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The Boogah Man – Paul Laurence Dunbar

Recently , while researching ghost poetry I came across a poet and story-teller that I really like and felt like his style was right up my alley of spooky historical verse. His poems are simple and stirring and reflect the times in which he lived.  I could not decide on just one, so I am including 3 of my favorites so far, that I enjoyed reading. The first one, made me feel like a kid again, sitting by a warm fire on a dark night, listening to a good spooky bedtime story. I hope you enjoy it as much as I did.

The Boogah Man

W’en de evenin’ shadders
Come a-glidin’ down,
Fallin’ black an’ heavy
Ovah hill an’ town,
Ef you listen keerful,
Keerful ez you kin,
So ‘s you boun’ to notice

Des a drappin’ pin;
Den you ‘ll hyeah a funny
Soun’ ercross de lan’;
Lay low; dat’s de callin’
Of de Boogah Man!

Woo-oo, woo-oo!
Hyeah him ez he go erlong de way;
Woo-oo, woo-oo!
Don’ you wish de night ‘ud tu’n to day?
Woo-oo, woo-oo!
Hide yo’ little peepers ‘hind yo’ han’;
Woo-oo, woo-oo!
Callin’ of de Boogah Man.

W’en de win ‘s a-shiverin’

Thoo de gloomy lane,
An’ dey comes de patterin’
Of de evenin’ rain,
W’en de owl ‘s a-hootin’,
Out daih in de wood,
Don’ you wish, my honey,
Dat you had been good?
‘T ain’t no use to try to
Snuggle up to Dan;
Bless you, dat ‘s de callin’
Of de Boogah Man!
 
Ef you loves yo’ mammy,
An’ you min’s yo’ pap,
Ef you nevah wriggles
Outen Sukey’s lap;
Ef you says yo’ “Lay me”
Evah single night
 
‘Fo’ dey tucks de kivers
An’ puts out de light,
Den de rain kin pattah,
Win’ blow lak a fan,
But you need n’ bothah
‘Bout de Boogah Man!
 

The next poem on my list of favorites by this author,  is The Phantom Kiss. It is a dreamy little poem that made me smile and yet still left me with a little shiver.

The Phantom Kiss

One night in my room, still and beamless,
With will and with thought in eclipse,

I rested in sleep that was dreamless;
When softly there fell on my lips

A touch, as of lips that were pressing
Mine own with the message of bliss—
A sudden, soft, fleeting caressing,
A breath like a maiden’s first kiss.

I woke—and the scoffer may doubt me—
I peered in surprise through the gloom;
But nothing and none were about me,
And I was alone in my room.

Perhaps ‘t was the wind that caressed me
And touched me with dew-laden breath;
Or, maybe, close-sweeping, there passed me
The low-winging Angel of Death.

Some sceptic may choose to disdain it,
Or one feign to read it aright,
Or wisdom may seek to explain it—
This mystical kiss in the night.

But rather let fancy thus clear it:
That, thinking of me here alone,
The miles were made naught, and, in spirit,
Thy lips, love, were laid on mine own.

Lastly, I chose The Haunted Oak. This poem has a lot of historical significance. Being from Mississippi, I have often been attracted to old trees and have often wondered when I am near one that seems alive with a story, if it were possible that the events mentioned in this poem, had ever happened on it’s branches. If only the trees could speak their secrets.

The Haunted Oak

Pray why are you so bare, so bare,
Oh, bough of the old oak-tree;
And why, when I go through the shade you throw,
Runs a shudder over me?
My leaves were green as the best, I trow,
And sap ran free in my veins,
But I say in the moonlight dim and weird
A guiltless victim’s pains.
They’d charged him with the old, old crime,
And set him fast in jail:
Oh, why does the dog howl all night long,
And why does the night wind wail?

He prayed his prayer and he swore his oath,
And he raised his hand to the sky;
But the beat of hoofs smote on his ear,
And the steady tread drew nigh.
Who is it rides by night, by night,
Over the moonlit road?
And what is the spur that keeps the pace,
What is the galling goad?
And now they beat at the prison door,
“Ho, keeper, do not stay!
We are friends of him whom you hold within,
And we fain would take him away
“From those who ride fast on our heels
 
With mind to do him wrong;
They have no care for his innocence,
And the rope they bear is long.”
They have fooled the jailer with lying words,
They have fooled the man with lies;
The bolts unbar, the locks are drawn,
And the great door open flies.
Now they have taken him from the jail,
And hard and fast they ride,
And the leader laughs low down in his throat,
As they halt my trunk beside.

