I have all these things I want to share and write about. That’s the whole reason I have a blog to begin with. So this week, it was going to be about the old adage, the cream rising to the top. It’s almost done, and it’s insightful and fun.
But something else demanded to be spoken of. Slipped in at the seams. I have a plan to write about Joy Harjo, the first female Native American Poet Laureate of the United States for 2019-2020. I turn to her poem “Perhaps the World Ends Here” every Thanksgiving. The thing is, I’m not ready to write about her yet. I’m still getting to know her. So in an attempt to do that, I played her inaugural reading at the Library of Congress Sept. 19, 2019 while I was doing a static back stretch. (That’s where you lay on your back on the floor with your legs up on a bench or chair.)
And the words of Joy Harjo floored me. So maybe it was a good thing I was already there. Or maybe it was the vulnerability of the pose I found myself the allowed her words to undo me. Maybe it was the sun shining, slanted, across my vulnerability that I’ve spent the past forty five years trying to listen to.
She proposed that the poetry comes to us when we need it, and I was undone by the poetry that came. Baptized by it. By her voice. By her reverence for the ancestor. By her rhythm. By her nature.
And Joy’s words were added to the immeasurable instruction I’ve gleaned over the years from writers, poets and artist who direct me, knowingly and unknowing, as I traipse down my path. Those whose number so many, those whose songs sing into my soul so I know myself. And as I listened, I was reminded. Of something I wrote, some words that came to me when I needed them. A piece that is as good a mission statement of self, as any one piece can be.
So I find today, what I had planned will keep and what I share is this:
I was born upon the slowing tide of women’s rights.
Surrounded by the dying breath of poems about Rising and art work depicting womanly strength.
I was inundated with perfect ads for perfect hair and perfect skin and perfect weight and perfect clothes and perfect teeth and perfectly perfect perfectness.
I ate a steady diet of lists depicting The Sexiest Woman Alive and how to look ten pounds thinner.
I keep afloat while the swells of what society decided I ‘should be’ ebbed and flowed.
I was tossed about in a pubescent tornado while grandmothers insisted reliance on a male was still a girl’s best option.
Directionless ideas itched and pushed, attempting to break free from stagnant casts. Tempting me to stand.
I dug my heels in and closed my eyes and screamed inwardly as I endeavored to dream pioneer dreams. As I tried to go the way none of my ancestors before me had gone.
I was enlightened by Maya and Gloria and Virginia.
I was inspired by Susan and Zora.
I was emboldened by Rosa and Marie and Oprah and Madonna.
I was educated by Ursula and Margaret and Madeline and George.
I was scared. I was wobbly. I was frantic.
Still…I took stuttering steps forward. Forward. Forward.
I was set free by Toni and Jane. By Alice and Silvia. By Willa and Lucy.
I have fallen. I have been bruised. I have been kicked. I have been shunned.
I have given up. I have sinned and repented.
Still…I go forward.
Judy and Frida, Georgia and Alice taught me about beauty.
I have toasted dreams and basked in the glow of laughter at a table designed for life.
I have been violently supported by my mother.
I have been treasured by my sister.
I have been held up by dear friends.
Forward was the only way to go.
I have fought. I have raged.
I have prayed. I have won.
I am not a success. I am not a failure. I am not a commodity nor a product. I do not need to be patted on the head or demonized.
I am not more and I am not less.
I am a breath of life in an infinite space.
But of all the things I am and am not.
Mostly, I am not sorry.
By the way: Which one poem would I suggest by Joy Harjo? Today, I’d suggest For Calling the Spirit Back from Wandering the Earth in Its Human Feet