Spirit in the Wood



Sketched by a flickering autumn fire,
A frameless, eight-by-ten charcoal portrait
Depicting parting flames arguing between thin lines
Over obscure boundaries and dirty games
Rips at the widower’s waning faith
In committed, institutionalized love,
Scatters his quaint thoughts in layers
Shallower than rust leaves shed by restless trees
That, unlike a platinum-set diamond ring,
Possess circles of nature’s secrets to infinity.

Instead of shredding dark gray memories
Of secondhand misery slithering
Against wind-blown, lush green symmetry —
Estranged lovers stumbling over words and gravel
Three feet ahead of his scuffed shoes
That shuffled worn-suede indigo blues,
Bickering beneath tittering birds over dusty bits
Destined to be, like their bones,
Pulverized into ash, a grisly sand
He rocks on his coccyx in shrouded optimism.

Tossing his stubby illustrator’s pencil,
He pretends it’s a log-in-miniature
Rolling with discarded muses in the fire,
And it sends half-dead embers sputtering
Like the feisty engine of his ’77 Honda Civic —
The red-hot one with a leopard-spotted backseat
Designed for muff diving and drive-in sex —
Which struggled decades of crying, pooping babies
And catered wedding anniversary parties later
To hold on when his wife’s heart and lungs could not.

From a distance, in the spare kitchen,
The usually silent telephone rings,
And he leans toward the loops in anticipation,
Breathing as if reborn a new man,
Or being fitted for an elegant new suit
An hour before cabbing across town
To reunite with a cherished friend
Dressed in her slimming black, strapless gown
For a five-course meal and foreplay’s zeal
Topped by popped and poured libation.

Having caught up on two lifetimes,
And, like a spring gale, turned a new leaf,
He kneels at the hearth, groveling to God,
Whose meaning he could not grasp
While drowning in mind-numbing grief.
Heat from crackling wood extends to wrinkled skin
As to his will does the long-awaited chance
To reclaim The One who had got away
A split second before his wife returned a week late
From a girlfriends’ men-bashing holiday.

His weathered visage glows in the firelight
As he realizes that his lonely plight
Has ended and his fickle fate is tied
With that of the two parkside lovers.
Withered lips warm to a wide smile
Despite crowns from failed dental wars —
The least of his disclosed flaws
For the rekindled blaze sketches
Upon his crinkled paper a spirited dance,
Orange halos on rescued smudges of romance.



© 2012-2015 Chantale Rêve
All Rights Reserved


Stood-up on a rain date in New York City,

I dodged the sunset and hopped a “D” train home,

Where, brimming with blissful solitude,

I urged the Muse to purge me of ulcerous self-pity –

Sonic grooves by Alanis setting the mood

For repentant limerent spectres to roam.

small piano keys clip art

Then ferocious catcalls in the corridor

Ripped me from an entranced state,

Echoed like rutting felines in the alleyway,

Too vulgar and sexual to be ignored,

Intruded on an impromptu mini-holiday —

My solitary, literary weekend escape.

small piano keys clip art

Through a cracked peephole I dared,
Despite my paralyzing, unutterable fear,

To observe lewd gestures of the same

Vicious thugs whose vile words and three-pronged stare

Five years back had degraded me past naked shame,

Had left me drowning in blood and putrid smears.

small piano keys clip art

In an update unbeknownst to me,

Buried beneath grim news headlines,

The terrifying trinity was on parole.

A mockery of justice permitted them to be free

But imprisoned my courage behind bars of old,

For which the keys were impossible to find.

small piano keys clip art

How I hated waiting alone for the police,

My pulse throbbing at a blistering pace!

