Writing Training Wheels™ as a tool for teaching healing and empowerment through writing poetry. A good majority of attendees were Howard University students, and the intergenerational exchange of ideas was refreshing. While I’ve written many a poem, for the first time I read a poem of mine (written in real time at the workshop) for an audience. Love in courage, I share my piece:
I restore the spirit of me
under the apricot sun. One can only smell fresh baked bread so long. I’ve got to go outside. Buy blueberry cotton candy, let my teeth ache a moment. Find joy in the future, in babies’ laughter, their tight curls a helix of life’s zig zags, a marvel of physics ever resting and protecting— a chipped scale balancing the self-less and self-full.
is the beginning of a daily appreciation of an environmental narrative written in a language of items curated through repeated exercise of search and happenstance. Each piece represents a note of emotions, running the gamut of a shopper’s experience: confidence and uncertainty, frugality and debt. This is how a home is designed.