Tuesday, 3 June 2014

We had them (at the very least)

Maya Angelou passed away last week. I will be frank and say that I know more about her now than I did when she was alive. I love her poems: Phenomenal Woman and Still I Rise because they affirmed my feeling that I am a beautiful, strong, black woman (ignore my total lack of upper body strength). But isn’t it always so. Humanity has a knack for celebrating great people post-humously. 

The day that Maya died I attended a funeral. The really sad kind that leaves you angry at the world and greatly pained… the kind that you can’t talk about because talking makes it seem more pointless. Days on, the acute pain gives way to a pensive mood where you realise that you have to live vicariously; greet the world with arms wide open… else you will not be doing right by those who will never get the opportunity. Those candles whose flames go out too soon. The greatest tribute one can give them is to live. 

Several people have asked me why I haven’t written in a while. I have given all sorts of excuses but it all comes down to me getting so wrapped up in mundane activities and forgetting about the one thing that makes me happy. I thought I had outgrown the need to publicly document what I was feeling, thinking about and experiencing but I haven’t. Not yet.

 When I was in primary school I had a teacher who would say that when the pressure became too much one should go out to the playground and just scream. It sounded absurd then. However, of late, I often scream silently when I am exasperated by some school project. Judging by my rage at my laptop I now know that I will have a serious case of road rage. I know that I don’t only like writing… I need to write. This here is me screaming in the playground and wearing my Fuckit! face at those kids peering at me from the windows of the library.
Also I like her earrings

The screaming won’t make everything all better. I still have to go on and face life, but at least I will do it with a lighter load on my shoulders. 

I ran across one of Maya’s poems that she must have written as a tribute to Michael Jackson and it expressed, almost accurately, how I feel about the people I love whom I have lost: I had them. No matter how brief the time was, I had them and all they had to offer.

We had him.
Beloveds, now we know that we know nothing
Now that our bright and shining star can slip away from our fingertips like a puff of summer wind

Without notice, our dear love can escape our doting embrace
Sing our songs among the stars and walk our dances across the face of the moon

In the instant we learn that Michael is gone we know nothing
No clocks can tell our time and no oceans can rush our tides
With the abrupt absence of our treasure

Though we are many, each of us is achingly alone
Piercingly alone
Only when we confess our confusion can we remember that he was a gift to us and we did have him

He came to us from the Creator, trailing creativity in abundance
Despite the anguish of life he was sheathed in mother love and family love and survived and did more than that

He thrived with passion and compassion, humor and style
We had him
Whether we knew who he was or did not know, he was ours and we were his
We had him

Beautiful, delighting our eyes
He raked his hat slant over his brow and took a pose on his toes for all of us and we laughed and stomped our feet for him

We were enchanted with his passion because he held nothing
He gave us all he had been given

Today in Tokyo, beneath the Eiffel Tower, in Ghana's Blackstar Square, in Johannesburg, in Pittsburgh, in Birmingham, Alabama and Birmingham England, we are missing Michael Jackson

But we do know that we had him
And we are the world.
Maya Angelou

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