Flashbacks transported me to that horrible Saturday,

When three men morphed into a six-legged beast,

Ravaging a blithe spirit until hope in Man rotted away

And her peace and joy vanished without a trace.

small piano keys clip art  small piano keys clip art   small piano keys clip art

© 2012-2015 Chantale Rêve

All Rights Reserved

Well, it’s about damn time that Kasi Lemmons, veteran actress and the director of such idiosyncratic films as Eve’s Bayou, The Caveman’s ValentineTalk to Me and, most recently, Black Nativity — inspired by poet Langston Hughes’ 1961 play — is awarded for her exemplary filmmaking.  Lemmons will be among the illustrious women honored at the 2014 Athena Film Festival Awards, scheduled to take place at Barnard College, New York, February 6-9, 2014.

Other distinguished honorees will include:  Sherry Lansing, former chairwoman and chief executive officer of Paramount Pictures, and former president of 20th Century Fox, who is set to receive the Laura Ziskin Lifetime Achievement Award; Callie Khouri, Oscar-winning screenwriter of Thelma & Louise and creator of the TV series “Nashville”; and Keri Putnam, executive director of the Sundance Institute.

My first cinematic memory of Lemmons is her small role in Robert Bierman’s 1989 existential black comedy, Vampire’s Kiss, now a cult classic.  In Vampire’s Kiss, Lemmons portrayed Jackie, the jerked-around boho girlfriend of paranoid yuppie lit agent Peter Loew.  She was quite credible as she hysterically fended off a vampire bat that had intruded on their intense sex play in Peter’s Manhattan flat, and she gained my sympathy pouting every time her batty beau stood her up to take another bite from Jennifer Beals’ predatory vampire, Rachel (even though Rachel was only the product of the protagonist’s hallucination).

According to the “Thompson on Hollywood” blog on Indiewire.com, early-bird passes for the fourth annual Athena Film Festival are available on-line, but individual ticket sales will begin next month.  And attention, all you screenwriters out there:  Indiewire.com also reported that there’s a newly created Athena List calling for three to five “completed screenplays with strong leading female characterd that have yet to be made into films.”  The current list will be announced at the upcoming Athena Film Festival, but you should try out for future Athena Lists.

For more information about the 2014 Athena Film Festival Awards and/or the Athena List, please check out http://athenafilmfestival.com.

And to Kasi Lemmons:  Congrats on your forthcoming award!!!

© 2013 Chantale Rêve

All Rights Reserved

Top Photo:  Director-actress Kasi Lemmons and (partially cropped out at left) her director-actor husband, Vondie Curtis-Hall — what a stellar couple!

Photo Source:  Indiewire.com

Cotton from Mary Frances

Cotton from Mary Frances (Photo credit: Midpath)

Talk about irony.  First Blacks — well, We was coloreds back then — were forced to pick the cotton.  Now We can’t even take photos of the cotton.  WTF? you ask. Yeah, well, it’s a cryin’ shame.  Seems actor couple Cherie Johnson and Dennis White stopped their car on a South Carolina road, en route to a respite in Myrtle Beach, to snap pix of cotton in a vast field of the white fluffy stuff.  Next up pulled a sheriff, who grilled them in the hot Southern sun about drugs that were not in their possession, rifled through belongings in their car, handcuffed them, accused Ms. Johnson of petty larceny (a charge later dropped) and then issued a citation for “Other.”  Again, you ask:  WTF?

Soft in the head, sure.   The South Carolina Sheriffs Department also has got to be out of its cotton-pickin’ mind.   (The film Deliverance comes to mind; just substitute a car for a canoe — and a camera for a bow and arrow.)  We’ve heard of the vehicular version of racial profiling:  DWB (“Driving While Black,” for those readers who aren’t Black, or have never been a passenger in a car driven by a Black person).  Now the media has introduced to the massas, I mean, masses, the botanic version of racial profiling:  PCWB (“Picking Cotton While Black”).