Oh, the judge, he wore a mask of black,
And the doctor one of white,
And the minister, with his oldest son,
Was curiously bedight.
Oh, foolish man, why weep you now?

‘Tis but a little space,
And the time will come when these shall dread
The mem’ry of your face.
I feel the rope against my bark,
And the weight of him in my grain,
I feel in the throe of his final woe
The touch of my own last pain.
And never more shall leaves come forth
On the bough that bears the ban;
I am burned with dread, I am dried and dead,
From the curse of a guiltless man.
And ever the judge rides by, rides by,
And goes to hunt the deer,
And ever another rides his soul
In the guise of a mortal fear.
And ever the man he rides me hard,
And never a night stays he;
For I feel his curse as a haunted bough,
On the trunk of a haunted tree.
 

“The Haunted Oak,” written and publsihed in 1900, could have been based on one of the 105 lynchings that occurred that year, but it was inspired in Washington, D.C., by a story that Dunbar heard an old black man relate concerning his nephew in Alabama who bad been hanged on an oak tree by a mob of whites after having been falsely accused of “a grave crime.” According to the story, shortly afterwards the leaves on the limb used for the lynching yellowed and fell off; and, unlike the rest of the normal tree, the offending bough shriveled and died. Townspeople began to call the tree “the haunted oak.” Dunbar, using the ballad form to enhance the superstition, personifies the tree and makes it the most sensitive and remorseful participant in the crime.”  from a review by James A. Emanuel

About The Author

Paul Lawrence Dunbar

Paul Laurence Dunbar was the first African-American to gain national prominence as a poet. Born in 1872 in Dayton, Ohio, he was the son of ex-slaves and classmate to Orville Wright of aviation fame.
Dunbar was prolific, writing short stories, novels, librettos, plays, songs and essays as well as the poetry for which he became well known. He was popular with black and white readers of his day, and his works are celebrated today by scholars and school children alike.
His style encompasses two distinct voices — the standard English of the classical poet and the evocative dialect of the turn-of-the-century black community in America. He was gifted in poetry — the way that Mark Twain was in prose — in using dialect to convey character.

Dunbar was born on June 27, 1872, to Matilda and Joshua Dunbar, both natives of Kentucky. His mother was a former slave and his father had escaped from slavery and served in the 55th Massachusetts Infantry Regiment and the 5th Massachusetts Colored Cavalry Regiment during the Civil War. Matilda and Joshua had two children before separating in 1874. Matilda also had two children from a previous marriage. Dunbar married Alice Ruth Moore in 1898. A graduate of Straight University (now Dillard University) in New Orleans, her most famous works include a short story entitled “Violets”. She and her husband also wrote books of poetry as companion pieces. An account of their love, life and marriage was depicted in a play by Kathleen McGhee-Anderson titled Oak and Ivy.
Dunbar took a job at the Library of Congress in Washington. In 1900, he was diagnosed with tuberculosis and moved to Colorado with his wife on the advice of his doctors. Dunbar and his wife separated in 1902, but they never divorced.
He wrote a dozen books of poetry, four books of short stories, five novels, and a play. He also wrote lyrics for In Dahomey – the first musical written and performed entirely by African-Americans to appear on Broadway in 1903
His essays and poems were published widely in the leading journals of the day. His work appeared in Harper’s Weekly, the Saturday Evening Post, the Denver Post, Current Literature and a number of other publications.
Depression and declining health drove him to a dependence on alcohol, which further damaged his health. He moved back to Dayton to be with his mother in 1904. Dunbar died from tuberculosis on February 9, 1906, at age thirty-three.

He was interred in the Woodland Cemetery in Dayton, Ohio. To read more about this poet and writings, please see the resource links below. See his Find A Grave Memorial Here:

http://www.findagrave.com/cgi-bin/fg.cgi?page=gr&GRid=307

Research Links

More Poems : http://www.english.illinois.edu/maps/poets/a_f/dunbar/additionalpoems.htm

http://www.dunbarsite.org/

http://www.poets.org/poet.php/prmPID/302

“The Crowded Years: Paul Laurence Dunbar in History” in A Singer in the Dawn: Reinterpretations of Paul Laurence Dunbar. Ed. Jay Martin. New York: Dodd, Mead & Co., 1975. Copyright © 1975 by Jay Martin.

