A Song Flung Up to Heaven: Goodbye to Maya Angelou

I’ve learned that people will forget what you said, people will forget what you did, but people will never forget how you made them feel.” -Maya Angelou

 maya-angelou

Renowned poet and civil rights activist Dr. Maya Angelou was found dead this morning. The award winning author was 86 years old and had apparently been in ill health for some time now.

She’d written numerous plays, film scripts, poetry collections and autobiographies as well as receiving multiple awards and honorary doctorates. She was also a strong-willed civil rights activist and we have lost an incredible woman today. One of my favourite books of hers is called Halleujah! The Welcome Table, a collection of anecdotes and family recipes and it shows how and why despite a traumatic childhood, featuring abuse and racial discrimination, she absorbed the unshakable faith and values of community, family, and a deep love of the arts.

She was elective mute for years following sexual abuse and the subsequent death of that abuser. She had become scared, believing, as she said, “I thought, my voice killed him; I killed that man, because I told his name. And then I thought I would never speak again, because my voice would kill anyone…”. It was during those years discovered her passion for reading and the written word. It was this love that would cause her to become the writer known as “the black woman’s poet laureate”.

In 1981 she became the lifetime Reynolds Professorship of American Studies at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina where she lived until her death. She called herself “a teacher who writes”. Angelou taught a variety of subjects including philosophy, ethics, theology, science, theater, and writing, all of which reflected her interests and passions.
Throughout her life she was not only a writer, she was also a dancer, a fry cook, prostitute, mother, singer, producer, professor and lecturer. She worked closely with Malcom X and Martin Luther King Jr. and in 1993 become the first poet to recite at a presidential inauguration since Robert Frost did in 1961.

She was an inspiration to many, as an author, feminist, teacher, and phenomenal woman. A song has been flung up to Heaven today.

Since I first came across her writing she has been one of my favourite poets. Her words have changed so many lives and touched so many people. And she will be deeply missed. And I will finish this leaving you with my favourite of her poems.

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

Attempts At Playwriting

This is an open letter to anyone who is out there and reading this.
I am in the process of trying to come up with ideas for a play. I don’t have much of a plot yet, but I know I want it to be based in traditional fairy tales but with an emphasis on self esteem and body image. Because this is a fairly big project I would love to hear from other people about self esteem and their experiences with body image.
So if you want to help me with this please leave a comment and/or email me at theladyssanctuary@gmail.com.

I’ll probably write more about this when I can.

Thanks a million!
xx

I Am Rising

I’d never heard of the V-Day Movement until last summer when I found a copy of the Vagina Monologues while on a college trip. I’d heard of them and I’d heard of Eve Ensler, but madly enough for the circles I moved in I had never heard of V-Day.

This year is the 15th V-Day held, a day to take the messages of love given on Valentine’s day and turn them to messages of love and support for any survivors or rape, violence or abuse. But this year there was a very particular call, a call for 1 Billion Rising.

The statistics say that 1 Billion women in the world are survivors of abuse, about 1 in 3 women abused, and the call went out for 1 billion people around the world to leave what they were doing, forget how they looked and rise together in a revolution of dancing.

The website says

ONE BILLION RISING IS:

A global strike
An invitation to dance
A call to men and women to refuse to participate in the status quo until rape and rape culture ends
An act of solidarity, demonstrating to women the commonality of their struggles and their power in numbers
A refusal to accept violence against women and girls as a given
A new time and a new way of being.”

And today I joined a tiny group of women, men and children in the town where I live and we danced, through the streets and in the square. We danced and sang and we rose, with all the other people who joined us, rising around the world.

It’s a start, it’s a beginning, it’s a change, and we will all rise.

“Just like moons and like suns,
With the certainty of tides,
Just like hopes springing high,
Still I’ll rise.” – Maya Angelou

Forever Hers

I suppose you wonder how a girl like me came to be sitting on the Throne of Bones? And well you might.
I was never someone you could call ambitious. I knew what I wanted and who I wanted to be, but that was as far as I went in terms of ambition.  All I wanted to be was a thief of some merit, petty desires considering where I am today, but that was my only dream, until I met her.
I was on top of the Kleinheim building in town, looking down through the skylight, pondering the stupidity of placing a pane of glass directly above the artifact they were meant to be protecting; when I saw a reflection fall across the glass.
She saw me at the same time as I saw her.
In the moment that our eyes met across the glass I felt different, better, more me, than ever before.
She flashed me a glorious smile, all white teeth and dark hair, before smashing the window and jumping down to the room below. I stared for a couple of seconds before following her down below.
“This is my theft,” I hissed in a low whisper.
“Finders keepers” she grinned conspiratorially at me, before running away from me.
I tried to catch her, but lost her a little way away from the museum.
~
That night was the first of many, I would pick a target, only to turn up and find she was already there, always one or two steps ahead of me. I would arrive, ready to take what at this point I most definitely deserved to see long dark hair disappearing beyond the corner with a thrilling laugh. For the first time in my life I had a desire beyond simple theft, I wanted to catch this girl, to talk to her, to… I didn’t quite know anymore.
It was a Friday, I think? After all this time it’s hard to keep track of silly things like dates or weeks. For the first time I thought I might have beaten her, and I was standing there in front of an open cabinet which still contained the necklace I had been after. I picked it up, and the feeling of euphoria I felt then made me sure I’d chosen the right life path. I slipped it into my pocket and turned around to leave only to find myself nose-to-nose with her.
And she was kissing me, passionately and I couldn’t think anything anymore, not even to remind myself that this was my nemesis, she made the world stop for a whole minute and it was just us two in that minute. Then she stepped back, smiling that smile, my necklace, MY necklace dangling from her hand.
“I’ve got a proposition” She drawled, I started to speak but she placed a finger on my lips. “You’ve got talent, you’ve got style and you have… Passion.” She grinned wider.
“I need a partner, and I think you might do for me. I want to work with you, to build our way up to stealing the Throne of Bones.”
Sure, what was I going to say to that? No? It was the opportunity of a lifetime.