Scratching my head, which is as soft as cotton.  So let me get this straight as hair smeared with Dark & Lovely lye:  It was cool for coloreds to stoop to pick the cotton as slaves — when we did it for free — and, later, as tenant farmers, but now we can’t take photos of it?  The absurdity of those facts and the ugliness of the physical violation and psychological torture of actors Cherie Johnson and Dennis White are causing my fingertips to bleed like those of my Black forefathers and Black foremothers who toiled in those cotton fields and were considered chattel — possessions no more important than farm animals — in the agro-rich South.

But what to do?  Boycott the ubiquitous natural fiber the very enunciation of which triggers downy comforts?  I’m not exactly ready to toss out my Q-tips and T-shirts, my billowy sheets and snuggly fleece.  While I wouldn’t mind opting for nylon undies over cotton ones, I can think of a few products for which there currently are no substitutes.  Let’s face it:  It’s hard to avoid such a versatile material from the plant world.

As for photographing plants by the side of the road — yes, we Americans of all colors have the right to seize the moment and the day!  I say:  Shoot the cotton like a paparazzo!  Shut off the A/C on the approach to whatever-the-fuck road We meander onto in some small town way below the Mason-Dixon Line.  Whip out that zoom lens to capture that priceless image of cotton.  Cotton that pricked the sides of African slaves running on blistered soles on the way to freedom. Cotton running free.  Cotton, cotton everywhere.

Hell, white landowners and their henchmen used to whip Us if We refused to pick the cotton.  When We complied and picked the cotton, We got flogged anyway.  You know, to hell with boycotting cotton.  Out, out with all my belts and riding crops.  Regarding the latter:  Yeah,  like I’ll ever ride a real horse after the first time, when my steed peed for an eternity and then decided to speed through the friggin’ forest.  And they called it a “company outing” intended for “team building.” A lot of hooey.  Hell, it was nearly company-sanctioned murder.  When my incontinent Mister Ed realized his buddies a mile ahead, he made up for lost time. He must’ve mistaken the Poconos for Sleepy Hollow and me for the Headless Horseman because he was giddying up and I was screaming like a whore in a horror flick.  No, in case you’re wondering, I didn’t know that yelling my head off would spook the horse.  Some bonding experience.  My co-workers were guffawing, their laughter bordering on bawling and echoing through the woods.  Of course, they too had signed away their lives with nervous smiles before donning those brain buckets.

Hmmm … Methinks I’ll boycott dude ranches but only after anything I associate with riding crops, including:  S&M clubs; Spanx in any color; DVDs of Indiana Jones, Batman Returns and Catwoman; and any Madonna videos made prior to 2000.



©2013 Chantale Rêve

All Rights Reserved

Using a cotton picker machine

Using a cotton picker machine (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

Fifty Shades Trilogy: Fifty Shades of Grey, Fifty Shades Darker, Fifty Shades Freed 3-volume Shrink Wrapped

Confession, sans restraints:  EL JamesFifty Shades of Grey trilogy (pictured above) was aiiiight.  Nearly sixty years after Story of O, Pauline Réage’s palpable words pique the senses and rev up the imagination.  Part I of FSOG  sucked harder than Anastasia Steele’s virginal lips on … well, y’know.  The kinkiest thing about James’ protag is her first name, which conjures up steely anal ecstasy.  On the flip side, her name approximates anesthesia when the reader finds herself drowning in a sea of first-person pronouns, swept toward the void of unconsciousness. Enough about the subjective, objective and obsessive …

In the case of Darker — Part II of FSOG — it was my fave, but by the end of Part III, hell, I was ready to be “freed.”  Who cares? you may be pondering at the moment.  Myyyyy blog didn’t get picked up and transformed into global bestsellers.  Yeah, I’m feelin’ you.  The point of this blog post, though, is:  Now I’m bummed that someone other than hottie Simon Baker (Charlie Hunnam, for some inexplicable reason) has been cast as “Christian Grey” in the upcoming film adaptation to be directed by Sam Taylor-Johnson.  The Twilight chick, Kristen Stewart, would’ve been perfectly pale as the alabaster porcelain doll, Anal — I mean, Ana.  Damn, where is my mind tonight?  Up my a…

