Guest blogger – Maya Angelou

When I worked in schools, inevitably the question “What do you wish for at Christmas time?”, would come up. And without fail, at least one, or two little angels would reply, quick as a flash, no hesitation, “world peace”.

Blogging from a country that in my own lifetime was torn apart by war, and after a peaceful day with fellow holiday makers from America and Germany and a Vietnamese host, I realise that this is what I too most wish for, especially for my children and my children’s children.

I always believe, that when we start on something new, a new job, a new course, join a club…that we’re often there for other reasons, that we may come to realise much later. Maybe to meet somebody we need to meet, learn something that will change our lives forever.

When I moved to St Ives, I as lucky to get a job in the beautiful Alexandra Dickens Gallery. And to form a deep and lasting friendship with Alex herself, who shares a love of writing and literature. One day Alex left me a book of Maya Angelou’s poems (thank you dearest Alex) and in it, this one, that I hope one day to be able to recite off by heart. But until that day, here it is for you. To wish you a wonderful Christmas, wherever you are in the world. May this and all your days be filled with love and joy and peace.

Maya Angelou reads A Brave and Startling Truth

A BRAVE AND STARTLING TRUTH

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.

Published by backstagestives

Looking for my long lost family in Hong Kong And previously.... Fell in love with coastal living 5 years ago. And moved to stunning St Ives. A place to create and grow and flourish. Got me a home and a job. And never looked back. Everyone talks and writes about the famous dead people of St Ives. Virginia and Alfred and Ben and Barbara and Peter and Wilhelmina. Well I thought I’d introduce you to some very nice folk, and they’re all very much alive and make St Ives a much the better town for it.

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4 Comments

  1. I met Maya A at a book signing thirty years ago and her presence is still in my head. She was amazing and what wonderful words. Thank you for sharing them.
    Devinderx

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    1. Dearest Devinder
      Now, that has me more envious than the cheesecake and orange almond no wheat cake. I would have loved to have met Maya, perhaps we could have had tea and cake?
      x

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  2. As I read this, in the cardiac ward of Treliske hospital, listening to Henry sleep, I wept. Not for Henry, not for the daughter or grandkids I have left at home gorging themselves on Christmas chocolate, not for the brother I know is alone this and most other days of the year, not for my husband who sits beside me watching his father waste away. But I weap the long held sorrow in my heart for the cruelty with which we treat this planet and ourselves.

    Love and miss you A xxx

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    1. Ah Alex, lots to weep about. I didn’t want to make you weep on Christmas Eve. Funny how I feel a weepy hopeful when I listen/read Maya’s words. As though she’s saying to me, you are bigger than this, when you come to it. That I as an individual can make a difference, an army is only many many individuals united. It feels as though she’s saying to me “you are amazing, more amazing than you can ever know”, when you stop and allow yourself to know this. I hear the Queen’s speech was on similar lines, the paradox of the human condition. When I come home, we can weep together, and then get solution focussed maybe, on what we as individuals can do to “come to it”. Sending love x

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