Sunday, October 4, 2009

A Brave and Startling Truth

I have always loved this poem by Maya Angelou. In light of recent events both personal and global, its meaning resonates ever more deeply. Maya Angelou was rushed to hospital in Los Angeles yesterday evening. Maya, beloved lioness of my heart, may you make a successful recovery, or find serene passage.

A Brave and Startling Truth 
by Maya Angelou  (1928 -  )

We, this people, on a small and lonely planet
Traveling through casual space
Past aloof stars, across the way of indifferent suns
To a destination where all signs tell us
It is possible and imperative that we learn
A brave and startling truth

And when we come to it
To the day of peacemaking
When we release our fingers
From fists of hostility
And allow the pure air to cool our palms

When we come to it
When the curtain falls on the minstrel show of hate
And faces sooted with scorn and scrubbed clean
When battlefields and coliseum
No longer rake our unique and particular sons and daughters
Up with the bruised and bloody grass
To lie in identical plots in foreign soil

When the rapacious storming of the churches
The screaming racket in the temples have ceased
When the pennants are waving gaily
When the banners of the world tremble
Stoutly in the good, clean breeze

When we come to it
When we let the rifles fall from our shoulders
And children dress their dolls in flags of truce
When land mines of death have been removed
And the aged can walk into evenings of peace
When religious ritual is not perfumed
By the incense of burning flesh
And childhood dreams are not kicked awake
By nightmares of abuse

When we come to it
Then we will confess that not the Pyramids
With their stones set in mysterious perfection
Nor the Gardens of Babylon
Hanging as eternal beauty
In our collective memory
Not the Grand Canyon
Kindled into delicious color
By Western sunsets

Nor the Danube, flowing its blue soul into Europe
Not the sacred peak of Mount Fuji
Stretching to the Rising Sun
Neither Father Amazon nor Mother Mississippi who, without favor,
Nurture all creatures in the depths and on the shores
These are not the only wonders of the world

When we come to it
We, this people, on this minuscule and kithless globe
Who reach daily for the bomb, the blade and the dagger
Yet who petition in the dark for tokens of peace
We, this people on this mote of matter
In whose mouths abide cankerous words
Which challenge our very existence
Yet out of those same mouths
Come songs of such exquisite sweetness
That the heart falters in its labor
And the body is quieted into awe

We, this people, on this small and drifting planet
Whose hands can strike with such abandon
That in a twinkling, life is sapped from the living
Yet those same hands can touch with such healing, irresistible tenderness
That the haughty neck is happy to bow
And the proud back is glad to bend
Out of such chaos, of such contradiction
We learn that we are neither devils nor divines

When we come to it
We, this people, on this wayward, floating body
Created on this earth, of this earth
Have the power to fashion for this earth
A climate where every man and every woman
Can live freely without sanctimonious piety
Without crippling fear

When we come to it
We must confess that we are the possible
We are the miraculous, the true wonder of this world
That is when, and only when
We come to it.

Friday, October 2, 2009

..... and I think I've got problems?

Skunk lost his job yesterday. When he got home he told us that the company where he's worked for twenty years no longer needs his services, effective immediately. Yes, just like that. When someone delivers bad news in real time, my senses go into slow motion, my mind blanks and a leaden fear seeps into my bones and settles into a hard, immovable knot in my stomach. That's how it felt when he broke the news yesterday. Noodle, crying a little, said, "Oh well, at least we'll have more time to play board games together." This, from a boy who's never liked board games. Legs began to jabber about mundane things that made sense only to her. We clutched each other for solace and muttered clichéd things that were so lame they fooled no one. Then I fled to the kitchen to choke back tears. I washed dishes that didn't need washing, and then cooked the most dreadful soup of my life. Cream of sludge with cremated bacon, I think. It was vile.

It's morning. I'm clear-headed despite the reckless quantites of vodka and red wine I drank last night. Legs and Noodle are in school. Skunk's gone to the office one last time, to tie up loose ends and wish his colleagues well, including the bastard who fired him, because that's just the kind of person Skunk is. The house is quiet and I'm finally alone. I've wallowed in the luxury of an outraged, self-pitying weep. I needed to. At least a dozen tissues' worth of tears, snot and seething frustration. My bag lady demons are back. Their talons are scritching at the door, they're cackling to be let in. They lie in wait for moments such as these. One wags a bony finger and sniggers that we have no savings. Bitch. As if I needed reminding. Another hisses in my ear that neither Skunk or I will ever find work again, that the fantastic company-sponsored health care and pension package we've enjoyed will dry up and we will grow ill and hungry and poor and end up on the street, that our children will stop loving us because we won't be able to give them the holidays and cool teenage stuff their friends enjoy.

Fuck off, demons. I know you too well. You're not going to win this time.

* * * * * * * 

In other news, people continue to suffer in my beloved homeland. An extreme typhoon packing winds of 220 to 240 kph is headed for the northeastern part of the Philippines and is expected to make landfall sometime tomorrow. The death toll from last week's floods in Manila and neighbouring provinces is approaching 300, with many more unaccounted for. Official figures put the number of homeless at half a million people, although friends actively involved in relief work believe it's much higher than that. Evacuation centres are full to bursting, there simply isn't enough food, water, medicine, blankets or shelter to go around. Cleanup crews are burning out. Peace and order is beginning to fray. While her countrymen drown and starve, Philippine President Gloria Arroyo parties with her sycophants. So many people have lost every single thing they have, and she parties.

All Skunk has lost is a job. I must remember that. I must remember that.

These 3 photos of the flooding in Manila were sent to me by a friend.  Photographer/s unknown.
Click on the individual photos to see them in more appalling detail, if you wish.