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Rivers, Rocks & Trees

By Simone Davis
April 30, 2007

Those of us that care deeply about each other and our country have had a rough ride.

In the early Bush years, I was like a robot, going through the motions - while my heart was breaking. I was stiffened. Stopped in my tracks from my own disbelief. For many months, if not years.

From the beginning, the endless headlines of Bush's reign stretched out before me like a dry, barren road.

      You, created only a little lower than
      The angels, have crouched too long in
      The bruising darkness
      Have lain too long
      Facedown in ignorance,
      Your mouths spilling words
      Armed for slaughter.

      The Rock cries out to us today,
      You may stand upon me,
      But do not hide your face...

I (like you?) have had dark days in recent years as I watched our country, and indeed our world, reeling off the tracks. How could we have a government that would finance an expensive unnecessary war with borrowed funds from China while simultaneously cutting my dear mother's Medicare benefits?

      History, despite its wrenching pain,
      Cannot be unlived, but if faced
      With courage, need not be lived again.

How could we live in a country that sends its young to slaughter and, when they return broken and bleeding, our country discards them without adequate care and concern? How can our government cutback money to essentials like food stamps while so many hardworking Americans are losing their jobs due to outsourcing - at no fault of their own? How?

I know that I am like so many of you - shocked, at first immobilized, then angry, and now, finally, once again, going with and beyond hope and looking for action. Our government continues to misuse its powers. It still acts so badly. There's so much to do now to repair our world and our nation.

      You, the Turk, the Arab, the Swede,
      The German, the Eskimo, the Scot,
      The Italian, the Hungarian, the Pole,
      You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, brought,
      Sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare,
      Praying for a dream...

Which brings me to my gratitude to the authors at Everyday Citizen. I have known you this one month only. Yet, you have all enriched me in our short time together. These are some of your words that I am thankful for:

  • Larry James in this post said, "At the same time, those values relating to the quality of life we craft together as a state community should be worked out in the public square to the benefit of the weakest and most needy among us. Such would be the response of a faith-filled state."
  • Jacinta Faber delivered clear and tender wisdom, "A loving father would never intentionally place his children in harm's way."
  • Zola Jones said with conviction and strength, "Call it whatever you want - shell game, bait and switch, unfunded mandate. It doesn't matter what you call it. It boils down to this - our government is not betting on the successful future of our public schools."
  • Ally Klimkoski put it to us, "Cancer isn't sexy. Poverty isn't sexy. Iraq isn't sexy. Working people - aren't sexy. Minimum wage isn't sexy. Yet these are the issues we face that matter the most. Being a moral leader to the world. Being any kind of leader at all to the global community to stop unjust wars - to stop poverty - to end unnecessary suffering."
  • Nora Thomason brightened my mid-April with her report that "faculty and alumni find a Dick Cheney commencement speech disconcerting and unacceptable."
  • Alice Pfeifer (everybody's sister) made me laugh, "Remember when GW 'I'll Show 'Em' Bush picked John 'Clothe the Naked' Ashcroft for Attorney General? Just when I thought things couldn't get any worse for American justice, GW picked Alberto 'Torture Memo' Gonzales to succeed Ashcroft - and things got worse."
  • Bob Hooper gave my family some real food for thought (we even read his essay at our Easter dinner), "How does glorying in a national flag, reveling in celebration of the most efficient killing machine in history comport with what the gentle Carpenter of Nazareth asks of us?"
  • I sighed a loud sigh when I read Lucy Belnora's exclamation: "In less than two years, thankfully, these current Evil Doers will all be gone."
  • Sophie Milam's analysis gave me hope and pause when she asked, "What are we to make of these bedfellows?"
  • And, lastly, Jo Ella Barrie encourages us and reminds us that the daily work of compassion and politics is important work. She echoes some of my own hesitation and determination, "Following the example of so many ordinary and mostly unknown people who had that kind of faith during their own desperate and dark days, how can I not try to write a little more and complain a little less."

My fellow Everyday Citizens, thank you. Thank you for allowing me to join you here.
You have given the gift of your words and allowed your blogs to be some of my rock, my river and my tree this April.

      There is a true yearning to respond to
      The singing River and the wise Rock.
      So say the Asian, the Hispanic, the Jew,
      The African, the Native American, the Sioux,
      The Catholic, the Muslim, the French, the Greek,
      The Irish, the Rabbi, the Priest, the Sheik,
      The Gay, the Straight, the Preacher,
      The privileged, the homeless, the Teacher.
      They hear. They all hear
      The speaking of the Tree.

      They hear the first and the last of every Tree
      Speak to humankind today.
      Come to me,
      Here beside the River.
      Plant yourself beside the River.

