A life in threes

Month: May, 2014

Rest in Peace, Maya Angelou

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Statement from Dr. Maya Angelou’s Family:
Dr. Maya Angelou passed quietly in her home before 8:00 a.m. EST. Her family is extremely grateful that her ascension was not belabored by a loss of acuity or comprehension. She lived a life as a teacher, activist, artist and human being. She was a warrior for equality, tolerance and peace. The family is extremely appreciative of the time we had with her and we know that she is looking down upon us with love.

Guy B. Johnson




I awoke this morning to the sad news via Tweets and various messages on my newsfeed that Maya Angelou had died.

Within moments of reading the above words, I found myself unable to articulate exactly why I feel such a sense of loss.

Meanwhile, my friend, Sarah Sloane, upon hearing the news, put her feelings succinctly, thus:

 “No…no.  Losing Maya Angelou feels like losing my loving, empowering aunt, the one who told me that my soul had wings.”

Yes, that, Sarah, I agree with you.

Maya Angelou was exactly that.

She was an amazing writer, teacher, and activist certainly, but she was so much more than that to me.

Her words inspired me – in the truest sense of the word ‘inspired’ – and her poetry and essays carried me through some of the darkest hours while I was growing up.

I remember when my father had collected a huge cardboard box full of paperbacks and college textbooks that had been left behind in the dormitories during the summer remodel of Wellesley College in 1984.  (The contractor company that he’d worked for assumed that the crew would just throw away any and all contents of the dorm rooms that were slated for remodeling, but my father has always had difficulty throwing away books of any kind.)

So that’s how I ended up with a dog-eared copy of her autobiography, I Know Why The Caged Bird Sings and her poetry collections, Just Give Me a Cool Drink of Water ‘fore I Diie.., and Still I Rise.

I don’t know if that’s exactly what my father would have intended, but I spent that summer, sitting under the back porch, readingreadingreading about the evocative power of love, grief, pain, and spiritual truth that also touched upon race, gender, and the intricacy of human relationships.

And so began my lifelong love of her poetry, her writing, and her keen, unflinching eye that always focused on the humanity in history.   And whether her unflinching eye focused on the good or the bad of humanity, in the end, it seemed to me that the gist of her words always concerned the importance of moving forward, moving upward, toward the exposure of truth, and the revelation of love.

And I needed that in that difficult summer of 1984, when I was 13, and struggling mightily with myself.

I count many of her poems as inspiring, but here are three that I find especially so:


In what other lives or lands
Have I known your lips
Your Hands
Your Laughter brave
Those sweet excesses that
I do adore.
What surety is there
That we will meet again,
On other worlds some
Future time undated.
I defy my body’s haste.
Without the promise
Of one more sweet encounter
I will not deign to die.


Seven Women’s Blessed Assurance

One thing about me,
I’m little and low,
I find me a man wherever I go.
They call me string bean
’cause I’m so tall,
men see me, they ready to fall.
I’m fat as butter and sweet as cake,
men start to tremble
every time I shake.
I’m young as morning and fresh as dew,
everybody loves me, and so do you.
I’m little and lean,
sweet to the bone,
they like to pick me up and carry me home.
When I passed forty, I dropped pretense
’cause men like women who got some sense.
Fifty-five is perfect, so is fifty-nine,
’cause every man needs to rest sometime.

Preacher, Don’t Send Me

Preacher, Don’t Send me 
when I die 
to some big ghetto 
in the sky 
where rats eat cats 
of the leopard type 
and Sunday brunch 
is grits and tripe.

I’ve known those rats 
I’ve seen them kill 
and grits I’ve had 
would make a hill, 
or maybe a mountain, 
so what I need 
from you on Sunday 
is a different creed.

Preacher, please don’t 
promise me 
streets of gold 
and milk for free. 
I stopped all milk 
at four years old 
and once I’m dead 
I won’t need gold.

I’d call a place 
pure paradise 
where families are loyal 
and strangers are nice, 
where the music is jazz 
and the season is fall. 
Promise me that 
or nothing at all.


Rest in peace, dear Maya Angelou.