And so we were partners, and working with her was incredible, I was clever enough, but I was absolutely nothing compared to this woman. She had so much power, could have stolen the sun if she wanted to, I sometimes thanked the powers that she had only set her sights on the Throne of Bones. She had stolen my heart with her dark glances, though I’m still not sure if she’d taken that intentionally.
She stole a day for us, it was just practice for her but for me it was the two of us by the sea for twenty-four hours. Whatever else happened later that was ours, a memory of her with no guile, no deceit, the simple joy of the theft and company to enjoy for both of us.
~
But that was the last peace we had, she was getting more and more impatient. We planned and plotted like never before, until we were sure that there would be no loophole, no chance for failure.
Darkness fell, I started to walk towards the House of The Throne, I looked behind me once and saw her vanish into the night, the plan was working. I entered the House and knelt before the Throne of Bones, looking at the King.
“What do you wish?” He asked.
“I wish to challenge you for your throne on my lady’s behalf.” I whispered, I hadn’t realised how intimidating The King would be, this was our liegelord, how could the two of us dare to challenge him, to even look upon him?
But even as the fear came upon be the dark became darker and I knew she’d succeeded. She appeared in a flurry and held a knife to the King’s throat.
“My partner and I challenge you, lord, make your move”
I stood back, suddenly scared of her too; The King glared at me, drew his sword and began to fight back. It was a long fight and a hard fight, but eventually she won, bloody and wounded she dragged herself to the Throne, looking at me pleadingly for assistance. I helped her onto the throne were she sat, beaming at me.
“We did it, you and me, we did it. We own the throne, we own the night, and it’s ours now!” She whispered and I smiled at her, stroking her cheek, no longer scared. But as she took my hand, her eyes began to droop and she coughed violently, before slumping weakly in the chair, dead.
I screamed.
~
But the Throne of Bones needs a master, and reluctantly I took it, not for power or glory. But for her, the woman I loved. Which is why I’m sitting here now, alone with the night, forever young, and always alone. Always.

Goodnight.

Joy

She had not been a  mermaid long, and as such had not yet outgrown the simple joy of movement through water, the delight found in the path of bubbles.
She could spend hours just gliding and gazing at the trails and patterns she could create with her body.
She didn’t notice, much less care about the disdain that the others showed her. Because they disregarded her as simple not a one of them noticed the beatific look on the new one’s face.
She seemed only to want to sway and swoop and swoon, treating the temperate waters like the touch like a long lost lover’s embrace.
And perhaps gratified by the new one’s state of utter bliss her new-found old lover caressed her gently. Arms stretched out in loving greeting with tail swirling and sweeping behind her, she showed her grateful adoration.

Super Short Story

I didn’t know it was possible to want someone as much as I want you right now.
Do you even know? Do you have any idea how sexy you look holding that slice of tomato on the end of your fork as you talk near endlessly about that book you’ve just read.
You eat things so precisely, slicing the tomato chunks. I can’t remember seeing anyone eat like that. And I want you.
How can you not notice this?

Inspired by an O’Brien’s Sandwich Bar postcard freebie for use in an art project.

On Cafés – For Tosh

Funnily enough when I think of cafes I always think of you. Sure I’d been in cafes before and I liked the well enough (Hell, I’ve wanted to work in one for as long as I can remember) but you were the one who really opened my eyes to their glory and potential of them. And so now, through a logical association cafes make me think of you.

 

There are a lot of cafes in Stroud, there’s the obligatory Costa, there’s a few little classy coffee bars, then there’s the big three, Mills, Woodruffs and Star Anise. Really it depends on what you’re looking for. I’m a Star Anise person, and not just because I work there. It’s the vegetarian café, the “Steiner Diner”, it’s basically the hub of my social life right now. It’s where I’m writing this now.

I think you might be more of a Woodruffs person to be honest, I don’t know why. I guess it has much more anonymity than Star to my mind, and in my mind that’s slightly more your style.

There’s a new café called Black Book and it’s the kind of place I want to own. I write there and read there, it’s my quiet place, not my social place. And they do a damn good soya hot chocolate.

 

But at the base of all this there is you, taking me out to cafes when I’d been dumped, when I was emigrating and leaving my life behind, when we just wanted somewhere to hide from the rain or chat or write or just be. I remember just before I left I showed you how I could make paper cranes out of folding money (Admittedly coins would be far more impressive) and you said that I should find a café, go in there all the time, maybe teach them how to do it and then pay them with a paper crane. So today, in honour of you, I shall do just that.

You made cafés special for me. So thank you.