Black Poets of the United States, from Paul Laurence Dunbar to Langston Hughes, Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1973. Copyright © 1973 by the Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.

http://www.libraries.wright.edu/special/dunbar/poetryindex/the_boogah_man.html

http://www.libraries.wright.edu/special/dunbar/poetryindex/the_phantom_kiss.html

http://www.libraries.wright.edu/special/dunbar/poetryindex/

http://www.libraries.wright.edu/special/dunbar/bookcover_gallery.html

University of Dayton –http://www.dunbarsite.org/

Modern American Poetry Web Site – English Department at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign
http://www.english.uiuc.edu/maps/poets/a_f/dunbar/dunbar.htm

Paul Laurence Dunbar House Ohio Historical Society
http://www.ohiohistory.org/places/dunbar/

Paul Laurence Dunbar PAL: Perspectives in American Literature A Research and Reference Guide – An Ongoing Project
http://www.csustan.edu/english/reuben/pal/chap6/dunbar.html

Paul Laurence Dunbar Collection at the Dayton and Montgomery County Library
http://home.dayton.lib.oh.us/archives/dunbar/DTABCONTENTS.html

The Writings of Paul Laurence Dunbar Springfield Library
http://www.springfieldlibrary.org/dunbar/dunbar.html

Ohio Memory – Paul Laurence Dunbar Scrapbook
http://worlddmc.ohiolink.edu/OMP/YourScrapbook?scrapid=6698

http://www.libraries.wright.edu/special/dunbar/gallery/dunbar_photos.html

compiled and posted by Angela L Burke – MSSPI

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Filed under Dark Poetry, ghosts, Paranormal Authors, Spirits, Unexplained Experiences

Meeting Jonathan Peters

A Nurse’s Encounter With The Unexplained

A True Event, by Angela L Burke of the  Mississippi Society of Paranormal Investigators

It was a very busy morning at the Nursing Home. The smell of coffee and eggs mingled with the smells of the aged. I was beginning my first day as a new Charge Nurse at the facility and had arrived to meet with the Nurse Manager to begin the routine orientation procedures. I always hated this part of the new hiring process as it was usually filled with mandatory , amature made company videos of safety procedures and OSHA regulations that I had seen a hundred times.

When I arrived, the Nurse Manager informed me that she had been summoned to an urgent staff meeting and that instead of doing the routine orientation, that she was going to assign me temporarily to assist the nurse assistants and orderlies with basic morning care until she returned. Which I gladly welcomed, as I would much rather have been on the floor working directly with patients than to be stuck in a freezing, cold office watching re-runs of safety videos.

The facility was rather large encompassing 650 beds and was laid out like a grid, in a series of squares that were connected from every direction. If you were to lose your way, you would eventually find it. The Nurse Manager stopped at the first nurse’s station we came to and introduced me to the Charge Nurse and explained to her about the meeting and what she wanted my assignment to be until she returned in about an hour or so.

The Charge Nurse walked with me to the linen closet and told me where the supplies were kept and told me that I could just pick a room and a patient, and take my time as I was an extra hand for the moment. She told me how much she appreciated that I was there, that every little help would be appreciated by her nurse assistants. I filled my arms with linens and supplies and headed down toward the last room on the right. I never start in the middle , it’s too confusing to remember what room you were in, if you should need to return to it. I felt drawn to start there for some unknown reason.

I entered a large room with high ceilings and soft green walls. The windows were large and the morning sunshine streamed in casting a bright warmth all around me. I was surprised at this burst of warmth, as my usual experience with nursing is either, a cold sterile room or a dark and sad one. It was a nice change. There were 4 beds in the room, 2 on each side. Only one of them was occupied.

An elderly gentleman occupied the bed and he looked up at me and smiled. His hair was thick and neatly trimmed and was the color of Colorado snow. His eyes were the most brilliant shade of blue, they almost took my breath away and I felt slightly embarrassed that they held my attention for so long. I had to force myself to look away from them.

He spoke in a strong but gentle voice, “Oh, you’ve finally come, good morning ! ”

I said “good morning” and began to apologize for his wait, but he shush -ed me with his hand and said, “no need to apologize, I knew what time you were coming and your right on time”

I smiled and felt myself relax a bit. But, before I could speak, he said ” I am Jonathan Peters , and you are my Nurse Angel, I have been expecting you. ” I felt my face blush, as it always, embarrassed me when my patients called me Angel, I never really felt comfortable being called Angel, I always felt like I did not deserve the respect that comes with the word. But, it was nice to see that this was going to be a pleasant experience and I graciously accepted it as a compliment.

