‘When Great Trees Fall’ by Maya Angelou

When Great Trees Fall

When great trees fall,
rocks on distant hills shudder,
lions hunker down
in tall grasses,
and even elephants
lumber after safety.

When great trees fall
in forests,
small things recoil into silence,
their senses
eroded beyond fear.

When great souls die,
the air around us becomes
light, rare, sterile.
We breathe, briefly.
Our eyes, briefly,
see with
a hurtful clarity.
Our memory, suddenly sharpened,
examines,
gnaws on kind words
unsaid,
promised walks
never taken.

Great souls die and
our reality, bound to
them, takes leave of us.
Our souls,
dependent upon their
nurture,
now shrink, wizened.
Our minds, formed
and informed by their
radiance,
fall away.
We are not so much maddened
as reduced to the unutterable ignorance
of dark, cold
caves.

And when great souls die,
after a period peace blooms,
slowly and always
irregularly. Spaces fill
with a kind of
soothing electric vibration.
Our senses, restored, never
to be the same, whisper to us.
They existed. They existed.
We can be. Be and be
better. For they existed.

by Maya Angelou

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Winter Lights

Yesterday (1st of June) marked the official start of winter, a season that has of late sparked many melancholy feelings, possibly because when bad things happen to me they tend to happen in the colder months.  So this time I decided to start the season on a positive note with a little personal celebration.  At federation square in Melbourne they a running an exhibition/public space installation called the Lights in Winter to encourage us Melbournites to venture out into the dreary cold and smile.

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This is the poem (Day 336 out of 365) that I wrote while watching the lights from afar over my glass of wine.

Winter lights

The first day of winter,
rain smashing against my window,
a constant stream of sleet
from a sky in shades of grey,
the clouds are crying,
plants dropping with gloom,
all is miserable,
except, just this once, I am not.

Winter, again,
sky stark, bereft of sun—
but night,
the lights, the lights,
hovering high into the sky
at their brightest in this dark,
at their lightest,
light like me
when I forget how
winter always makes me hurt.

 

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A tribute to Maya Angelou: “Still I Rise”

I’m feeling quite sad today, reading all the news of and tributes for Maya Angelou’s passing.  Like Nelson Mandela she was someone who had seen the worst of humankind, although in somewhat different circumstances, but still called for love and hope and forgiveness while always fighting for change.  The poem of hers I’ve chosen is the very first poem of Angelou’s that I read, and it still remains on of my favourites.  You can listen to her read it in the video, which I recommend, or read the words below.

Still I Rise

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.

Maya Angelou

NaPoWriMo Day 7: An Ode

The poem for Day 7/281 is this silly, saucy ditty.  Explanation below.

You’re so smooth, the way you move
in my hand, you’re so divine,
with you I’ve always got my groove
the way you make me feel so fine,
you are the channel for my source,
my iron sword, my Big Ben,
with you I am a mighty force,
you make me whole, my Parker Pen.

This poem was based on a prompt to write a love poem for an inanimite object.  As an aid to my writing, particularly considering how beside myself I get whenever I misplace it, I thought my fountain pen was a fitting object.

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A cento for Nelson Mandela

Nelson MandelaWith the sad news of Nelson Mandela’s death, the internet has been filled with quotes and memes, such as the one above, which celebrate his life and achievements, and continued fight against inequity and injustice.  I was moved by the pathos, lyricism, and above all the kindness that came out in his words that I was inspired to put together this eulogy, and also a reminder that whilst Mandela is no longer here to fight, his memory lives on, and with that the duty for all of Earth’s people to continue his fight against injustice, inequity and poverty in all its forms, and to work together to create “a society of which all humanity will be proud.”

I have gathered a selection of his quotes into a sort of cento; a poem made from the lines of other poems.  This is my first attempt at a cento so I hope you’ll forgive me if it just sounds like plagiarism, but I wanted to write something that captured the essence of his commitment to equality and justice, as well as the capacity to forgive and love despite the many years that were taken by his imprisonment.

A Cento for Nelson Mandela

I have walked that long road to freedom:
I stand here as a humble servant of you
the people—I place the remaining years of my life in your hands.
The time for the healing of wounds has come,
the moment to bridge the chasms that divide us has come
and the expectant air of walking into a brighter future—
our march to freedom is irreversible,
we must not allow fear to stand in our way;
I will continue fighting for freedom until the end of my days.

I have walked that long road to freedom
through the valley of the shadow of death again and again,
I have fought against white domination,
and I have fought against black domination—
your freedom and mine cannot be separated
for to be free is not merely to cast off one’s chains
but to live in a way that respects and enhances
the freedom of others: the struggle is my life, and,
the greatest glory in living lies not in never falling,
but in rising every time we fall.

I have walked that long road to freedom,
I have tried not to falter,
I have made missteps along the way
for with freedom come responsibilities;
I learned that courage was not the absence
of fear but the triumph over it,
and inspiring others to move beyond it.
There is no easy walk to freedom and I dare not linger
for my long walk is not yet ended.

All quotes taken from The Huffington Post and CBSNews.

Searching for El Dorado

I have been so busy writing lately that I have let tumbleweeds gather (or spam to be more accurate) online.  I plan on remedying this over the next few weeks, staring with this photo and a little poem I wrote about it.

El Dorado

I found a doorway hidden in the trees—
through the light and under the leaves
into a reflection
refracted to many colours,
many greens—
another world,
undiscovered, unravaged,
lush undergrowth and towering trees
surrounded by glittering streams—
silver laughter echoes on the mist
and rainbows fly through the sky
with golden chimes that seem to say
‘El Dorado is not gold, but green.’

Trunk with Light

The Main Road

Path through the Trees I took this photo at the Sherbooke Falls trail in the Dandenong Ranges.  I saw a few lyrebirds as well but none of them were willing to pose for me.

In the car, speakers blaring,
surrounded by the stench of the road,
impatient drivers beeping,
drowning in the rush of the day.

It is later that I find serenity,
sharing an evening walk with you,
away from the screaming cars we go
towards the park, picking flowers.
I could almost imagine something else
besides these suburban streets—
through forest paths that wind and climb,
past valleys deep, and towering cliffs,
over streaming brooks that whisper and chortle,
as tadpoles dart, and birds call,
into the forest’s heart we walk—
until our circle is complete,
the main road looms once more
and my forest drifts into the night.