Sunday, October 5, 2014

I Rise

I don't believe in God and I would never describe myself as a "spiritual person" because, you know, I'm not a detestable human being. And yet every so often I wonder if the universe isn't trying to tell me something or make me do something for my own good.

It happened many years ago when I was using my parents' home computer, typing some document or other. When I went to save the document, instead of the computer automatically using the first few words of the document as a suggested file name, as per the norm, the file name it came up with was Ethan Frome. That's weird, I thought at the time. What or who is Ethan Frome? Ethan Frome, it turned out, was a super famous book by Edith Wharton. Once I discovered that fact I had to read it and maaaaan it is brilliant: a perfectly crafted story I now love, love, love.

I never did figure out how the hell the thing with the computer happened but, hey, thanks universe.

What happened to me more recently is not on that scale of what-the-actual-fuck by any means but it still got me thinking that the world is looking after me. Because for some reason everywhere I go lately I seem to hear about Maya fucking Angelou.

A momentary side note/confession: for someone who loves books and studied English at university I am not very well read and I am particularly terribly versed in The Canon. I've never finished a novel by Charles Dickens, for example, or read a Jane Austen that isn't Pride and Prejudice. Even outside the world according to Harold Bloom I feel like my grasp on Important Literature is very slight. I read a lot for work purposes so when it comes to my personal reading, although I do attempt to read some books Because I Should, most of the time I read for pleasure. For these reasons it so happened I had never made my way around to Maya Angelou. Until now.

For the past few months it seems like every time I tune in to one of my favourite podcasts they're talking about Maya Angelou. Articles on Maya Angelou pop up on the various news and not-news websites I read. I hear a gorgeous line of poetry or a quote and when I try to find the author... it's Maya Angelou. Of course it is.

I'm not a complete boob: Maya Angelous died earlier this year so of course she's being talked about. It's no Ethan Frome mystery. But still, it seemed like a sign I had to go and find something to read by her, to see what all the fuss is about. It didn't take me very long to get sucked down a Maya Angelou wormhole, gorging on delightful poem after delightful poem.

Again, all I can say is: thanks universe.

I Rise
(Maya Angelou)

You may write me down in history

With your bitter, twisted lies,
You may tread me in the very dirt
But still, like dust, I'll rise.
Does my sassiness upset you?
Why are you beset with gloom?
'Cause I walk like I've got oil wells
Pumping in my living room.
Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I'll rise.

Did you want to see me broken?
Bowed head and lowered eyes?
Shoulders falling down like teardrops.
Weakened by my soulful cries.
Does my haughtiness offend you?
Don't you take it awful hard
'Cause I laugh like I've got gold mines
Diggin' in my own back yard.
You may shoot me with your words,
You may cut me with your eyes,
You may kill me with your hatefulness,
But still, like air, I'll rise.

Does my sexiness upset you?
Does it come as a surprise
That I dance like I've got diamonds
At the meeting of my thighs?
Out of the huts of history's shame
I rise
Up from a past that's rooted in pain
I rise
I'm a black ocean, leaping and wide,
Welling and swelling I bear in the tide.
Leaving behind nights of terror and fear
I rise
Into a daybreak that's wondrously clear
I rise
Bringing the gifts that my ancestors gave,
I am the dream and the hope of the slave.
I rise
I rise
I rise.

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