So many times I had been greeted with scowling faces and cold and sometimes insulting comments from the sick and the old. I tried never to take it personally or let it hurt my feelings, I learned early on that a nurse has to be strong in that respect, if a nurse let’s insults and complaints hurt her feelings she will never survive it. I tried to put myself in my patients position when I was being verbally assaulted. I can only imagine how it must feel to be old and in pain both physically and mentally and often times spiritually. Some had been debilitated by dementia causing diseases and had no idea who they were or where they were or what they were even saying. Some suffered in pain and depression, feeling abandoned and useless. Sitting for hours in their shared spaces day after day, having lost everything they had worked their whole lives to build , only to die sick and alone in a cold facility ward. And some where just plain bitter about everything. They blamed everyone but themselves for their illness and their problems, sometimes including God,,.They were never satisfied with their families or their nursing care. Always ready to throw an insult or a complaint at you, no matter how much you tried to please them or help them.

They were the ones who challenged me the most and taught me the most about controlling my emotions and I would go out of my way to make this type person my “compassion priority”. It was a personal challenge to me to be able to eventually break through their hard shells and get them to open up to me. Being able to do this was my favorite accomplishment as a nurse. I saw so many people get better, once they shed their anger and their bitterness.

But sometimes, they also taxed me mentally and physically. It is an exhausting challenge that takes a strong commitment, that I have to admit, makes you question whether you have chosen the right profession. I had been asking myself this very question for about a month, and had even considered giving up nursing completely . But at this moment, Mr Peter’s had made me feel like there might be hope.

I smiled and said ” my name is Angela and I am here helping with morning care, it’s my first day here and I am just helping out until the Nurse Manager is free to work with me on orientation. I thought maybe you might like to bath and get some clean linen.”    

He smiled and took my hand and said ” I’m glad you decided to come.”  It was a very odd way, that he said it. It almost seemed, like he knew me and I was supposed to be there, and he knew why, but I didn’t. I shrugged it off in my head and proceeded to get set up for his bath.

When I touched his skin, it was very cold, I almost don’t know how to describe it, it was like, touching frozen ice that has been charged with electricity. It surprised me at first, I asked him if the water was to cold or if he needed me to turn on some heat , but he just chuckled and insisted that he was fine.

We talked some idle, “get to know you”, conversation as I bathed him. He told me that he had been a traveling minster when he was young and had never married. He had no children of his own, but that, he did not regret his choices in life. I listened, happy to give him a chance to just talk.

When I had finished and helped him into the chair, I brought a new basin of warm water, and asked him if he would like to soak his feet, while I changed the linens. He looked pleasantly surprised at the offer and accepted.

I assisted him in putting his feet in the basin to soak. “Oh, that feels wonderful” he said with a smile. Having the time to give a foot soak and have your feet rubbed with lotion, was a luxury I intended to make time for, since I was in no particular hurry to move on. I was enjoying being able to spend some time with a patient one on one. Most of my regular duties as a Charge Nurse did not involve such personal time at the bedside. My days were usually hurried and chaotic trying to handle medication and wound orders, doctors rounds, and dealing with delegating care to the nurse assistance in my charge. Making sure that orders were carried out and documentation was complete. Often times for as many as sixty-five patients per shift, I often times felt over extended and overwhelmed with legalities and family concerns. I rarely had the time to spend one on one with a patient getting to know them personally verses medically. This was an opportunity to do that.

 When I had finished changing the bed linens, I gathered some clean towels and got down on my knees at Mr. Peters feet. He looked down at me and tears began to well up in his eyes, as I took his foot and wrapped it gently, in a towel. I asked him, if I had hurt him and he looked down at me, and said ” No, my dear, I am not in pain. It has just been, a long time since anyone has washed my feet. I am overcome with gratitude.”  I had not expected this reaction and was unsure how to respond. I said ” I’m happy to have the opportunity to do it, it is not something, that I normally get the chance to do for my patients. ”

He then began to tell me a story from the Bible about how (in John chapter 7 ) A sinful woman of low esteem had knelt before Jesus and washed his feet with her tears, dried them with her hair and anointed his feet with her perfume. That the disciples had ridiculed her to Jesus, not understanding, why?  he would let her touch him with her unclean hands. But Jesus rebuked them and made a lesson of them, that she had shown humility, compassion, and kindness in doing so, which none of them had done or offered to do. And he had forgiven her, of her sin, because of her faith and her willingness to serve him.  Mr Peters then said ” did you know that Jesus washed his own disciples feet at the last supper? ”  

I guess I must have looked at him with a confused look, because then,  Mr Peters put his hand on my shoulder.  He surprised me when he said ” this day,  you have shown the same humility in your heart ,and your actions. This is why, you were chosen to be a nurse.  

