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James Lineberger

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James Lineberger is a retired screenwriter, sometime playwright, and full-time poet.  USA. email to

the way she got in their movie

the way she got in their movie
i had gone to the old train depot
to help my mother-in-law pick up the surplus
commodities the government
gave away every now and then
not anything she wanted
very much big tins of peanut butter bags
of rice margarine you had to add the color to
and beans and more beans corn meal powdered milk things
a person could get by on if need be
but ruth only went there so she could hand
the stuff out to the rest of us who would mostly pass it on
to someone else
except for the peanut butter
and usually there didn't a whole lot of people show up
because of the passersby that  would
gawk out of their car windows at you like it was the welfare
only for some reason that day
the line seemed to go on forever snaking
around the depot
and into a warehouse and then along
a zig zag hallway and back outside again down off a loading ramp
where three guys
stood sharing a brown-bag
pint of whiskey and when i asked them if this
was the end
one of them said he be dog if he could tell
and then the man with the camera
came up and said
if we wanted to be in the movie
he would have to have
our social security numbers or we could just
go on back home and he handed
ruth one of those
floppy bonnets that women used to wear in the pioneer days
and said here this is for you
but you don't have to give it back
just call it a souvenir
from your grateful government which made ruth balk
saying she had not wore one of those
since she was a little girl back before she even went to work
doffing at the mill
and all she was here for was what
she deserved what they said
was what everybody needed in this world a even break
and the man said whooee
you think you could do that again do what
ruth said make that speech he said
only let me turn the camera on well i don't know
ruth said i aint done no
play acting since the sixth grade when i was one of the pickaninnies
in this pageant we put on about cotton
and besides
i aint warshed my hair but the man said hair
don't matter with me you got
that dull fire in your eyes like one of the ones
from now let us praise everybody famous
which made ruth
duck her head down and cluck her tongue
but you know don't you that she went on and did it
and got it right too in only seven tries and we waited and waited
for the thing to come out
at the theater
but ruth was dead and gone before
they ever got done messing with it and then
it must have been misplaced or else
the gee dee republicans took and burned it who knows
and even after ruth had passed on to her heavenly rewards
we were still getting bills
from the usda
for that bonnet or else they might be forced
to put a lean on somebody