As I had started to explain, one would’ve had to be comatose for at least ten years not to know who Simon Baker is — in the U.S. anyway.  Baker has had two great dramatic series on U.S. television since 2001:  first, “The Guardian,” then “The Mentalist,” the latter of which is still going strong.  A man doesn’t sport sexually menacing, thick eyebrows like George C. Scott’s and not be able to administer ritualistic physical discipline.  No, I’m not hitting below the belt; in my fantasy, Baker is wielding one.  (Make that two.)  Just as yummy James Spader of yuppie-eighties-movies fame nailed his “Mr. Gray” persona (as well as Maggie Gyllenhaal’s title character) in 2002’s indie Master-“piece,” Secretary, Baker would’ve been an obvious … dare I say it … fit as sadistic businessman “Grey.”

On film Beefcake’s, err, Baker’s “Christian” (yeah, the irony) seduced Anne Hathaway’s geeky-Mod character, “Andy,” then committed a BUI (bedding under the influence) in the 2006 comedy The Devil Wears Prada, which featured another tall, bushy-browed hunk, Adrian Grenier of HBO’s hit bromance comedy series “Entourage,” which itself satirized millennial nouveau riche excess of a wannabe A-list actor and his amigos in Los Angeles.  In the romantic drama Something New (2006), Baker literally shined as “Brian,” Sanaa Lathan’s blind-date-turned-spouse (after much fucking with, and mental fucking by, Lathan’s cynical buppie princess, “Kenya”).  As for the queasily anticipated film Fifty Shades of Grey:  fifty lashes for the casting director!

When one considers the hypocrisy of sexual repression in America and all the post-Code gratuitous sex in commercial films, all the hype about the retooling of a British-authored BDSM-themed literary trilogy amounts to droplets of premature ejaculate.  I don’t see Hollywood remaking (Americanizing) an arthouse erotic film such as Last Tango in Paris or In the Realm of the Senses — because its capitalistic elite doesn’t have the balls of independent auteurs.  In a society plagued with high rates of teen pregnancies, divorces, drug- and gang-related murders — not to mention astronomical levels of homophobia — releasing an R-rated commercial movie about an alternative sexual lifestyle’s complex eroticism in the guise of modern romance, has BDSM taking on another meaning:  “Big, Damn, Stupid Mistake.”  Forget thumbs; I’m betting on giving this flick a clit down.

© 2013 Chantale Rêve

All Rights Reserved

Simon Baker stars in Sanaa Lathan Comic-Con 2011.jpg

Above, left:  Actor Simon Baker in a still from the 2006 romantic comedy Something New  (Photo Source:  Focus Features)

Above, right:  Actress Sanaa Lathan at San Diego’s Comic-Con in 2011  (Photo Source:  Wikipedia.org   Photographer:  Gage Skidmore)

When I hear the term “fair-skinned,” passed from white people — who also use that term among whites who are a far cry from “olive” — to Us through the centuries, I want to emit a primal scream. What are We predominantly brown-complexioned Black people? Unfair-skinned? I don’t have the energy to tackle subliminal racism in the English language — from phrases such as black comedy to words such as blackmail — because I need to do my part in eradicating the perpetual self-hatred that We as Black people express each time We utter a colorist remark.

Congrats to OWN for airing, tonight, the excellent, poignant and wonderfully controversial film documentary titled Dark Girls,
produced and directed by Bill Duke and D. Channsin Berry. Two hours didn’t seem enough time to delve into the history of color bias and the contemporary issues, but the filmmakers deserve the highest praise for addressing the unfair treatment of darker-brown-complexioned people and for examining how some Black (non-Latino and Latino) men select women based on their shades of Blackness. Profiles aren’t only among academics; everyday people are shown voicing their perceptions and experiences. Often it’s painful to listen to how horrible Our ebony women were and are treated by other Black women and by Black men, but listen We must.