And this is, you should always remember. We were put on this earth to help each other and to love each other. Every, small thing, that you do for someone else, whether it is a kind gesture or in making sure that they are cared for properly, is your responsibility regardless of your profession.  How you do it, and with what motive, is what matters to God. Not giving up, when you are needed, is the true test. We have to rely on God for our strength. He has a purpose for us all, it is up to you to complete the task. In spite of, what you may think, the little things that you do, are appreciated. Even if, the person you did them for, never acknowledges you for them.

There are many, who will never forget ,that one-act of kindness, that you show, and that one-act of kindness, could change that persons path, or way of looking at life. You are God’s servant and he is pleased with the job you are doing.”

I was taken back by his words and his sincerity, and I was not really sure, how to respond.

 I said ” Thank you Mr Peter’s that means allot to me.” But I didn’t know at the time what an impact his statements would have on me in the future.

I stood from my position at his feet and assisted him back into his bed. He was very unsteady when walking and unable to transfer alone. He held my hand very firmly and he looked me in the eye, and he said ” Angel, I am glad you came and I know that you won’t give up on what you have been placed here to do”

I squeezed his hand back and said ” No worries Mr Peters, I’m to stubborn to give up that easy ” We both chuckled and then I gathered up my linens and walked toward the door. I told him it had been a pleasure meeting him and he thanked me again for everything. We smiled at each other and then I headed out the door back up to the nurses station.

I saw the Charge Nurse sitting at the desk and I said , ” I finished with Mr Peters bath and he is ready for his medicine, whenever you are.”

 She looked up at me with a confused look on her face and she said who? I said Mr Peters in the last room on the right, I just finished his bath and he’s ready for his meds.”

She said “there is no Mr Peters on this hall, This is a woman’s ward and there is not supposed to be anyone in that room, those beds are unassigned.” I was shocked but I said “well, I just spent an hour in there with a man, who said his name was Jonathan Peters and he was definitely not a woman.

She rose from behind the desk and said “come with me, maybe he has wandered from another ward and gotten into the wrong bed by mistake” . We walked to the end of the hallway and when we entered the room, the blinds were drawn and the room was dark and dreary and all the beds were empty and made to perfection. There was no one there. No trace that anyone ever had been.

She said “are you sure, this is the room?”  I said “yes, I was just in here a moment ago, but the room as bright and the blinds were up and he was in this bed. I touched him and spoke with him and he was very real”

We searched every room on the hallway and he was not to be found. We went to the computer and looked at the facility roster and there was no one by the name of Jonathan Peters listed as a patient there. I really was in shock, but I also felt very foolish and not really sure what to say. The Charge Nurse just shook her head and said, ” I don’t know what to tell you, there is no one here by that name and I’ve never heard anyone report vagrants entering the building or anything like that. I don’t know how he would have gotten out of there so quick, he would have had to have come past us at the desk in order to leave the unit. Well, just get on with someone else, we have baths to finish up”

I continued out the day with other duties, but Mr Peters was in my mind through most of it. For the rest of my time at this facility I would look for him every chance I got, but I never saw him again. His words to me are forever, etched in my heart .

I can still see his face and his bright blue eyes, just like he was standing here now. I’m not sure who he was, where he came from, or where he went, but I am inclined to think, that maybe,  he was a Guardian Angel or a Spirit Messenger of some kind.

He had appeared in my life at a time when I was questioning myself and my purpose of being.  He encouraged me, to continue my profession, to not give up on the hardships I would face. And to remember, to keep myself humbled and compassionate.

Whomever he was, an angel, a ghost or a mystical messenger. My life was forever, touched by him and I will never forget his words to me. I am grateful, to have had the experience. Even if, I have no explanation, as to, how it happened. I take comfort in knowing why.

I have no doubt in my mind, that this was a paranormal experience meant for me personally . I will always be grateful to Jonathan Peters for the lessons he taught me and the impact he has had on my life.  Whom ever or what ever, he is, or was, I hope that someday, we will have the chance to meet again.

Copyright Angela L Burke 2009 Posted with permission by msspidarkpens.  

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