NYU Black Renaissance Noire NYU Black Renaissance Noire V. 16.1 - Page 98

Till By “GLENDORA, MS, JANUARY 2015” PHOTOGRAPHS BY LADY PEREZ. LARGE FORMAT ANALOG TO 35MM DIGITAL TRANSFER. EBEN WOOD It was the wrong season. No cover, no camouflage, even as we slipped into a tintype. All photographs are of Glendora, MS, January 2015. 96 Harvest memory, gleaned by migrating geese. Lines gridded into chalky, waterlogged fields. Ditches filled with a sky the same color as the water. Red asphalt that ran straight to a sudden bend, a sharp turn or intersection, or in some cases just wandered off into mud tracks. The mantis spans of irrigation systems. Rail lines riding earthen berms above the fields. There were many crossroads, a separate devil at each. Shotgun shacks that still might be lived in, abandoned cotton gins sucked under by kudzu. It was the wrong season, because it was in August heat that the thing had happened, the blaze of late summer. We weren’t even looking for it, but just the general sense of that blues truth that ha s gravel and black earth in the back of its throat, gargling. Its echo called us along. We certainly weren’t looking for murder. We left New Orleans across the thin isthmus between Lake Saint Catherine and Lake Ponchartrain, 91 toward Bogalusa, following a ghost. It was the same ghost that had already haunted us for a week in the archive at Tulane, looking at old notebooks and photographs. Amistad, the archive is called, a ship rocking on the loom of history. “Friendship,” my partner said in her native Spanish. I deciphered the handwriting while she re-shot images that Tom Dent, whose ghost I’ve followed for over a decade, had developed decades before. What we found, going north, was that the ghost wasn’t something hovering above the landscape but the landscape itself, its surface overexposed, turning liquid in winter sunlight. At some point I told my partner the story of the last time I’d seen that ghost, four months after the storm. I came down with someone else, a ghost now of her own, who had taught high school in New Orleans, until a colleague had been raped in a stairwell and my friend left for graduate school in Brooklyn. I recalled a particular day like those we were spending in the present, bent over boxes and folders. At that time, Dent’s papers weren’t fully catalogued, and I looked through them with little hope of making any real sense — academic sense — out of the material that had been hastily packed up after his heart attack, ten years before. That disorder stood in for what had happened outside, in the actual city, the city of intention, as did the storm itself. One of the images I found in those boxes had caught my attention: monochrome, probably taken during Jazz Fest, early seventies maybe, a