It is with tears in my eyes that I thank you. and wish you safe journey.

May all promises be kept.



Here’s a quote from Margaret Atwood:

“Why do men feel threatened by women?” I asked a male friend of mine. (I love that wonderful rhetorical device, “a male friend of mine.” It’s often used by female journalists when they want to say something particularly bitchy but don’t want to be held responsible for it themselves. It also lets people know that you do have male friends, that you aren’t one of those fire-breathing mythical monsters, The Radical Feminists, who walk around with little pairs of scissors and kick men in the shins if they open doors for you. “A male friend of mine” also gives—let us admit it—a certain weight to the opinions expressed.) So this male friend of mine, who does by the way exist, conveniently entered into the following dialogue. “I mean,” I said, “men are bigger, most of the time, they can run faster, strangle better, and they have on the average a lot more money and power.” “They’re afraid women will laugh at them,” he said. “Undercut their world view.” Then I asked some women students in a quickie poetry seminar I was giving, “Why do women feel threatened by men?” “They’re afraid of being killed,” they said.

                      — From Writing the Male Character (1982) (reprinted in Second Words: Selected Critical Prose (page 413) from a Hagey Lecture on February 9, 1982, at the University of Waterloo)

Some days, I need poetry.

Even if these are someone else’s words, I need them.

Sometimes, I need words so desperately, and often it takes someone else to write them, or say them before I can rest, before my busy, angsty meat-brain will be quiet.


An open love letter to your inner child.

To the child who couldn’t understand

why nobody could understand.

To the one whose hand was never taken,

whose eyes were never gazed into by

an adult who said,

“I love you.

You are a miracle.

You are holy,

right now and



To the one who grew up in the realm of “can’t.”

To you who lived “never enough.”

To the one who came home to no one there, and

there but not home.


To the one who could never understand why

she was being hit

by hands, words, ignorance.



To the one whose innocence was unceremoniously stolen.

To the one who fought back.

To the one who shattered.

To the never not broken one.

To the child who survived.



To the one who was told she was

sinful, bad, ugly.



To the one who didn’t fit.

To she who bucked authority

and challenged the status quo.



To the one who called out

the big people for

lying, hiding and cruelty.


To the one who never stopped loving anyway.



To the child that was forbidden to need.



To the ones whose dreams were crushed

by adults whose dreams were crushed.


To the one whose only friend

was the bursting, budding forest.

To the ones who prayed to the moon,

who sang to the stars

in the secrecy of the night

to keep the darkness at bay.


To the child who saw God

in the bursting sunshine of

dandelion heads

and the whispering

clover leaf.


To the child of light who cannot die,

even when she’s choking

in seven seas of darkness.


To the one love

I am and you are.


You are holy.

I love you.

You are a miracle.

Your life,

your feelings,

your hopes and dreams–

they matter.


Somebody failed you but you will not fail.

Somebody looked in your eyes and saw the sun — blazing — and got scared.

Somebody broke your heart but your love remains perfect.

Somebody lost their dreams and thought you should too,

but you mustn’t.


Somebody told you

that you weren’t


or too much,

but you are

without question

the most perfect

and holy creation of 




    — by Alison Nappi, as seen on the Rebelle Society here


Yesterday was that sort of day.

It was all on me, and no one could do a thing.

(It was the sort of day that I tend to wonder if I really should make t-shirts advertising Mr. L’s masonry business*, as it is very much still in business and obviously thriving, and that is likely due to me and my stubborn avoidance maneuvers.)

It’s my own damned fault – well, most of it — and a lot of that hit me when my therapist derailed my carefully constructed fortress of ‘everything’s fine! look at me, I’m meeting expectations’ when she said:

“Here’s a thought: Could it be that (your carefully constructed fortress of ‘everything’s fine! look at you, you’re avoiding again’) is just another reason that you could be — I dunno — hiding behind to keep yourself from having to make a decision?”

And I won’t lie.

I burst into tears.

She told me that it was OK, that it’s quite possible that I’ve never made a decision in my life without such an agonizing mental struggle, and that that is what we were here to be working on, and…

Then, she excused herself, and left in the room suddenly.

