Paule Marshall: The Center of Life

I managed to find that other passage I typed out and taped to my wall in college. I’ll include a bit more of the book for context, and because I might have quoted more had I known more about life back then. From Brown Girl, Brownstones:

Faces hung like portraits in her mind as she walked down Fulton Street: Suggie and her violated body, Miss Mary living posthumously amid her soiled sheets, Miss Thompson bearing the life-sore and enduring, Clive and his benign despair, her father beguiled by dreams even as he drowned in them, the mother hacking a way through life like a man lost in the bush.

Those faces, those voices, those lives touching hers had ruined her, yet, she sensed–letting her gown trail on the sidewalk–they had bequeathed her a small strength. She had only this to sustain her all the years. And it did not seem enough. It might be quickly spent and she might fall, broken before her time and still far from the center of life. For that was the quest. And a question flickered in her mind like a reflection of the lights flickering along the street: What was at the center?–the neon drake over the White Drake Bar floated, glittered, and went out–Peace, perhaps, as fleeting as that was, and the things that shaped it: love, a clearer vision, a place…

–Paule Marshall


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