Nearly four centuries after slavery washed ashore in what is now the U.S.A., We as Black people (Black as signified politically, socially, psychically and existentially) continue to extol the positives of being on the lighter end of the color spectrum, and especially when the natural hair texture is soft and wavy or straight. Don’t even get me started with the whole hypocritical argument about weaves — that is, pitted against relaxers. (Sistas, chill. White females and other non-Blacks wear weaves, clip-ons, wigs, and many of them relax and perm their hair, too. If they’re self-hating, they’re not trashing each other in front of Us.)

We still identify one another in conversation according to color — for example, “You know the girl, the one with Alicia Keys’ complexion,” “Yeah, that dark-skinned dude,” etc., ad nauseam. Tougher to fight against will be stopping each other from teasing the Black classmate or co-worker who “talks like a white girl,” or “is too proper.” Helloooo, it’s called sounding educated. Got a problem with that? Then stay in school, and You too will have more-important issues to examine. Education is a tool, a weapon, and this Black woman — no matter how Eurocentric my education was, from grammar school to college, and no matter where I choose to travel, and no matter how many times I change my hair texture — is a fuckin’ warrior. I am free.

Also, however, I am quite concerned about future generations of Black children of all sexes where, among many issues, positive self-image is concerned. As for the current generation of young Black women everywhere in this world, I have great empathy for the poisonous tendrils of colorism that sting their human connections — especially during dating rituals. It would torture my soul if one of my younger female relatives were to tell me that some dude told her she was too dark to introduce to his parents/parent. That shit happened to me years ago; dude knew me biblically but said I couldn’t meet his momma because, to paraphrase him: She only likes “light-skinned” girlfriends that previously he had presented to her. It was a contemporary version of the paper bag test. Hmmm, it was summertime; I must’ve tanned. What a shame that he didn’t expose his inherited colorism soon after we were introduced; it was like I had been sleeping with the enemy for a year.

Black men deal with the colorist nonsense too; above I’m just giving a Black female POV — not the only one. However, some young Black men play their own negative roles in perpetuating colorism. For example, as several Black men in the 21-35 age demographic revealed in Dark Girls, they believe that selecting a mate by her color/shade of Blackness — aside from behavior and personality traits — will determine their children’s colors/shades of Blackness. What a shame that they (and Black women with the exact or similar beliefs) don’t understand that all of both parents’ genes come to the pool party. While biologically it’s rare for, say, two ebony parents to produce a baby that could be mistaken for white, it can happen. On the other hand, there are many instances of two café au lait parents producing a baby whose complexion can range from theirs to ebony. Don’t believe me, think I’m shittin’ you? Take a look at Grandma or Grandpa (or both) — or photos if they’ve passed on — and if You have photos or other kinds of renderings of more-distant ancestors, such as great-grandparents, great-grand aunts and great-grand uncles, etc., examine them.

Unfortunately, many of Us have no physical images of — let alone documents about or from — extremely distant ancestors, to the ridiculousness (no-thanks to the Trans-Atlantic slave trade) of not knowing which countries constitute the first part of the appellation African American. Thus the Africa-centric brotha, though well-intentioned, who desires to sire some blue-black babies might not get them even if he were to mate with an obsidian-hued Maasai sista on a striped kanga under a Serengeti sunset.

So before We get upset every time a white person who has a Black grandchild or nephew, niece, etc., says, “He [She] is so gorgeous, with that olive complexion,” ignore his or her lack of consciousness about Your Blackness and dig Yourself. Remember: An olive tree may grow in Mediterranean soil that’s an echo’s distance from the African Continent, but an olive is still a damned fruit.

Back to the truth-time film documentary on OWN …

I really absorbed the messages in Dark Girls tonight. No little Black child should think that being Black signifies dirtiness, negativity, etc. Now will somebody write a film documentary about self-proclaimed U.S. Creoles who are Black? I don’t give three fucks that that L’Oreal ad claims Beyoncé is African American, French and Native American. To borrow from Loretta Devine’s character in Jumping the Broom, going tête-à-tête with Angela Bassett’s “Creole” character: “You’re Blaaaack! You’re Blaaaack!”

