The Little Review (littlereview) wrote,
The Little Review

Poem for Monday

A Brave and Startling Truth
By Maya Angelou

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 are 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.


I was in the mood for that poem because we were watching An Inconvenient Truth on Showtime -- I had not seen it before, though I read Gore's 1990s book Earth in the Balance and have followed his involvement with ecology issues. (I've long admired Gore, voted for him over Dukakis in the 1988 primary, and I still wish we could have a Gore/Clinton or Gore/Obama 2008 ticket instead of whatever we're going to get. Sure I find him somewhat smarmy -- "My good friend Carl Sagan" and shots of him being a rock star in China -- and I wish I could push him to the left on a bunch of issues, but we could do a whole lot worse.) My kids naturally paid the most attention to the clip from Futurama but whatever works. "If we don't have a planet..."

We had been warned that Sunday would not be as nice a day as Saturday, which in reality meant that it was about five degrees cooler, thus still magnificent. Took us awhile to get going, between the clocks changing and younger son having Hebrew school, and we needed to get cat litter and stuff like that. So we went to Virginia, where we stopped in a shopping plaza and then went to Huntley Meadows Park, where the waterfowl were pairing off and the spring peepers were singing. Other than a noisy boy scout troop, there were not a lot of people, and although we did not see any snakes or herons this time, it was still a lovely afternoon.

For as long as we have been going to Huntley Meadows, this big tree has been reaching the end of its life. The very first time we saw it, in the late 1990s, the taller back portion still had occasional leaves.

Here are my kids sitting on the dead lower stump in 2000. The park had cut down the dead part of the tree so it didn't fall over onto the path to the wetlands.

This is the tree in late 2006. It's obvious that the wood is decaying.

And this is what we saw when we came to the tree today. It looks like the park has cut down the remaining large pieces so it doesn't fall over and block the path.

Came home and folded laundry while watching the unfolding of the Big Show. Despite blowing it in the ACC tournament, Maryland received a #4 seed and will play Davidson (in the Midwest for some reason, but if Florida can head up the Midwest, what do I know). My alma mater, Penn, won the Ivy title and got a #14 seed but is going to have to beat Texas A&M to get through the first round (in the South, logically enough). Other local schools did not do as well as last year *coughs* and I will root for GW (in the East!) but if things fall as planned, I might have to root for Georgetown over North Carolina, bleh.

The Madness of King George was On Demand, and I have been in a Helen Mirren mood since The Queen (I wish her role was bigger but she always makes the most of what minutes she has), and Evil Ian Holm is always an awesome thing, and Nigel Hawthorne is fabulous. And I adored seeing Windsor and the interiors of the castles and Parliament, and the costumes and set decoration are stellar, and Rupert Everett plays sleazy and self-interested so delightfully!

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