And I composed myself to the slow steady tick of the clock.

I am not OK.

It is not OK for me to hide behind this or that ‘reason’ — it’s just another form of lying….to myself.

It is not OK for me to avoid — that’s just another dodge of the inevitable


I should just shut my excuse-hole, and practice saying the truth, which is:

“I have not made a decision.”


And when I am asked why, I should say:

“I haven’t any excuse for my behavior.”



*sneaky tons of bricks everywhere





Music chain: More of that brick to the head…


Y’know how I was saying that I’ve been having not just one of those days but one of those lives?

It’s not at all a bad thing, and there’s a lot of personal shit that I’ve been (kinda sorta maybe) forcing myself to slog through.   Going to a therapist lately has also dredged up some issues, so I’ve been feeling pretty raw, as well.

Sometimes I’m not fit for human interaction, but I’m working on it.


So I keep hearing this song on iHeart radio.

It’s Pandoramancy at its finest.

It’s a big hit everywhere, I suppose, but I take it that  DC101 has really been playing the hell out of it, so, as you might guess, V has been hearing this song a lot, too.

So I shouldn’t have been surprised (or even incredulous, like I was,) when he said to me the other day how awful it must feel to always be afraid, and bizarrely enough, he referred me to this song.

As if I had never heard of it.

Funny that.

He queued it up for me to listen to, watching my reaction as it began to play.

I took a few deep breaths.  I think that he may have been trying to relate to me, or trying to convince me that he understood my feelings.

I don’t know.

Old habits die hard.

It was difficult for me not to be tempted to give into the rage that I was feeling at that very moment.

“It must be awful.  Living like that.  Always being afraid,” he said to me.

(My. God.  Really?)

But!   Then the chorus filled in, for me:

You’re too mean, I don’t like you, fuck you anyway
You make me wanna scream at the top of my lungs
It hurts but I won’t fight you
You suck anyway
You make me wanna die, right when I



Ah, you suck anyway, indeed.

But I didn’t say it.

I didn’t have to.


It was a sort of odd moment, though.

We stood looking at each other, and I thought to myself, I don’t have to say anything.

But inwardly, I smiled a little.


Keep on dreaming, don’t stop breathing, fight those demons…


You know.  That, too.


Brick to the head! Again.

Things are looking up.

Did you ever have one of those days?

I seem to be having one of those lives.

Oh, no, please do not misunderstand me.

I don’t think that that is entirely a bad thing, mind you.  I’m kinda sorta getting what I asked for…in the most roundabout way possible.


Let me start from the end, and work backwards…

This song:


…which has these lyrics:

Come with me now
Come with me now
Whoa, come with me now
I’m gonna take you down
Whoa, come with me now
I’m gonna show you howWhoa, come with me now
I’m gonna take you down
Whoa, come with me now
I’m gonna show you how

Afraid to lose control
And caught up in this world
I’ve wasted time, I’ve wasted breath
I think I’ve thought myself to death

I was born without this fear
Now only this seems clear
I need to move, I need to fight
I need to lose myself tonight

Whoa, come with me now
I’m gonna take you down
Whoa, come with me now
I’m gonna show you how

I think with my heart and I move with my head
I open my mouth and it’s something I’ve read
I stood at this door before, I’m told
But a part of me knows that I’m growing too old

Confused what I thought with something I felt
Confuse what I feel with something that’s real
I tried to sell my soul last night
Funny, he wouldn’t even take a bite

Far away
I heard him say (Come with me now)
Don’t delay
I heard him say (Come with me now)

Far away
I heard him say (Come with me now)
Don’t delay
I heard him say (Come with me now)

Whoa, come with me now
I’m gonna take you down
Whoa, come with me now
I’m gonna show you how

Afraid to lose control
And caught up in this world
I’ve wasted time, I’ve wasted breath
I think I’ve thought myself to death

I was born without this fear
Now only this seems clear
I need to move, I need to fight
I need to lose myself tonight

Whoa, come with me now

Whoa, come with me now
I’m gonna take you down
Whoa, come with me now