To quote the Godfather of Soul, James Brown, from a record I kept in heavy rotation as a very young girl: “Say it loud: I’mBlackandI’mproud!!!”

Sorceress in Heat


Summers spent alone
Bring rainbow-sprinkled meltdowns,
Idle soft serve cones.

Copyright 2013 Chantale Rêve
All Rights Reserved

ASPiRE, the TV network that media mogul Magic Johnson launched last year in June has proved that positive, family-friendly programming aimed at Black Baby Boomers makes good sense (the preceding alliteration unintentional) — and beaucoup cents.

Major gripe, though, and one not aimed at ASPiRE: When will it take major advertisers to realize that Black people, in relation to their percentage of the U.S. population, represent a disproportionate sector of consumers? Hmmm, how is it that a trash-trendy show like “The Client List” (the novelty wore off mid-first-season) can attract classy ads, but an entire network (i.e., ASPiRE) has nary a major burger chain ad? Hell, I can balance the nirvana from viewing brothas and sistas in a surrealistic film with jazz-scat hunger pangs over Dollar Menu food porn!

It makes my mind wanna rap out my anga, ‘specially when my gut goes gangsta:

Cain’t a thicksta like yours truly getta Whoppa?

Gimme a straw and one-a-nem outlawed large sodas.

Since nobody’s gonna putta ring on it,

I’d might as well poppa onion ring wit it. Sheeeyiiit

ASPiRE hits the right (on!) buttons with a mélange of retro, groundbreaking programs including “Julia,” “The Flip Wilson Show” and “I Spy”; riveting documentaries; thought-provoking Black indie filmmaking that brings festival flava into viewers’ homes Monday nights via “ABFF Independent,” hosted by the brilliant actor Omari Hardwick (pictured above — excuse me for waxing poetic, but this foinnne Savannah native’s surname, HARD-wick, makes a sturdy brown chick wanna burn de candles at both ends); and refreshing morality plays. Tonight I enjoyed “From This Day Forward,” starring Leon (Mmmm) and Essence Atkins, and was stunned that no one broke into song.

Just as Lifetime doesn’t cancel out Oxygen, BET, Centric and TVOne leave breathing space for ASPiRE to thrive. Survival of the fittest and flyest!

© 2013 Chantale Rêve
All Rights Reserved

Motivational speaker Iyanla Vanzant  (pictured above) hosts a fascinating show on OWN:  “Iyanla, Fix My Life.”

Oprah‘s got one superb day of programming: “Super Soul Sunday,” for folks who can’t make it to chutch, to “Oprah’s Master Class,” for masochistic types eager to hear celebs bragging about their fame.

Iyanla, in a recent “fix-her-upper,” scrutinized how women self-sabotage after wading into the dating pool. She spun the fear of intimacy — “into me see” — and shared three words to attract and deceive, er, retain men: “Affirm, acknowledge, appreciate.” A Triple A club to join, and membership doesn’t cost a thing.

© 2013 Chantale Rêve

All Rights Reserved


The 10-Minute Ramble

Jumping the Broom is a delightfully over-acted romantic comedy about two professionals in love, from vastly different family backgrounds, who navigate their way through those differences with the power of love to get married before one of them has to run off to China.

It’s about the power of love, really, and the powerful commitment of the female character to remain true to a promise she made to God about sex before marriage.

Of course, love (and a little prayer) saves the day and all ends well.

So it’s a little ironic that the song the producers used to play to introduce the movie over the opening credits is Bruno Mars’ “Marry You.” Have you heard the lyrics to this song?

It’s a beautiful night / We’re looking for something dumb to do / Hey baby, I think I wanna marry you

Is it the look in your eyes /…

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