      Each of you, descendant of some passed-
      On traveler, has been paid for.
      You, who gave me my first name, you,
      Pawnee, Apache, Seneca, you,
      Cherokee Nation, who rested with me, then
      Forced on bloody feet,
      Left me to the employment of
      Other Seekers - desperate for gain,
      Starving for gold.

      You, the Turk, the Arab, the Swede,
      The German, the Eskimo, the Scot,
      The Italian, the Hungarian, the Pole,
      You the Ashanti, the Yoruba, the Kru, bought,
      Sold, stolen, arriving on a nightmare,
      Praying for a dream.

      Here, root yourselves beside me.
      I am that Tree planted by the River,
      Which will not be moved.
      I, the Rock, I, the River, I, the Tree,
      I am yours - your passages have been paid.
      Lift up your faces, you have a piercing need
      For this bright morning dawning for you.
      History, despite its wrenching pain,
      Cannot be unlived, but if faced
      With courage, need not be lived again.

      Lift up your eyes
      Upon this day breaking for you.
      Give birth again
      To the dream.

      Women, children, men,
      Take it into the palms of your hands,
      Mold it into the shape of your most
      Private need. Sculpt it into
      The image of your most public self.
      Lift up your hearts.
      Each new hour holds new chances
      For a new beginning.
      Do not be welded forever
      To fear, yoked eternally
      To brutishness.

      The horizon leans forward,
      Offering you space
      To place new steps of change.
      Here, on the pulse of this fine day,
      You may have the courage
      To look up and out and upon me,
      The Rock, the River, the Tree, your country.
      No less to Midas than the mendicant.
      No less to you now than the mastodon then.

      Here, on the pulse of this new day,
      You may have the grace to look up and out
      And into your sister's eyes,
      And into your brother's face,
      Your country,
      And say simply
      Very simply
      With hope -
      Good morning.

(Throughout my post I have excerpted from Maya Angelou's poem, On the Pulse of Morning. Thank you, Maya.)

About Maya Angelou: Writer, Actor, Poet, Dancer, Singer, Activist

Named originally Marguerite Johnson, Maya Angelou was born April 4, 1928, in St. Louis, Missouri, as the daughter of Bailey Johnson, a doorkeeper and naval dietitian, and Vivian Baxter, a nurse and realtor. By the time she was in her early twenties, Maya Angelou had been a Creole cook, a streetcar conductor, a cocktail waitress, a dancer, a madam, and an unwed mother.

The following decades saw her emerge as a successful singer, actress, and playwright, an editor for an English-language magazine in Egypt, a lecturer and civil rights activist, and a popular author of five collections of poetry and five autobiographies.

Internationally respected poet, writer and educator, Maya Angelou has given us such best-selling titles as I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings, Gather Together in My Name, Singin' and Swingin' and Gettin' Merry Like Christmas and The Heart of a Woman. Multi-talented, she produced and starred in the great play Cabaret for Freedom and starred in The Blacks. She wrote the original screenplay and musical score for the film Georgia, Georgia and was both author and executive producer of a five-part television miniseries, Three Way Choice.

When Maya Angelou reads her own poems, the world stops to listen. A treat for all of us, she has released these tapes of readings - And Still I Rise: A Selection of Poems Read by the Author and I Shall Not Be Moved.

Here most recent books include Celebrations: Rituals of Peace and Prayer (2006), Keeping The Faith: African American Sermons Of Liberation (2007), Hallelujah! The Welcome Table: A Lifetime of Memories with Recipes (2007), and the Complete Collected Poems (2008).

Ms. Angelou's accomplishments have earned her the La Home Journal Woman of the Year award in communication and a Matrix Award in the field of books from Women in Communication. She received the Golden Eagle Award for her documentary, Americans in the Arts, produced by PBS. She is one of the women admitted into the Director's Guild. In 1974. Ms. Angelou was appointed by Gerald Ford to the Bi-Centennial Commission and later by Jimmie Carter to the Commission for International Woman of the Year.

In 1993, Ms. Angelou gave a moving reading of her poem On the Pulse of the Morning at Bill Clinton's presidential inauguration, an occasion that gave her wide recognition. In December 2005, Maya Angelou read another important poem, Amazing Peace: A Christmas Poem, at the lighting of the National Christmas Tree in Washington, D.C.

Her personal outreach to improve conditions for women in the Third World, primarily in Africa, has helped change the lives of thousands less privileged. Maya Angelou gives with all her heart and soul.

Comments (1)

Simone! Maya Angelou is my favorite! Thank you so much for reading my post and mentioning it! Yes, we all must look to the river, the trees and the rocks now. We must give birth again to the dream!


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